Fred Glienna: Ode to opera


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Fred Glienna is an opera lover.

Fred Glienna is an opera lover.

And he plans to share that with whoever will listen.

"Its emotional and aesthetic rewards for the listener are enormous, and I urge all people to give it a try," he said, "and the Opera Coeur d'Alene production of "La Boheme" is a perfect way to start.

Opera Coeur d'Alene is presenting Glienna's adult opera class in preparation for the production of "La Boheme." The class will be on Saturday, Sept. 18, Todd Lecture Hall in the North Idaho College Molstead Library. It runs 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with one intermission.

Glienna, who has given two classes each year for more than six years, is versed in opera and his presentations are enlightening as well as highly enjoyable. The class is $25 per person.

"La Boheme" is one of Glienna's favorite operas.

"Many commentators have observed that this opera, populated with real, everyday people facing struggles with love, life, loss and poverty, moves audiences more than so many other operas about kings, queens, gods and power struggles," Glienna said. "Coupled with Puccini's marvelous music, these simple people have worked their way into our hearts, and moved their story into opera's most popular performance."

"La Boheme" is one of the world's most popular and approachable operas, Glienna said, and it's also one for beginners, but one that manages to have subtle, sophisticated touches that can surprise the so-called, self-proclaimed expert.

"My goal in our workshop will be to touch each of those different aspects, to give the newcomer some preparation and insight, and to show the veteran opera goer that there are some surprises in this quintessential boy-meets-girl-and-one-of-them-dies story," Glienna said


Why are you an opera fan?

I love the music, the larger-than-life qualities of the art form, and the thrilling achievement of those great voices.

Where does your interest in opera come from?

I was surrounded by it in the home where I grew up, so I had no choice.

I listened to it most days, and came to love many genres, from opera to rock to jazz.

What is it you like about "La Boheme?"

It has remained fresh for more than a century, a claim few other "tearjerkers" can make. And it's much more than a tearjerker, because it has great music, good poetry and lots of wit. I weep at the end of virtually every performance; not many works do that for me every time.

What's the best opera?

Mozart's "Don Giovanni," I think, is one of the peaks of Western Civilization.

Do you have any musical influences?

I think from many composers and performers I learned something about behavior and about the possibilities that can result from strenuous effort.

What would you say to get more people to attend the opera?

Give the form a chance. Live performance today, because of the projected translations of the text, is much less intimidating. Also, people dress less formally, so the atmosphere is looser. And consider, please, the odds: it's survived as long as it has for some reason.

How do you make your adult opera class interesting?

I try to cram it with little facts that interest me, and hope that works.

How has opera influenced your life?

At the very least, it influences my travel schedule, since I like to see live opera around the country whenever I can. That usually means two or three cities in a year. It also means I always have a decent set of headphones, to keep the peace in the neighborhood. Opera has also dovetailed with my interest in languages, so that's another influence.

Is opera just for old people?

The demographic is typically a more mature segment, but there are plenty of young people in attendance, and they seem to stick with it as they age.

I would say opera is most certainly not just for old people.

Can you talk about your opera background?

I don't have an opera background per se, except for listening to it virtually all of my life. I do a reasonable amount of reading on the topic, so I imagine that gives me a background of sorts. The lives of the composers and performers in it fascinate me.

If there was one thing you would want the community to know about you, what would it be?

I take the U.S. Constitution extremely seriously, think it's the most astounding governing document on the planet, and I keep hoping more of us would actually live according to it.

What's the most beautiful music you've ever heard?

I have been lucky enough to have heard so much fine music that this is an almost impossible question to answer. In the last five years, probably the "Verdi Requiem," conducted by the very young and extremely talented Gustavo Dudamel.

What goes best with an evening of opera?

To quote the great Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson, "Wear comfortable shoes."

Family: Italian/American heritage.

Date of birth: May 9, 1948

Education: Journalism major at California State College, Los Angeles

Number of hours on average you work in a week: About 40, depending on how you define "work."

Number of hours on average you sleep in a night: Seven

Hobbies: Tropical fish

Favorite movie: "Citizen Kane" and "City Lights"

Favorite book: Gary Jennings' novel "Aztec"

Favorite type of music: Classical

Favorite spectator sport: Baseball

Best advice you ever received: "Never take your eye off the referee."

Quality you admire most in a person: A caring heart

Any one thing you consider your greatest accomplishment: Surviving this long!

Person who most influenced your life: My father.

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