Classic Opera

There is apparently nothing in the world less badass than opera. The following diagram shows how opera fares in a regular Cracked reader's scale of manliness.

Just The Facts

  1. Opera is an art form consisting in singers and musicians performing a dramatic work where the entire dialog is delivered in the form of singing.
  2. Watching it doesn't make you gay.
  3. The Classic Era of Opera goes from its invention in the 17th Century until the death of Giaccomo Puccini, the last great opera composer, in 1924. This is more or less the span of time in which somebody cared about opera.

Cracked on Classic Opera

Let's face it: Cracked readers (and staff) are usually more developed in the testicular side. As men, we are all very concerned (and you can see that by just reading a couple of articles) about the intrinsic badassness (or badassery or whatever) of things, or their lack thereof. In most cases, the adjective badass refers to anything that carries the characteristics or traits of traditional heterosexual male behavior. As evidence, look what the Cracked Topicspage entry for"badasses" says: In truth a badass is any man who defies death while eating rocks and shitting lightning bolts. The kind of man who defies all categorization and exists only as an icon off awesomeness.

Taking all this into account, many of you may think that opera is pretty lame in comparison with everyday ways of entertainment like action movies, having a beer with your friends or nose-picking.

Or is it? Because, deep inside all the wigs and the costumes and the high-pitched singing, the plots of some of the most famous classic operas are so badass, so full of terror, gore and sex, that can make the Hulk curl into a fetal position and cry until the merciful shadow of sleep falls upon him. Let's see some examples.

DON GIOVANNI (1878)

The Play

You probably know that Mozart was kind of the James Dean of his time. He partied all night, got the treatment of a king everywhere, and was a "goer".

Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Know what I mean? Say no more

"Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Know what I mean? Say no more."

But what is nowadays frowned upon in the case of Lindsay Lohan, wasn't so much in 18th Century Vienna, where people thought that such a musical talent was well worth some minor indiscretions. Anyway, for a man with such a reputation, his music is kind of lame. His work encompasses 600 works between symphonies, concertos and operas, but most of his compositions are so bland, from a modern point of view, that wouldn't stand a round against an Elton John ballad. Most of it sounds like a three year old playing a toy piano (if the three year old was the most talented musician that ever lived); so Mozart's music does not correspond with his badass life's expectancies. It even makes German language sound gay.

But then, there you have the surprisingly raunchy plots of his operas, most of them written in collaboration with his librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte.

Valentino

It takes an Italian...
As an example of his work, and due to some horrifically creepy elements on the side, we have chosen Don Giovanni.
The Plot
  1. A nobleman passes his days practicing his favorite two sports: seducing women and killing their husbands in the resulting sword duels. Has done that thousands of times, and keeps track of them in his diary.
  2. Some of the people he has wronged over the years cry out for vengeance, but he repeatedly succeeds in running away from them, using his sword, his money or the apparently undetectable disguise of wearing his servant's clothes.
  3. In a final twist that beats the crap out of The Sixth Sense, the ghost of a man he killed some time ago appears and drags the nobleman to hell to pay for his crimes, while all his past victims watch in silence.
Have we mentioned Don Giovanni is a comedy?

Funny ha ha.

Why is it badass?

Jeez, I don't know. Maybe because of the unrepentant amorality of his protagonist? Or some recurrent sexually explicit elements in its plot? Or maybe because AT THE END A FUCKING SOUL FROM HELL BOUNDS THE PROTAGONIST TO AN ETERNITY OF UNBEARABLE TORTURE? Can't really decide.

LA JUIVE (1835)

The Play
Although more or less unknown nowadays, La Juive (The Jewess) was one of the most popular and admired works of fiction in 19th century France. It is considered one of the first artistic works to appeal for religious tolerance and understanding between races, and one of the major critical stands against the establishment of Catholicism in France. The result of the collaboration between a Jew and a gentile, the opera is sometimes seen as a courageous statement at a time when religious discrimination was a major theme in French society.
All that goes down the drain when we take a closer look at its creepy synopsis.
The Plot
1. A Christian prince (disguised as a Jew) and a Jewish girl start a secret affair in the 15th Century German city of Constance, which is hard because her father (who is a bad guy because he is Jewish) is very protective of her, he is already married to another woman and intimate relations between Christians and Jews are illegal at the time.
2. Father and daughter find out the man is a Christian prince, and Cardinal Brogni (who is a good guy because he is Christian) sends everyone to prison.
3. The prince is delivered from excommunication. The Jews are sentenced to death. That's what back then people considered fair.
4. The girl is actually Brogni's daughter, and only a confession from the old Jew can save her. But he is proud and vengeful, so he says nothing.
5. Both are FUCKING BOILED ALIVE, and everyone is FUCKING HAPPY.
Why is it badass?
I don't even know where to begin. The final gore scene (they are boiled alive on stage, for crying out loud!) is a tough candy, but the most striking detail is the anti-jewish propaganda in the whole plot. The best example of this is the trial, where the real felon (the prince) is spared and the victims of his crime are sentenced to one of the most gruesome, horrible deaths ever imagined. And this is supposed to be one of the starters of the 18th Century France equivalent of the Civil rights Movement?
"I have a dream: that one day, all the Jews will be boiled alive!"

RIGOLETTO (1851)

The Play
Meet Giuseppe Verdi.

Well, that is flamboyant.

Verdi may look like the old man who lives two blocks away from your house and appears to be excessively close to his 23 year-old Filipino masseur, but he actually wrote some of the most pantshittingly awesome stories in modern history. Unluckily for him, he wrote them to be performed by a bunch of Italian guys in leotards, so practically nobody knows what they really are about.
And that's a pity, because many of them are in the tone of Rigoletto.
The Plot
  1. Rigoletto is the hunchbacked, spiteful jester in the court of a lecherous Duke, who uses his power to seduce married women. Rigoletto has a beautiful daughter whom he has been concealing to everybody, in order to keep the Duke and other noblemen from raping her (as they are apparently prone to do).
  2. The Duke meets the girl and seduces her anyway, and other noblemen, much to Rigoletto's chagrin, kidnap her.
  3. Rigoletto goes to the court looking for his daughter, and the noblemen beat the crap out of him while the Duke is having "fun" with the lady.
  4. Rigoletto seeks vengeance and hires an assassin to kill the Duke.
  5. The daughter, still in love with the Duke, pretends to be him and is killed by the assassin.
  6. Rigoletto receives a wrapped body from the killer and is overjoyed because he thinks is the Duke's. He is about to cast it in the river, when he hears the voice of the Duke singing happily about what a fuck machine he is.
  7. Rigoletto unwraps the body and founds his daughter, dead. He falls to his knees and cries to the skies, the violins go up, and the curtain falls.
Why is it badass?
This play has everything: sex, gruesome scenes of violence, a wisecracking talking animal... Well, not that last one, but the rest is as badass as they come. And, at the end, Rigoletto is an immortal tale full of murder, bad parenting and statutory rape. Up yours, Larry Clark!

PAGLIACCI (1892)

The Play
Pagliacci is an opera. About clowns. Some of you may have shitted in your pants already, but most probably haven't even raised an eyebrow to show your dislike.
At first, the idea of mixing opera and a circus show (and not even a good one, with lions and elephant dung smell, but a Cirque du Soleil type) may seem boring, but the actual plot goes like this:
The Plot
  1. A troupe of clowns, led by Canio and his wife Nedda, arrive at a village to perform.
  2. Canio is so violently jealous about his wife that he would give any Lifetime Television executive a boner.
  3. Everyone cheats on everybody, including Nedda, who has an affair with Silvio.
  4. Canio finds out, then mercilessly stabs both lovers to death in front of everybody.
  5. The End.
Why is it badass?
Apart from the adult situations and the final homicidal climax, which are pretty fucked up to begin with, this is a play that features a troupe of manic depressed clowns, who can't stop singing about how hard it is to make people laugh when you are dead inside. So: Yikes!
Man, clowns are funny.

TOSCA (1900)

The play
Set in Rome around 1800, this opera is one of the most famous works of Giacomo Puccini. Puccini is seen as the last great opera composer, and the author of the most heartbreaking stories of struggle and overcoming ever told. In his time, though, Puccini was not perceived as such a great genius, and critics saw Tosca for what it is: a self-righteous, prudish intent to achieve fame by means of cheap portrayals of love and political commitment.
The Plot
1. Tosca is in love with Mario, a politically subversive painter. The chief of police Scarpia is in love with her.
2. Scarpia arrests Mario and sentences him to death. He will only pardon him if Tosca agrees to do his bidding (and we guess he doesn't want her to play ScrabbleMT).
3. She agrees, and Scarpia plans a mock execution to cover Mario's pardon. But as soon as Scarpia has signed the safe-conduct for both lovers, Tosca stabs him to death.
4. Mario is sent to the gallows, but Scarpia never intended to pardon Mario and the execution is real. With Mario death and accused of murder, Tosca commits suicide by jumping from a high wall.
Why is it badass?

Tosca is supposed to be the tale of the struggle of two kind lovers against the plots of a villain, described as a mix between the Sheriff of Nottingham and Hugh Heffner. But every time I read the synopsis, I end up thinking it's the other way around. A government official (even though he is a lecherous bastard) tries to do his job, but is tricked and murdered by a couple of subversive assholes, who end up dead only because they're plain stupid. Even the main protagonist, supposed to be a tragic heroine, is nothing but a lying, promiscuous, jealous whore. She is supposed to be Erin Brockovich, but she really is Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. And that, in my book, is pretty badass.