If you’ve ever thought rock and roll was the scourge of the world, blame opera.
At least, that’s what Al Rae believes. The Winnipeg-based standup comic and comedy writer is convinced if it wasn’t for Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, the history of music may have taken a very different turn more than a century ago.
Caruso was the first artist to sell one million records with his 1904 recording of Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci.
"The gramophone made him a star and Caruso made the gramophone a star. It was the perfect confluence of two things — a human being and a piece of technology," Rae said.
"You could say, were it not for opera, the record player, CD and digital music may not have enjoyed the popular success they did. It was opera music that first came into people’s homes. Caruso was the first rock star and he drove the industry. Opera invented rock and roll," he said.
Rae will host a pre-performance dinner and forum on opera called Go Figaro at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The group will then head down to the street to the Centennial Concert Hall for a performance of Manitoba Opera’s Rigoletto.
Rae’s forum will be an appreciation of opera but lest anybody think Rae has forgotten what butters his bread, he said humour will be an important part of it.
"It won’t be the humour of mockery, it will be the humour of enthusiasm. I have a great deal of respect for the discipline," he said.
Rae said he encourages anybody who doesn’t know anything about opera but wants to be enlightened to come out. His goal is to get people "more comfortable with the genre."
It’s one thing to watch opera on television or via a high-definition simulcast, but it’s quite another to see it in person.
"People should attend and see it live. On simulcasts, they electronically amplify the voices," he said.