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Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014

The History of Opera for Beginners (For Beginners), by Ron David with illustrations by Sara Woolley

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Ron David wants to lift the snob barrier that keeps some folks from enjoying opera. In his “documentary comic book,” he ponders how to introduce opera to people who think they won’t like it. He offers those moments from The Shawshank Redemption when Mozart is heard and Morgan Freeman explains: “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know.” It’s a good argument for music whose emotional power renders words unimportant. Much of David’s argument often sounds like the amusing patter of the guy at the next bar stool, trying to convince a burger-eating skeptic of the wonders of veganism. He’ll grab any simile to make his point—and some of his points are interesting, especially the emotional similarity between opera and gospel music.