Monday, March 10, 2008

Last week I went to the opera on Wednesday - by myself as I'd gotten a last-minute ticket someone had returned to a sold-out performance - and on Thursday to a hockey game - it was Djurgården versus Linköping, and I went with my favorite Finn.

As I watched the game, I racked my brain to figure what opera and hockey have in common. I watched the guys racing around the ice - it's far harder to keep up with than soccer, since everyone moves at twice the speed at least, and the puck is probably 20 times smaller than a soccer ball. I tried to remember the last hockey game I'd gone to, which was nearly 40 years ago. The Chicago Blackhawks. I don't even remember if they won.

"This isn't the most exciting game," the Finn said, despite the score going from 3-0 to 3-4. "I think it's because both teams already know they're going to the playoffs and where they stand."

To be honest, I have little idea what makes for an exciting game. It seemed exciting enough to me, all those 20-year-olds racing around on the ice, slamming each other into the boards, breaking their sticks or having to be escorted off the ice because they've seriously hurt a leg.

But as the minutes ran down, the question remained: What do opera and hockey have in common?

All I could see were the differences. Opera isn't a team sport, it's formal and hifalutin, the coaches are nowhere to be seen, there are no winners or losers - well, maybe when the mezzo can barely maneuver a long set of intricately curving sixteenth notes, the audience loses, although if she can compensate with the cadenza, which is nearly as long as the aria, then maybe she's redeemed herself and the audience didn't lose after all.

Then again, I suppose both opera and hockey require a certain amount of choreography, and they both have their divas. Everyone is wearing a costume that disguises them well, and both sets of players exude charisma and power and grace. And when played well, they give a sense of exhilaration.

I still vote for opera, big old homo that I am. It was a glorious staging of Orphée, highly stylized in the best way, and the painfully separated couple are ancient and grey and tired, which makes the story more about age and experience and regret, and less about youth and passion and loss.

Which is what hockey is about: youth and passion and loss. And winning of course. I guess youth and passion just don't hold my interest as well as age and experience and regret.

The Swedish words for the day is skillnad and likhet. They mean difference and similarity.

- by Francis S.

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