Culture Magazine


By Galegirl

Editor’s Note: This Golden Operatoonity repost continues this month’s Verdi love fest!

Two of my favorite words. And how lucky am I that these two words, both beloved by me, rhyme.

Independientemente I learned in a Spanish class I took freshman year. The first time I heard it, I fell in love with it. It means “regardless.” If I were writing stories in Spanish, I’d use it way too much because it rhymes with itself, thereby giving it the same simple appeal as voo-doo and hanky-panky.

Does independientemente have anything to do with opera? Not really. For starters, though many operas take place in Spain–Don Giovanni being one of them–they are not written in Spanish. No, most classic operas are written in Italian, German, and French.  But I think independientemente pairs up swimmingly with cognoscenti, which is an operatic term referring to ”persons with superior, usually specialized knowledge or highly refined taste,” the other half of that definition being that one’s refinement is so well accepted and regarded, that the opinion of the cognoscenti can make an artist or break an artist.


Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic of the New York Times

According to the late J. Merrill Knapp, Giuseppe Verdi, whose name has become synonymous with Italian opera, was barely tolerated by the cognoscenti in the early twentieth century, shortly after his death.  Verdi, who wrote 26 operas, many of which are the most performed operas of all time, was thought to write operas lacking in finesse.  Imagine that. The cognoscenti trashed a composer whose work couldn’t be more relevant or appreciated today.

Thanks to the Internet, the power of those in the know re: opera is no longer the sole province of mass media reviewers. Through blogs and forums, everyman now joins the ranks of the cognoscenti. I remember reading just the other night that opera bloggers can make or break productions and that Internet reviews spread like wildfire.

No matter who actually comprises the cognoscenti, the term cognoscenti seems to imply that they hold a higher opinion of themselves than they deserve. And though I’m cognizant of the fact that people who wear glasses are no smarter than people who don’t wear them, you have to admit. Give someone the right pair of glasses, especially those in the new, old-fashioned horn-rimmed style, and it’s like instant entree to the ranks of the cognoscenti.


a random woman whose glasses make her look smart

You don’t have to worry about this writer joining the ranks of the cognoscenti. I can’t rake a production over the coals. I can’t say anything unkind about someone else in a public forum. No, I’d rather hide behind my fiction and if someone or something really annoys me, I exact my vengeance by putting him or her center stage in a book.

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