Garrett Harris plays opera to a golf buddy in Balboa Park

The transition from ZZ Top’s “She’s got Legs” to “The Flower Duet” was somewhat shocking.

I was golfing with a friend at Balboa Park Classic Golf Course in San Diego when he suddenly started playing opera on the Bluetooth speaker he had mounted in one of the cup holders. Previously, the selection was 80s rock. The transition from ZZ Top’s “She’s got Legs” to Leo Delibes’ “The Flower Duet” Lakme was somewhat shocking.

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flower duo

(1976) With Joan Sutherland & Huguette Tourangeau.

(1976) With Joan Sutherland & Huguette Tourangeau.

“Opera?”, I asked.

“Of course. Why not?” he replied.

After some somewhat famous opera arias had passed, my friend said, “I think I need a pop era.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, something I know as – like the Mozart of opera.”

“Mozart is the Mozart of opera.”

I was happy with the humor of my answer. At that time, “La donna è mobile” by Verdi from Rigoletto came and my friend had something he recognized.

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Saint-Saëns – Samson and Delilah

My heart opens to your voice - Shirley Verrett

My heart opens to your voice – Shirley Verrett

I was impressed by my friend’s willingness to explore opera in such a public space. I mean, opera on the golf course? Once upon a time in the 50s or 60s, that would have made sense, but public golf is increasingly becoming a hip-hop or country music crowd.

To be honest, I don’t care about the musical tastes of golfers on a public course. What matters to me is the pace of play. If you’re new to golf, standing over a shot for a full minute isn’t going to make you hit the ball any better. Just hit the ball, hope for the best and drive it forward.

However, if you are new to opera, like my friend, here are some recommendations. Everyone knows “Nessun Dorma” and “La donna è mobile”. The pieces I recommend here should be new to most casual opera lovers, if you will.

The opera is often about romance and nothing will put you in more mode than “My heart opens to your voice” by Samson and Delilah by Camille Camille Saint-Saens. Between the title of the aria and the name of the composer, that’s a lot of French diction. Do not worry.

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La Fanciulla del West – Puccini

Placido Domingo -

Plácido Domingo – “Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano”

In this tune, Delilah seduces Samson, inviting him to rest with her. Who doesn’t love a good rest once in a while? Samson falls under the spell and immediately after this air, Delilah cuts his hair, depriving him of his legendary strength. I’ve often wondered if it was the hair loss or the rest that sapped old Samson’s manhood. Either way, this tune is worth adding to your opera playlist.

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by Mozart Marriage of Figaro

Lady Kiri Te Kanawa sings

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings “Porgi Amor”.

Before “Nessun Dorma”, there was “Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano” from *La fanciulla del West by Puccini. While “Nessun Dorma” is an aria of victory, “Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano” is an aria of despair. Outlaw Dick Johnson has fallen in love with town sweetheart Minnie. After being captured, he asks the sheriff to tell Minnie that he left to start a new life of redemption instead of being hanged as a criminal.

The last piece is “Porgi Amor” by Mozart The Marriage of Figaro. The Countess is dealing with a husband with a wandering gaze. She’s hit rock bottom and asks love to bring him back or let her die for mercy. He thinks we’ve all been there. “Porgi Amor” is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.

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