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As Long as We Remember...

February 15, 2006

It's really opera! Join in the Fun

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Many phrases have been used lately, to describe the Maryland General Assembly: political theater, drama, intrigue, melodramatic and entertaining. The answer to the question as to what it really is: it’s opera!

I really enjoy attending the opera – that is, at the theatre. Please be assured that I do not really understand it. Then again, does anyone really understand the Maryland General Assembly? However, one does not need to comprehend opera, nor the General Assembly, in order to be entertained.

Opera involves exotic, complex plots and parliamentary maneuverings, complete with good guys and gals and bad guys and gals and a suspension of disbelief unequaled anywhere in life. Well, except perhaps the Maryland General Assembly. Don't tell Delegate Don Dwyer, (R., Anne Arundel) but some of the protagonists in opera are often dressed in drag.

To be sure, the General Assembly can be situational comedy or a soap opera – of kindergarten proportions. But opera describes it best.

In this "General Assembly Opera," there are also all the theatrical machinations off to the side of the main stage, where little paper clips grow into big coat hangers by way of performance art. The sideshows often provide the most entertainment or catharsis, depending on the particular performance.

Nevertheless, on the big stage, while attending the State of the State address, in a grand, time-honored joint session of the House and Senate, I couldn’t help but imagine it as grand operatic theatre.

At any moment, with great glee, I anticipated the Speaker of the House Mike Busch (D., Anne Arundel), Senate President Mike Miller (D., PG-Calvert) and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich breaking out in song. Rumors persist that both the Speaker and the Senate President can sing, although it is not known if they privately hold hands and sing for each other. In public, they often break out in a cacophony of dissonance.

On the chamber floor, the Republican side of the aisle could have sung, "All we are saying, is give peace a chance," by the Beatles.

And the Democrats could’ve responded with "Won't get fooled again," by The Who.

The senators could have paraded up the aisle to their assigned seats singing: "We are the champions – my friends. And we'll keep on fighting – ‘til the end – We are the champions – We are the champions. No time for losers. 'Cause we are the champions – of the world," by Queen.

Then, after the senators had taken their seats, Governor Ehrlich, President Miller and Speaker Busch would all hold hands and sing the Harry Nilsson classic (later re-made by Mariah Carey,) "I Can't Live If Living Is Without You," to each other... "No, I can't forget tomorrow. When I think of all my sorrow, When I had you there but then I let you go. And now it's only fair that I should let you know. What you should know. I can't live if living is without you."

What a picture.

There are essentially two types of opera. A formal or otherwise dignified opera is called "opera seria." Comic opera is called "opera buffa."

The type of opera performed as the Maryland General Assembly depends on the circumstances, but both types are on display at any given time.

There is no proof that opera began in Maryland. Indeed, any direct link between classical opera and Maryland government is unsubstantiated; however history tells us that Maryland and opera all began at the same time period in history.

Charles I, King of England and Ireland granted the Maryland charter on June 20, 1632. The first General Assembly met in St. Mary's City on February 26, 1635.

We also know that opera has its origins in the ancient Greek plays (tragedies); but the first modern opera was performed in Venice, Italy on March 6, 1637.

It was in 1637 that the concept of an opera season, supported by ticket sales, began. We support the annual session of the “Maryland General Assembly Opera” with our tax dollars.

On the side stage, it has been substantiated that the capital of Maryland was moved from St. Mary's to Annapolis in 1694, and, no doubt, as a result, a gentleman named Benjamin Fordham founded Maryland's first brewery in 1703 – in Annapolis.

The first opera was called "Andromedia" and it featured a swarm of gods zooming around a stage. Hmmm... won’t go there.

Speaking of a swarm, hopefully you did not miss The Gazette's "The List" in the January 27 edition of the paper. It is not to be missed – although, in the future, I would love to see many of the legislators matched up with country music/pop/rock stars...

So, who would you suggest is the best Barbara Streisand? I know, Paula C. Hollinger, (D., Baltimore County) of Pikesville.

How about George Edwards, (R., Alleghany), as Kenny Rodgers... "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold them."

John Giannetti (D, PG) would be great as Axel Rose from "Guns and Roses.”

Sandra B. Schrader, (R., Howard) could be Sheryl Crow.

Patrick N. Hogan, (R., Frederick) as Barry Manilow?

Peter V.R. Franchot, (D., Montgomery) is, without a doubt, Al Franken. Remember Barry Rascovar's column from November 18, 2005: "The way Peter V.R. Franchot sees it, Annapolis consists of good Democrats, who fight for truth, justice and the American way, and everybody else. These other politicians belong to Mr. Franchot's Evil Empire and represent the forces of greed, injustice and cruelty."

Jeannie Haddaway, (R., Eastern Shore) representing, Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico counties could be Shania Twain.

Maggie McIntosh, (D., Baltimore City) is Canadian singer Anne Murray. (We'll overlook that Ms. Murray once had the same manager as Alice Cooper.) I can just see her singing, "Could I Have this Dance" and all the members of the Environment Matters Committee joining in for the chorus.

The possibilities are endless. If you have any ideas, email them to me. Be nice. This is meant to be fun and add some levity to the rock opera that we know as "The Merryland General Assembly Opera." Good grief, some song and laughter would do them all some good.

I say, let them sing. Whadda do you think?

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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