Liam Farrell - What opera and medicine have in common

Opera fa schifo (Opera sucks) - when I was a lad and as yet not fully formed, I had musical aspirations, and my big chance came when I sang the part of Momus, the God of Mischief, in Luigi Rossi's L'Orfeo. Unfortunately I was not a success; in those days being ripped and extraordinarily good looking wasn't enough to compensate for a lack of talent.

One critic even had the infernal cheek to say that the God of Mischief sang out of pitch; obviously he didn't understand the art of improvisation.

So my operatic career was terminated at an early stage, the silver lining proving to be a big boost to the medical profession, and ever since I've regarded opera as plain stupid.

If you need to say something, come right out and say it, no need to burst into song, it's just annoying.

Opera only sounds impressive and exotic because we don't understand the language; 'I've an awful headache and I'm going to bed with a cup of cocoa' sounds pretty dull and mundane, but, using Google Translate, it comes out as 'Ho un mal di testa terribile e vado a letto con una tazza di cacao'.

Get some big fat guy with a goatee to sing a few bars of that and the chattering classes will be swooning in the aisles and paying £500 a pop at the door.

Not that our profession is any better; we shamelessly exploit the same device. All professions are conspiracies against the laity, said GB Shaw in The Doctor's Dilemma, and we protect our knowledge with arcane and opaque language designed to mystify and confuse our patients.

A heart attack is a myocardial infarct, high BP becomes hypertension, joint pain becomes arthralgia, Marathon becomes Snickers.

And we disguise our ignorance by the same method, for example, chronic muscle pain becomes fibromyalgia. We don't know what causes it, we don't know how to treat it, but we employ a cocktail of Latin and Greek to stick on a fancy name which lends us an illusion of control. It's our very own secret language, and we use it to exclude and disempower mere lay people.

Opera puo succhiare, ma la medicina fa schifo peggio (Opera may suck, but medicine sucks worse).

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