Thursday, February 21, 2008

Live From New York It's.......

.....The Metropolitan Opera!

That’s right, Brian and I went to the opera this weekend. Unfortunately we were in Edwardsville, not NYC but it was still quite the experience. Kerasotes Theatres are showing live simulcasts of the opera performances. We saw “Manon Lescault” which is the story of a young French girl (of the same name) on her way to the convent when two men (a poor, young student and a rich, old bureaucrat) fall in love with her. She runs away to Paris with the poor, young student but after a few months finds out that being broke is no fun (surprise, surprise), so she decides to go with the old geezer after all. She is then pampered and spoiled and doted on by him for a while until she decides that all of that is pretty boring. She then decides to run away with the student guy again, but when he comes to get her she won’t leave without all her jewels and gowns and it takes her so long to pack that the bureaucrat finds out and sends the police in to arrest her (for what I’m not sure). Apparently in the late 1600’s when the French wanted to punish you, for running away with poor students and similar crimes, they just sent you to Louisiana, oh horror!!! So Manon is being loaded onto the prison ship bound for America when the poor young student arrives and begs to go with her. The captain is like, “Sure, if you want to be exiled to the vast unknown reaches be my guest”, or something like, I don’t speak opera. Anyway, to make a long, long, long story short: Manon dies of thirst in Louisiana (after singing for approx. 45 mins.) and the poor student falls unconscious onto her dead body.

So the questions that beg to be asked are, “Why were we at the opera?” and “Did we like it?”

We were there because some friends invited us. We never get to do anything as a couple with them (mostly I hang out with the wife) and they really wanted to go…so we went.

Did we like it? Well, ‘like’ is a relative term. We ‘liked’ it better than going to the dentist but not as much as chocolate cheesecake. Actually overall we enjoyed ourselves and decided we might go back again someday, like maybe a year from now. It turned out being better than we thought. For one, there were subtitles. Hallelujah! Italian (yes, all of the French people in Paris were speaking/singing Italian, go figure) is pretty similar to Spanish and I could understand several words, but not enough to figure out what was going on without those subtitles (or the Wikipedia synopsis I printed and read on the way over). Even understanding English opera (if there is such a thing) I think would be a challenge just because of all of the long, drawn out warbly notes, etc. Secondly, the story was pretty good and entertaining. Nothing beats the classic tragic love story, right? But the best part, in my opinion, were the intermissions. There were two, and during both they showed lots of backstage activity. We got to see impromptu interviews with the lead characters and the conductor (who by the way was one of the funniest looking guys we have ever seen, imagine Humpty Dumpty in a tux wearing an Einstein wig, no kidding). We watched them change the sets (which were 3 stories tall and motorized, etc) and fix broken props (a footstool lost a leg during a particularly raucous minuet). It was really interesting to see all of the backstage hub-bub.

It wasn’t all roses, however. It was listening to 4 hours of opera, after all. I’m sure that is more than I’ve ever listened to in my whole life up to this point. Brian did have trouble getting past the fact that the leading lady dies of thirst in an area primarily composed of swamps and neither one of us could quite come to grips with the fact that the 14 year old Manon was actually played by a 47 year old woman and the poor young student was even older than that. Both of them (and the old rich guy for that matter) had the typical opera physique too…obese. Since we were seeing close ups (on camera) and not sitting 50 rows away like the people at the Met that day, it was pretty obvious that none of them had been young and stupid for a very long time.

All in all, it was....good, despite the fact that Puccini thinks the whole world speaks Italian, Louisiana is a desert, and convents will accept middle-aged overweight women as novices (maybe they would, what do I know?). We chalk it all up to expanding our cultural horizons. How many of you have been to an opera? Huh? Huh?


Jill said...

Glad you had a good time! Thanks for the cultural update. I'll look for another in a year of so. I'll just live vicariously through you and your opera experiences. Takes much less time. :-)

Jackie said...

We had fun, though I'm not sure we'll be ready for another one anytime soon!