30 November 2005

A Night at the Opera

Once or twice a year we purchase tickets to go to the opera. It's a treat that we have enjoyed for years. We can't buy the cheap seats because my husband is a big guy and the seats in some theatres were made for men an average 5'10" and about 180 pounds. If he isn't rubbing elbows with someone he blocks the aisle completely so anyone entering or exiting finds it impossible to "simply" slip past him. So we are inclined to pay extra for the really nice seats at the Dorothy Chandler.

Once you obtain your tickets, there are so many other things to do in anticipation of the start of the opera. First, do you do dinner at the venue? Or grab some fast food on the way in? We've tried the fast food and the availability is limited. My sis and I went to see Little Shop of Horrors and decided to eat at the music center and found the meal good. The price was right and it was prepared when it was ordered. So after that we have always chosen to eat there.

Then there is the lecture. An hour before curtain on the second floor, there is a lecture held. It takes you through the story of the opera being performed. You learn a few historical facts, which I find so fascinating, along with trivia about the author, composer and architecture of the day. The lecturer will take you through the emotional journey of the opera. It helps those of us who don't speak Italian or German, and it helps to rev your enthusiasm for the work. It is a favorite part of the evening for me.

Then you are welcomed into the theatre. In years long gone, once you were in, the performance has started, you're in. No getting up, taking a bathroom break, taking a call, etc. Now it is a little more lenient, but it is distracting to those who are really trying to enjoy the opera. I think it's a good idea to not allow the roaming about. It also used to be a bit stuffy in the appropriate attire department. You used to show up to the theatre dressed as if you were going to a formal ball. Tuxedos were found, evening gowns. Now days it is more like nice clothing appropriate for Sunday or a business dinner. I have seen people in really fancy clothes, but I've also seen very casual attire. It always reminds me of going to that Jimi Hendrix concert in the sixties. It was held at the San Diego Sports Arena. My mom made me wear a skirt "people don't wear pants to an evening venue" she said. Ugh! We went, me in a skirt, and I was amazed at the attire of the crowd. There were people there in appropriate attire - the hippies - in their tie die. These guys had been to a concert before! However, mixed in were the dorks whose moms made them wear a skirt, and then the ultimate: people in evening gowns and tuxedos. It was quite the eclectic crowd.

Far more than the history lecture, people watching and rules of engagement, is the opera itself. We have seen La Traviata repeatedly. It is never the same. Also, La Boheme, Le Nozze di Figaro, Pagliacci to name a few. I have a hard time picking a favorite. One particular performance of La Traviata was so well done it is still vivid in my mind. The first two acts of the opera were well done. The set colors were hues of muted gold and silver with of blues and greens. Very nicely done. The sets were striking yet, subdued. Then at the opening of the third act, the curtains opened and there was an audible gasp. Gone were the subtle gold and silvers. It was a visual feast for the eyes. Striking pinks, blood reds, orange so filled with passion it could quite literally start a fire in your mind. The stage was alive with passion and everyone in the theatre was caught up in the emotion of the story.

The music is incredible. So much so that usually after the opera, the big guy, downloads almost every version of the music he can find. He then drives around doing his job listening to music and reminding himself of the worth of the evening long spent. Each conductor has his style and we have enjoyed Placido Domingo in the last few years. I recommend the opera to everyone. There is a magical world you enter into when going. Most are three to four hours. You don't even realize how long you've been there and really wish it doesn't end soon, while you're there. If you haven't been. Go! Don't be confined to the expensive seats. First time out, buy the best cheap seats you can get. It'll be worth it.

One more story: For a special treat one year I took our oldest daughter to see "The Phantom". I had not pre-purchased tickets. I new if we went on a weekday, tickets would be available. So we went on a Tuesday. We got in line, and waited for our turn. There were quite a few people wanting tickets. We waited and waited. About 30 minutes had gone by and the tickets were selling quickly, when I figured out we were in the wrong line! We moved over and got in the correct line and finally our turn to purchase tickets had come. When I got to the window I explained we wanted tickets for the performance beginning in a few minutes. The young woman asked "how many?". "Just two" I responded. She asked me to wait while she went to check on something. Oh no, they're sold out. What am I going to do. I thought to myself, while assuring said daughter we'd be in a second. The young woman returned. She told me we were in luck. I would be able to get the needed tickets. "You see," she said "the performers have a bank of tickets set aside for each performance. If they don't need them just before the performance they are released to the public." Wow! We were able to buy eight row center tickets, on the day of the performance. When the chandelier fell to the floor in the first act, it whooshed over our heads! Then when the Phantom got angry and the lanterns lit up from the energy of his emotions, we felt the heat from the stage. It was an inspiring afternoon. One we'll never forget. A few short months later my daughter had a birthday. What did she want? She wanted everyone in the family to go see the Phantom with her, so they could know what she knew.