Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Thursday, August 24, 2006
What's Opera, Doc?
I saw La Traviata on Tuesday. I haven't been to an opera in a long time. Ever, actually. Which is a really, really long time. I went to a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors when I was in sixth grade, but I'm not going to count that because I'm pretty sure I spent most of the show thumb wrestling with a friend.
I'm not entirely ignorant on the subject, though. I own a copy of The Marriage of Figaro and selections from Don Giovanni. I only really listen to them when I'm writing and need something that I can completely ignore, but that's neither here nor there.
We went to see the production in Central Park. The Metropolitan Opera was doing a free outdoor show. A friend of my wife's was going with her husband and invited us along. Being us, we got off to a later start than we'd intended and the show had started by the time we got there. Which presented a few problems.
The show was done on the Great Lawn. If you've never been to Central Park, allow me to just say that the Great Lawn is, basically, a huge fucking lawn. Big space, lots of room. Until you fill it with New Yorkers eager to see a free show on a lovely summer evening. Then, the big, open space becomes a big crowded space. A sea of people on blankets or in lawn chairs, jammed one up against another, leaving, often, a couple of inches between their encampment and the one next to them. Which means that, to get to a spot somewhere within this mass of humanity, you have to negotiate your way through a minefield of paper plates, candles and sprawled out limbs; hopping from one tiny little patch of grass to the next; whispering a hurried "Sorry!" to the person whose ankle you just landed on. And you can't go in a straight line. Because the tiny little patches of grass don't go in a straight line. So you're bobbing and weaving through what is essentially a Denny's children's placemat "Help Bobby Find His Way to the Store" puzzle writ large. It's a little bit frustrating.
Even more so when you have no fucking idea where you're meant to be going in the first place. When I say the Great Lawn is a big space, I mean it. And when you fill that space with a hundred thousand or so people, picking out the two you're supposed to be meeting is no mean feat. Some of the more experienced park-opera veterans floated big bunches of balloons above their sites, making it marginally easier to figure out where one was supposed to go. Our directions were not quite so specific. This was no fault of the nice folks we were trying to find, it's just really difficult to get precise directions during a whispered conversation on a cell phone when a soprano is blaring in your ear.
And some of the opera-goers were not what you'd call understanding about the need to locate your friends. One utter douchebag who had her stuff set up not five feet from the edge of the lawn felt the need to shush my wife. I'm really hoping that she attempted to quiet down every single person who dared to speak when arriving at the edge of the lawn and that, just maybe, one of them smacked the shit out of her. Listen folks, if you're seeing an opera for free in public, and you're too lazy to get there early enough to snag a seat down front, and you pitch your tent (so to speak) right by the closest thoroughfare to the event, people are going to be speaking near you. So keep your fucking shh-es to yourself.
Anyway, despite the obstacles, we did eventually manage to find my wife's friend and her husband, who had been so very nice as to bring a huge blanket and hold onto all the space they could. So there was plenty of room for us. We broke out our picnic supper and listened to the music. And here, then, is another small problem. The Met had passed out free programs, but they'd done that well before we got there. I would assume that the program would have notes on the libretto, the kind that tell you what the fuck is going on. See, I had no clue. Don't speak Italian. To be honest, I didn't even know that it was La Traviata I'd seen until I came home and looked it up. So I didn't have clue fucking one what was going on onstage.
But the thing is, even with all that--the crowd and the maze and my utter cluelessness--it was fantastic. I mean, it was a concert-style production anyway; not fully staged. So it's not like I could have followed the details of the story even if I'd been briefed on the general outline. Plus we were far enough away from the stage that you couldn't really see much. And so I just used the music as a soundtrack for watching other things. The planes flying above the city. The people trying to get from one place to another through the crowd (which is actually incredibly fucking entertaining when it's not you). The young couple in front of me who went from cute cuddling to near-penetration. The music was beautiful. The night was gorgeous. My wife was right beside me. It was great.
And it was free, which is nice. Almost makes up for the fact that both The Shins and Neko Case played/are playing in town this week (both at McClarren Pool) and I can't afford tickets to either. See, New York may be an incredibly pricey place to live, but there's always some cool free thing to do. Can you get that in Des Moines? Maybe. I've never fucking been there.
Yeah, "Bunny of Seville" is a great piece (when Bugs is putting the scalp tonic on Elmer Fudd with his feet? BRILLIANT!!).Post a Comment
Actually, my original voice training was in opera, rather than in musical theatre (though the latter is where I most often had call to use it, having only appeared in one actual opera to date). So I'm not completely ignorant, but I never developed a taste for it, and would be hard-pressed to purchase any given the vast number of musical purchases waiting in my "queue". I do admire the sheer grandeur, though.