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Night out

My husband and I went to see the opera Barber of Seville last night. This is one of my favorite operas, and he'd never seen it. It always makes me laugh, and reminds me of the first time I went to an opera as an adult. After seeing the production 10(!) years ago, I ended up with a bit of a crush on the art form. The comedy and amounts of physical activity* always make me think of what opera can be, not what it normally is. It's almost like there's a little bit of extra love attached to the Barber that doesn't get shared with other titles. It's definitely something that all opera should aspire to.

Anyway, I got to share my first opera crush with my husband. He didn't love it as much as I do, but still enjoyed it. And we always use this as an opportunity to go into The City and eat someplace fun. We hit up Crow last night and I have to say I was surprised. Though it doesn't seem that they're keeping up on their website updates, the pan roasted chicken is still on the menu. It is absolutely fantastic and not to be missed. I was also lucky enough to have a cherry/lemon/sage martini and a beet/blood orange/chevre/pistachio salad. Holy cow, we're going back.

* There's very little room for standing and singing in this production
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Pagliacci moves mountains

I am a feminist. This occasionally colors my perception of classical works, making it difficult for me to enjoy some of the pieces that are overtly misogynist or racist. Some pieces are presented in a way that makes it possible to put them back into context and remember they were written hundreds of years ago when sexism and racism were more accepted and overt than they are today. However, I still have problems with The Taming of the Shrew and I was fully expecting Pagliacci to be of its ilk; namely that it would infuriate me with its abuse of women and I wouldn't be able to enjoy the musical impact of the work.

The Seattle Opera took a novel approach to performing this piece, removing the traditional showing of Cavalleria Rusticana from the bill and filling the time with a flashback of Canio and Nedda and a piece of music pulled from other Leoncavalla works. The 11 minute interlude traveled through Canios memory from the time when he and Nedda met (she was very young and he was an adult clown) through to the present day. The music and accompanying circus acts were fascinating in their own right, but they also showed a tenderness between the two that wasn't displayed in the first act. The growth of the relationship between Canio and Nedda and their happiness together was shown in a way that made it possible to understand Canio better.
My concerns about not enjoying this piece were entirely unfounded. I was absolutely blown away by the opera. I have never been moved by music or performance like I was by Antonello Palombis performance as Pagliacci. I would have thought that I wouldn't have any sympathy for such a jealous jerk, but the passion and energy Palombi brought to the performance made me cry. It just broke my heart to see him in so much pain. After seeing the way he lavished attention on Nedda in the interlude, it was impossible not to feel for a man whose heartbreak snapped his mind, and Palombis performance brought this state of being home. I think with a lesser actor, it wouldn't have been as easy to feel that sympathy.

The curtain call showed exactly how much effort Palombi hadput into the final scene. He came out for his bows sobbing with exhaustion. It was a truly beautiful performance, the only one where I felt the need to give a standing ovation. I was privileged to be there.
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Pagliacci moves mountains

I am a feminist. This occasionally colors my perception of classical works, making it difficult for me to enjoy some of the pieces that are overtly misogynist or racist. Some pieces are presented in a way that makes it possible to put them back into context and remember they were written hundreds of years ago when sexism and racism were more accepted and overt than they are today. However, I still have problems with The Taming of the Shrew and I was fully expecting Pagliacci to be of its ilk; namely that it would infuriate me with its abuse of women and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the musical impact of the work.

The Seattle Opera took a novel approach to performing this piece, removing the traditional showing of Cavalleria Rusticana from the bill and filling the time with a flashback of Canio and Nedda and a piece of music pulled from other Leoncavalla works. The 11 minute interlude traveled through Canios memory from the time when he and Nedda met (she was very young and he was an adult clown) through to the present day. The music and accompanying circus acts were fascinating in their own right, but they also showed a tenderness between the two that wasn’t displayed in the first act. The growth of the relationship between Canio and Nedda and their happiness together was shown in a way that made it possible to understand Canio better.
My concerns about not enjoying this piece were entirely unfounded. I was absolutely blown away by the opera. I have never been moved by music or performance like I was by Antonello Palombis performance as Pagliacci. I would have thought that I wouldn’t have any sympathy for such a jealous jerk, but the passion and energy Palombi brought to the performance made me cry. It just broke my heart to see him in so much pain. After seeing the way he lavished attention on Nedda in the interlude, it was impossible not to feel for a man whose heartbreak snapped his mind, and Palombis performance brought this state of being home. I think with a lesser actor, it wouldn’t have been as easy to feel that sympathy.

The curtain call showed exactly how much effort Palombi hadput into the final scene. He came out for his bows sobbing with exhaustion. It was a truly beautiful performance, the only one where I felt the need to give a standing ovation. I was privileged to be there.

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.

Moving

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Last weekend was good. Busy, but in a way that left me feeling recharged instead of drained. Friday night was the Chapel and coffee with friends. I think we stayed out way later than we intended, but it was so much fun catching up that I just couldn't tear myself away. At least, after we got out of the super-loud bar.

Saturday was a bunch of lazing about followed by frantic activity. I made decent inroads into the Black Dossier before getting ready to head out to Pagliacci. We had trouble finding somewhere to eat, but finally settled on McMenamins since it's a block away from the Opera House. Food was fine, beer was good, and we got out in time to walk over and find our seats without rushing.

I was absolutely blown away by the opera. I have never been moved by music or performance like I was by Antonello Palombis perfomance as Pagliacci. I would have thought that I wouldn't have any sympathy for such a jealous jerk, but the passion and energy Palombi brought to the performance made me cry. It just broke my heart to see him in so much pain. Especially after the inserted back story section on their relationship. I am still amazed by how moving the second act was.

Sunday involved shopping with my mother and football games. The shopping even had a surprise appearance by sunblock_boy  and his wife.

Weird weekend overall. Lots of seeing people and going out. It almost felt like December again.
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An Affair to Forget

Based on the book by Graham Greene, The End of the Affair was adapted for opera in 2002 or so by Jake Heggie. It debuted as an opera in 2004. I mention these things as this was my first exposure to modern opera and I’m certain that it colored my perceptions of the work. I’ve performed modern symphonies, particularly Holsts The Planets. They may not be quite as modern as the word would imply, but by operatic standards they are practically newborn.

All caveats aside, I had high hopes for this opera. The story is moving and dramatic, told by one of the secondary characters who is searching for answers. Maurice’s plight is sympathetic and approachable - he’s lost his love to unknown circumstances shortly after their rendezvous and his near death in a bombing raid in London in 1944. He is still tormented by the loss of Sarah, 18 months later and takes advantage of her unhappy husband to get the answers he wants. This plot practically begs for a tragic opera, particularly with all of the characters coming to God at the end.

I was hugely disappointed in the production. Between the tricks of a Broadway musical (highlighting individuals in spotlights during a choral moment), the gratuitous nudity and the utter failure of the music to evoke any emotion whatsoever.

My expectations for opera are fairly simple. The production is mostly people standing around and singing, exceptional productions have less posing, but for the most part it is necessary for the singers to be stationary to provide the support necessary to get the music out properly. It’s nice when there’s more than posing, but not required. Second, an opera should not try to be another type of medium. If I wanted to go see a musical, I would. Likewise with movies. Therefore, nudity is absolutely forbidden.

Nitpicking aside, I was disappointed in the score, which is generally the heart and soul of an operatic production. The atonality, the conflict within the score and the overall lack of direction left me feeling that the opera was fighting with itself. It was as though the music didn’t know what it was supposed to be, let alone where it was going. Scenes that were supposed to be heart wrenching fell flat due to the conflict within the score. There were two scenes in the first act that had clear direction and an emotive content that provoked sympathy. The rest of the showing was an exercise in futility.

After the intermission, I noticed that the seating was much more sparse than it had been when the show started. I was sorely tempted to leave about half way through the second act and kept waiting for it to end. Some of the other operas were slow, but this was the first that I actively disliked. I find it amusing that Speight Jenkins has an article up on the opera site entitled “What Was I Thinking?” I find that this now has a whole new, unintended, meaning for me.

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.

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Amazons in Seattle

Florencia in the Amazons is everything I’d hoped opera would be when I signed up for our first season subscription. Spending money on the possibility of a beautiful performace was enticing and nearly assured, particularly as the only opera I’d seen was the Barber of Seville which made me laugh despite having to read the translations.

The music was beautiful and moving, taking hold of my emotions and using it for its own purpose. Lovers spats, longing, hope and despair were all as clear through the music as they were through the lyrics. Empathizing with the characters, even though they were caricatures, was as simple as talking with your best friend.

Amazingly, all the performers could act and act well. Many of the performers I’ve seen have had suffered from the same difficulties that Keanu Reeves suffers: wooden face, stilted speaking. The seats I have are close enough to actually see the expression on their faces and it was amazing to see the expression coming out. In addition, they’d added some visual candy in the form of modern dancers during the instrumental sections. They depicted everything from the storm to piranhas.

My favorite part of the whole opera was the reveal at the end. Florencia had been searching for her love, who had gone off to find the fabled Emerald Butterfly. At the end of the show, Florencia morphed into the butterfly that he was seeking, completing the circle. This transformation allowed her to become her complete and happy self. I still remember the feeling of bliss at the end.

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.

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For Love or Money

The story of Manon Lescaut is fairly well known, if only for its theme. A young woman must choose her direction in life: will she pursue love or money? The story is simple, but the womans inability to choose one or the other results in her death. Nice, tragic story.

The Puccini version of the story is remarkable mostly for its complexity. The story moves along during the arias and there are several groups of individuals and their conversations woven into a single song. For the production we saw, that complexity was also its downfall. The orchestra often drowned out the vocals, and the main line of the story was overwhelmed on occasion by the chorus singing another train of the plot.

The production was… ok. The music on the whole was pleasant to listen to. Of course, I missed the most interesting lines (everyone else laughed) because of the cough I develop in that hall. I swear, the air conditioning is out to get me. The sets were well done and most of the actors actually sang well. Of course, the had to stop and pose periodically to compete with the volume of the orchestra, but the music on the whole was good.

My favorite part of the whole opera was Act 3. It was the most influenced by Wagner and the orchestration was stunning. Even without knowing Italian, it was obvious what was happening on stage. I can’t wait for the Ring. I love Wagner best of all the composers. The emotion in his music is overwhelming.

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.

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The Girl of the Golden West

Actually, the title of the opera was in Italian, but it was based in California during the gold rush. Does it really matter? I don’t think so, this was my least favorite of the productions. It was slow, silly and pointless. Casting a large unsexy man as the woman a saintly figure falls for enough to descend into a world where she has to free him from a righteous hanging with a gun is just silly.

Maybe I’m spoiled, but the music didn’t move me. I kept waiting to feel something - anything. But instead I was bored. The third act picked it up a bit and I nearly jumped out of my skin when they shot the blanks. In fact the music almost made me believe that they were running off happily into the west.

Almost, but not quite.

The opera left me flat and unsatisfied. For all that they house claims they’re on par with New York, I wish they’d pick better material. I’m waiting for the Ring…

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.