Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When I came out of the box and tried to put on my hat, I could not find my own head."*

Just days ago, I put my name into a hat, it was pulled out, and now I'm going to the opera, with RK, for free. Apparently amazing seats, as well! Center, front row, balcony. I cannot wait. We're going to see La Boheme in November and I already know I'll need to bring lots of tissues. La Boheme contains more than one of my very favorite songs. Songs I consider part of my life soundtrack. Songs that, when played, I tear up no matter where I am.

My first (and only so far, I'm a bit embarrassed to say) opera was Tosca seen at Lincoln Center in 2002. I remember reading that I could get stand-by tickets if I went just before the show. It was to be Pavarotti's final concert. Of course, the crowds were huge when I arrived and myself, along with lots and lots of other strangers, milled around in the outdoor plaza waiting for the news: Would we get a seat? Would we really be the last audience for the great Pavarotti? Suddenly, an announcement came over the crowd: Pavarotti had cancelled, he wouldn't be singing that night, or any other night. He was done. Just like that, tickets became available. There are actually some people who'd rather not go to the opera if Pavarotti isn't singing. I couldn't believe my luck!

I walked to my seat (at the bottom of the theatre, in the very last row) and stood in the aisle just staring at the theatre. I've since been to Lincoln Center to see other shows, but this was my first time seeing a stage set for an Opera. While my mouth hung open and everyone else sat themselves, the man I would be sitting next to kindly helped me through each stage of the evening. When Tosca began, I was on the edge of my seat, with my mouth soon hanging open in a permanent state of rapture. I didn't even realize there were tears streaming down my face until my previously mentioned seat mate handed me tissues. At intermission, when I turned to him and said, "I'd love to know what's actually going on, too!", he alerted me to the little screen attached to the seat in front of me: the subtitles. It was a magical, spectacular night.

The opera being on my mind, it was fun to read a recent New Yorker article about classical concerts of old. Turns out, performances, opera included, used to be one big wild party in the seats! To quote, "in other words, the opera served mainly as a playground for the aristocracy." An orchestra would begin it's first few notes and someone from the audience might chime in with a different request! "Applause usually erupted after movements, and at times during them, if the audience heard something it particularly liked." I love that! It seems that "the passivity of home listening" to recordings and the radio brought the ban on applauding. Sad. I'm sure there will be a few moments, or more, where RK will have to try to contain my overt excitement at the opera this November. Or, conversely, maybe we'll bring back the "rah-rah" to opera!

*A quote describing how an old music master felt after a Beethoven concert in Paris.


amy said...

i love la boheme, enjoy!!!

Elizabeth said...

La Boheme is so wonderful. I would need tissues for that too. Have a great time!