Wow! The opera.
and I went to the Seattle Opera for the closing night of Lohengrin. Most of my life opera was just a word, at first it was "op-e-ra" fully enunciated in a supercilious manner. I grew out of that teen bias when I was well out of my teens. I did not develop an interest, mostly because the few times I heard people sing arias it was literally painful to my ears.
The first year I was taking acting classes, I started a voice class. I still don't know much about voice theory, just that my instructor was a retired lead bass baritone from the New York Opera and used the belle canto style of instruction. Operatic training. The little bit of training I did had several outcomes. My voice changed permanently, at least from my perspective. It was opened up, so I now feel like I am talking more quietly while my voice actually has more volume and a lower pitch. I also realized that a good voice does not hurt the ears. Surprising to me, I have very good pitch, albeit untrained. The very thing that led me to think I could not sing -- hearing nothing but myself being off-key -- is the same thing that caused me to cringe when hearing opera pieces that were not so well done. Needless to say, at the Seattle opera I didn't even think of cringing.
Before the opera we had a bite to eat at T S McHughs, the same place Trina and I did our extended improv
for A Streetcar Named Desire
. My favorite place to go before a show, and it is easy walking distance to numerous theatres, including the opera house. Our waiter looked familiar, and as we were finishing up I asked him if his hair used to be shorter. Sure enough, and he turned out to be the same waiter Trina and I had as Blanche and Mitch. He was sure he recognized me too, excepting the fact I did not have a Southern accent. I explained and he was impressed, never having suspected our dialects weren't authentic and we weren't from out of town. A very nice bit of feedback. Especially as I prepare to learn a New York dialect.
Back to the opera. Rachel and I got to McCaw Hall just in time to check in coats, rent a set of binoculars for Rachel, and find our seats in a leisurely manner. Rachel is actually one of the reasons I went to this opera in particular. Another was a friend of mine, Gregory Singleton, who was one of the actors and I wanted to see him. I also wanted to go to the opera with someone who understood and loved opera. Rachel has directed operas, and last year assisted with the production of Electra
. Also, she has been helping her mother out for several weeks, who has been successfully treated for early stage cancer. A very stressful time for her, with the ups and downs and ups. Good stress at the end, but no less exhausting.
McCaw Hall is imposing. It set the tone for the rest of the evening for me. It imparted the feeling I had as a young child when our family went to see the Ice Follies. In 1964 Mercer Arena was bigger than life for a seven year old, and every moment from entering the building to watching the final number and leaving the building was magical. The opera brought back that experience.
About a minute before the overture started the supertext screen announced the show was dedicated to the memory of Gabor Andrasy. I missed it, but Rachel said, "Oh God, Gabor is dead." She remembered him fondly as a person and artist last year from Electra
and was quite broken up through the overture. I was thinking, well there isn't much I can do but be here for a friend. I was also thinking what a wonderful gift for the artist and survivors, to celebrate and mourn an artist's life in their life's venue. It was very moving for me. What a great way to be remembered.
All of these things were coming together. A friend in the show, attending with a friend with knowledge of opera and a need to go, my ego boosting encounter with the waiter, and the mourning and celebrating of a loved artist. Then the curtain went up. The brightest of stage lights, like the cracking of the veil to heaven or inferno.
As with all shows good or bad, there are things I am conscious of when I watch a show. In the last month Rachel and several other people have commented and discussed the difference of watching theatre through the eyes of an artist. Having worked as an actor, tech director, stage manager, set designer and constructor, etc. in the last five years I see all the work and love which goes into a production. Some say it detracts from the enjoyment for them. Personally I think that is rubbish, and maybe I'll expound on that later. I enjoy productions, good or bad, all the more. And this was G-O-O-D.
I was absolutely grateful for the supertext, I would not have had a clue without it. Beth loaned me her binoculars, and they were a godsend. I was able to read the text without them most of the time, and with them I could see nuances I would have missed. The first half of act one was kind of slow, but it entranced me. It was about a village politically divided and the villain making accusations, which were baseless, as he demanded the accused prove a negative. All his 'proof' was based on the accusation itself. No, I'm not going recap the entire story. The connection for me was obvious, to the cowardice driving McCarthyists and today's reincarnation. And you know what? I noticed it and left it behind as I was engrossed by the music and performance. I didn't forget, I just went along with the story. I hope I can do that with my writing. Hit a chord that will be remembered, but will not obsess the audience.
It sounds silly, but I am getting emotionally drained again simply writing about it. I'll save more for later and get some more work done around the house before I prepare for the show I'll see tonight.