Sunday, February 20, 2005

Migliore Giorno di Tormenti, di Capricci e di Follia

Friday night I headed uptown once more to another night of culture at the harmonious unison of red velvet and gold leaf that is the Metropolitan Opera for attend the season's final performance of "The Marriage of Figaro". Thanks to ridiculous student bargains made available by the Met, guys like me can score seats of incredible quality at about an eighth of their "real" value and come off as real ballers to those who think you have to sit in the family circle to get a bargain at the Met. Making it to Friday night's show was no simple task for me, as I bought the tickets weeks before the show, immediately lost them, searched again and again for them, gave them up for vanished, and then found out, with barely a day left before the performance itself, that you can just call up the opera and ask them to reprint your tickets for you and they'll do it like that was the plan all along. As I'm used to buying tickets to rock shows where you're afforded no such second chance opportunities, that the Met would just reprint my tickets blew my mind . . . I had actually pretty much made other plans for Friday night and was already practicing my "funny story" about the time I bought tickets for the Marriage of Figaro and then lost them right away and didn't get to go.

So yeah, the way I see it, and granted, my "seeing it" is quite limited, the Marriage of Figaro is to Opera Houses as "You're Good Man, Charlie Brown" is to community theaters . . . produced quite regularly by just about everyone. But, to give Mozart his props, while only the vilest of people would argue that "Happiness Is" isn't a fine little tune, folks like my Pop, who, arguably, knows a thing or two about the opera, call Figaro their "favorite opera" and rate the music "exquisite" so (I am 100% absolutely the least qualified person to be typing this right now) it's more than fair to say Figaro has definitely earned it's universal popularity. But it's this popularity that seemed to dampen Friday night's opera experience (though obviously in slight, yet noticeable degree). Having now been to three performances at the Met, Friday night's struck me as the most Broadway-musical like I've caught, and I blame this mostly on the audience (though I can't help but wonder if, backstage, the Met-folk were like "Well, time to roll out the old Figaro sets and do this thing again")--the audience was the loudest I'd ever heard during the performance (as I would describe the other audiences I had been a part of as "silent") and people were walking out of the theater before the final curtain had reached the stagefloor . . . and a surprising number of those who did stay for the clapping and the bowing and the gesturing to the orchestra whipped out their cameras and started taking flash photos, which I just couldn't believe. But I think the thing that got to me more than anything else (and I promise I'm about to take a positive tone about a very positive evening) was that, when we arrived (well before the first note of the overture was played) the snowflake chandeliers had already been hoisted to the ceiling . . . which really bugged me because, hey, I'm a simple guy, I like watching the chandeliers go up. I suspected conspiracy from the moment I noticed that those grand gifts from Austria had already ascended, I suspected that the Met-folk had decided "Hey, it's just Figaro, why even lower the chandeliers from last night's performance just to raise them again tonight?"

But enough of that. Let's get down to the positive stuff. Firstly, I'm thinking that the Met's stage design will never cease to amaze me. Althought Figaro just took place in large, nearly empty old white rooms they were absolutely the most impressive large, nearly empty old white rooms I have ever seen . . . and with such big windows, it's like I just walk around everyday not even thinking about the possible sophistication level of 21st Century stage lighting so I'm amazed when the light in Figaro is exactly the color of sunlight or slowly darkens just like a real sunset (so, obviously, you can guess my reaction to the "fireworks" at the end of the final act.) And while Figaro offered nothing equal to the lowering and bringing forward of massive sets that was a major factor in my greatly enjoying Tales of Hoffman back in January, Figaro treated us to one 180 degree rotation of the set between the 3rd and 4th acts to move from a large, nearly empty old white room to the palace garden that left me grinning quite broadly.

Nextly, obviously the music was great, probably the most consistantly enjoyable opera music I've ever heard (I feel so uncouth right now). If anything, the singing was too lovely, as I felt myself drifting off into a blissful rest numerous times . . . if it wasn't for an explosive "Brava!" from halfway down my row that nearly shot me out of my seat after an aria in the third act, I probably would have dozed off right then and there . . . in fact, either the man behind me had a serious respiratory problem, or he actually snored a couple of times during the show. Not joking. Also, someone on the main floor (I was sitting in the Grand Tier, FYI) kept blowing their nose. And I actually heard a cellphone go off during the overture (looks like I'm wandering back up into my second paragraph again). Anyway, back on track: my real, honest review of The Marriage of Figaro: of course it was great. What else could I say? I mean, besided the fact that Figaro clearly outdid the single kick at a crotch joke of Hoffman with its constant "Uh oh, don't look under that sheet! Don't open that door! Don't look behind that screen! Look at that guy jump out the window ('You're shorter when you land')!" action. Also, it was the gropingest opera I've ever seen. So, OK, apologies to actual opera enthusiasts and to Opera itself for this "review", but there we are, a summation of my Figaro experience, in just over 1000 words.

Oh yeah, and I wore my new dress shoes to show. It was their first time out of the house. Also, this post could really have used a photograph to liven it up. My bad.

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