Saturday, February 7, 2009

Opera...and an odyssey

I was so excited to get to see my talented, amazing friend Anna Kirker (formerly of the Dayton Ballet) dance at the Metropolitan Opera House again. I kept talking about it to people, looking forward to attending the performance of Adriana Lecouvreur with Anna's husband Rob...and kept remembering, "Oh, yeah, and there's this guy in it, Placido Domingo, who's supposed to be pretty good."

Of COURSE I'd heard of him, of course I'd seen him on TV, but I am not an opera person. My experience last fall watching La Gioconda didn't move me much (except for Anna...the ballet was the best part of that opera! Even the Times review said so!). But I decided to be open and try another one before I declared that opera was simply not my cup of tea.

Now, as a storyteller I have to say...come on. These stories are seriously silly. They're bad daytime drama scripts where life-and-death decisions are made on the most cavalier and coincidental of whims, mistaken identities, insults, you name it. It's crazy stuff. But Adriana was silly enough to be entertaining. Stuff happened (albeit silly, implausible stuff), and kept happening, and there were nasty catfights between two strong women. This one was lots more fun!

Beforehand, I'd accompanied Rob as he bought opening night flowers for Anna. We almost couldn't get into the florist shop because Law & Order was shooting a scene right outside (a fun little distraction). Inside, Rob asked me, "You've read the synopsis of Adriana, right? Any particular flowers have significance?"

I thought a moment and was all excited to remember, "Violets! Adriana gives Maurizio violets!" Fortunately, the store had no violets, because I remembered later that the violets are used (by the vengeful princess who is Adriana's rival for Maurizio) to poison and kill Adriana in the final act!

Anna was lovely, as usual. I swear, you can see her smile at the back of the house. She has thousand-watt stage presence. I felt so proud watching her dance onstage at the Met!

And Placido Domingo? He's getting up there, of course. He first debuted in this SAME ROLE (Maurizio) in 1968. There was some awkwardness as there's a character (my favorite), Michonnet, who worships Adriana but cannot court her because he is "too old" and that role was sung beautifully by Roberto Frontali who looked to be twenty years younger than Domingo... but...but still...

Even to someone like me who admits to knowing next to nothing about music, his voice was...heavenly. Truly. So crystal and clear and haunting. There was just something about it that raised the hair on my arms, gave me goosebumps, and made me want to weep. I'm serious! I didn't want to breathe when he was singing.

I don't know how to write about music. I can't even to begin to describe how beautiful, how reverent it felt to be in that presence, to hear that voice live.

What a stage presence, too. Anna said he was very nice, that he's a bit of a flirt, and that he told the dancers they were "delicious girls."

Hearing him was well, well worth the hour and twenty minute subway ride it took to get back to Brooklyn. Ai yi yi! After midnight, that whole train situation changes. Lotsa rats on the tacks. Looong waits to transfer. This crowded platform at Times Square practically cheered as a 3 train FINALLY pulled in only to hear the announcement, "Last stop for this train! No passengers! Last stop." Then the empty train just sat there, so no new trains could come in. Some guy was dead asleep on that train and the conductor couldn't rouse him. More waiting... At long last a 2 train pulled in, but my beloved express is a local train after midnight. Sigh. I felt like we were stopping at Every. Single. Block. The entire length of Manhattan! But at long, long last I got back to the loft, took Stella out, and crawled into bed...dreaming of being carried on waves of that gorgeous voice...


  1. I enjoyed your review. I appreciate that you are going because of your friend the dancer and I'm so glad you enjoyed Plácido!

    But I don't think you have chosen the best operas as your first! Many opera fanatics don't rate them very highly. Do try some others.

    A lot of people recommend La Boheme as an introduction, although I don't care for it.

    Other good ones often recommended are Traviata, Tosca, Marriage of Figaro and Carmen. There's a Trovatore coming up soon at the Met,which should be good, although a lot of people think the story is far-fetched!

    I would also recommend Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky - perhaps especially to someone who's more a ballet person)!


    (ignore my silly Google login)

  2. Thank you for your review. I got a Google Alert for Placido Domingo which is why I am replying.I like reading audience reviews as well as the worthy critics! Placido is the one for me. He came to NZ once and it was marvellous. What a pain the journey home, though. It sort of makes the high evaporate a bit doesn't it?