I went to the opera. Does that make me cultured ? Our friend Michail works for a shipping company, & when his company gets hired to pack and move opera sets around the country, they get comp tickets (they also get comp tix for the rugby occasionally, but strangely enough the truckies don’t fight so fiercely over the opera tickets). So we went to see “Lucia di Lammermoor” last night (yes, that would be a 19th C Italian opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s Bride of Lammermuir). I did not wear the $5 silver mink stole that I got at the recycling shop by the southern landfill, although it did cross my mind. I *did*, however, pause in Arty Bee’s while I was waiting for the rest of our party, so I ended up going to the opera toting a tacky plastic shopping back of books. Ah, well.
The St. James is all Baroque inside; every square foot of the auditorium is junked up with carved vines & scrollwork, with Green Men and cherubs and karyatid columns between the boxes. Michail and I reckon that it’s nice to have a lot of stuff to look at and talk about while you’re waiting for the show to start — much nicer than sleek modern venues. People are always fun to look at, too, of course. From the blue-haired old ladies who *did* decide to wear their minks to Goth girls in brightly colored J-Pop dreds. Stephen and I saw the Chinese Acrobats at the St. James a couple years ago, and I am still vaguely appalled that you can buy ice cream at the intermission and take it to your seat.
The opera was properly bloody and tragic, and although individual scenes sometimes seemed to last for days (“Would you two please finish saying goodbye, already ?”), the opera as a whole went remarkably quick. I don’t know much from opera, but the Russian chick playing Lucia was pretty freakin’ impressive. Bonus: not only could she sing really well, she was actually a decent actor as well, AND she’s young and pretty — she actually looked like she *could* be someone’s little sister (er, someone’s tragically mad little sister, in a knee-length poet/night-shirt with one sleeve dipped in blood. The blue gown with the mysteriously water-stained hem was nice, but the disheveled murderess look is pretty memorable). Unfortunately, the guy playing her lover Edgardo was a bit of a goob. He chewed the scenery and kept doing these unattractive things with his face, and I spent a good portion of the scenes he was in sort of mentally holding my thumb over him and imagining someone more charismatic. The manipulative brother was good, and it was fun seeing one of my co-workers from Waiata as one of his retainers. For some reason I really liked the woman who played the maid/nurse. She only had, like, twelve lines to sing, but she was in a lot of the scenes as sort of set dressing, and she told a good bit of the story with just her own body language.
The set was great, and it combined with the lighting really well to get across “moody Scotland”, with something of a hint of rainy urban WWII, if you can picture that at all. Michail informs me that it took two trucks to haul *just* the something-like-a-hundred red stag racks they had decorating the Ravenswood manor hall. The costuming was good, too. Frock coats for Africa. Edgardo totally did not deserve that duster he had on (and didn’t know how to wear it anyway, to judge by the way he kept fiddling with the collar and batting the skirts around). Don’t ask me how you sing opera in a corset — presumably that problem was solved a hundred years ago.
Interestingly, I remember during the scene where Lucia goes birko (as you do in an opera) thinking that all the soprano frills and doo-dads (Wikipedia informs me the technical term is “coloratura”) reminded me of the opera piece in Fifth Element. Apparently it *was* the opera piece in Fifth Element. So it’s not that all opera sounds alike, so much as it’s that the *same* opera sounds alike. Wikipedia says “the mad scene” from Lucia was also used in the first episode of Gankutsuou, so when we re-watch that, I’ll have to listen for it. And for those of you who, like me, have childhood memories of the book (and Chuck Jones cartoon) “A Cricket in Times Square”, it’s supposedly the tenor part to the “Lucia Sextet” that Chester is chirping at the end, when he stops traffic in the Square. I don’t own the book anymore, and I haven’t seen the cartoon since rocks were soft, so I can’t verify that.
Anyway, Stephen’s in Dunedin, and I went to the opera. Woo !
PS: Michail, if you guys want to see Turandot in October, count me in !