Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Doubtful Conversion

I have a close friend who claims to hate opera. All of it. She says she was "subjected" to it as a child, and that no child should be forced to hear it. I feel that it's impossible to hate an entire genre of music when the styles within the genre can vary greatly. She said that she and her husband just don't like it. I replied that there are many kinds, and that I like Mozart, especially the comedies. Her reply:

I might like Mozart. I just detest the Italian operas that my family loves. Torture to a child's ear, at least my ears.

I refrained from pointing out that Mozart wrote many Italian Operas. I also didn't mention the obvious - that I heard it constantly as a child and didn't feel tortured, and that Alex asks for it. I assume she was forced to hear those weird screechy Puccini operas. So I sent her a selection from Magic Flute, in German, of when Papageno and Pamina are sneaking out of the temple, and then Monostatos catches them, he plays the bells and the bad guys dance away. I explained the story and what was going on for each section of the music. Her reply:

I listened, I just hate opera style singing. I love Mozart's music, opera just isn't for me. I think the performers have amazing talent, I just don't like it.

Today she came to visit so I put on the English Magic Flute DVD. Alex "let" us watch the overture through the birdcatcher song, then we had to skip to the humming, then all the way to the end to what he calls "The Sad Part," when Papageno is looking for Papagena. She watched, sort of, but then Jim came in chatting about nothing and I had to tell him to leave - she was easily distracted from the screen. That really annoyed me for some reason. I get very focused when I watch and/or listen. I can't half-listen, even if I'm very familiar with it. Anyway, she agreed that this one opera was humorous and very melodious. I practically shouted, "Almost all of Mozart's operas are like this!" but I just said it calmly. For all I know she was saying it to shut me up stop me from playing more.

So I know I've read this in other places, but now I see it's true. You either get it or you don't. If you don't get it, you have no tolerance for it. And that's a damn shame because she's missing out on some beautiful and moving experiences.

She reminded me of a friend from high school who told me she hated the Beatles. How can you hate the Beatles? Their music is so varied. I can understand not liking some of their music, but how can you hate their entire body of work? That would mean that you'd hate a lot of the pop music that came after them, and she was a big music fan. I think she was just being contrary, because she liked to shock people. I mean, it's practically blasphemy to say you hate the Beatles! And being a huge Beatles fan myself, and your typically earnest "Dawson's Creek" type of teenager, I was appalled!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'd rather be sleeping...another Alex-esque post.

Trying to get Alex to listen to anything other than Magic Flute is proving to be a challenge. I'm hoping that once PBS broadcasts Barber of Seville he'll be interested in that, although there's no character as kid-friendly as Papageno. I've been playing a couple of arias to prep him.

He does like some of the arias on this double CD, "The Greatest Mozart Show on Earth." He sometimes asks to hear the Champagne Aria from Don Giovanni. Today I printed out the lyrics and translation. All I can say is, it's a good thing Alex doesn't speak Italian (yet) and that it's sung so fast you can't really hear the words! But usually he wants Magic Flute. The other day I was humming a bit of when Papageno and Pamina are sneaking away and he said, "No mommy, it's shtila shtila shtila." (I'm fully aware that I spelled that wrong - I'm going for the pronunciation.) Anyway at first I didn't know what he was talking about, then we later listened and I realized he was quoting the German for the part I was humming. Zoinks!

On another note, last week I sent a package to the woman who sent me the MF DVD as a thank you. I sent two pairs of earrings, three cds and the lyrics to Beethoven's Wig. I sent it first class mail over a week ago and she still hasn't gotten it! It was supposed to take 2-3 days. Very frustrating. I'm going to send her a new one as soon as I get some blank cds.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Barber in the movies- WOW!

Saw Barbiere di Seviglia in the movies today.

I loved it!! The singing was phenomenal. The Count- Oh my god- he had one aria near the end that stopped the show. Rosina- beautiful! What a voice! Figaro was perfect- all confident and laid back. And how can I not mention the supers? I kept an eye out for them and I didn't have to look hard! Figaro's entrance was on the top of a carriage-like cart. There was a woman up there with him, and several were pushing the cart. They were all over him like a harem! I could so totally do that. (Especially with a different Figaro, not that there was anything wrong with the guy who played him, but I have a certain person in mind.) And since Alex is still nursing, I still have the uh, the ability to fill out the dress. There was one scene where a cabinet in the cart opened to reveal two women getting a bit friendly with each other! And Figaro was right in there like, "Check this out! This IS the life!" The whole thing was zany, as it should be. The performers all had such great rapport- it was just great. I probably won't be writing any letters to any of the cast members though.

The supers had a lot of stage time. I so want to do that!!!

I'll probably have more to write about the opera itself tomorrow, after I've slept on it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Fantasy

OK, don't get all excited about the title. It's not THAT kind of fantasy. Not to say that I don't have bizarre opera-related fantasies, but that's for another forum.

No, no, no. The fantasy to which I'm referring has to do with... the opera. Wow, big surprise! But wait, didn't I just say... but this one isn't bizarre. At least not like that. No, I got the schedule book and ticket order form from the Met today. I went through and picked out which subscriptions I'd love to buy. Technically I could afford a 6 or 7 show weekday subscription up up up in the Family Circle, but then factoring in the train fare, food (and of course the new clothes I'd have to buy!) etc, it's just out of my range. And we're only talking about 1 ticket per show, so I'd be going alone. Alone to the opera yet again? No, because it's just my fantasy. So while we're fantasizing, how about the $12,000 8 person box for New Years Eve, including a cast dance and dinner after the show? The show, which happens to be Romeo and Juliet - Don't need to mention what baritone has a part, do I? While we're still in fantasy land... no no no. Reality keeps butting in! "Remember the last time you mingled with an opera cast after a show?" it points out. "You weren't even interested in meeting the performers, but you couldn't help but notice that most of the people there seemed to know them personally - all that hugging and kissing going on. So do you think you'd ever get near... anyone... at an event at the Met?" OK, Reality, get outta my way! You're ruining my fantasy. OK, 8 seats. Who would I invite? I can barely find 1 person to go with me, how would I find 7??? Although for an event like this perhaps people's schedules would clear. And of course, there's the matter of staying awake that late. So the show ends, the dinner dance begins. What am I wearing? Luckily this particular fantasy includes one of those all-expense paid makeovers, including an appropriate dress with all the accessories, and hey, why not, a massage that afternoon.

OK, back to Reality. There is a matinee of Romeo and Juliet on our wedding anniversary but Jim was reluctant. I'm sure that if it were a homebrew festival or an XTC concert we'd already have the tickets... Another option is the $20 orchestra tickets that are sold starting 2 hours before the performance, Monday through Thursdays. There are only 200 per show. I wonder what time people start lining up?

So it looks like my Met opera attendance will be at the movies only this coming season, barring a financial windfall or other miraculous event. Luckily the NJ Opera Theater is about half the price and only 20 minutes away. And if I get to be a super in an upcoming show, now how cool would that be? If only... no, it'll never happen so I won't even write it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Expanding horizons

Warning: Post about Alex follows. My plan was to avoid posting about him here but since I have nothing to report for today and it is opera related, I broke from my plan. So...

I really have to figure out a way to interest Alex in other operas besides Magic Flute. He likes specific arias and instrumentals from a few others, but he still asks to listen to and/or watch MF every single day, several times a day. Today on YouTube I found the Bugs Bunny Barber of Seville episode so we watched that. It'll probably get removed for copyright infringement soon so I'm glad we got to see it. But that's not the same, obviously! Maybe this Saturday's broadcast will be on PBS in a few weeks and I can tape it. Or maybe I'll ask Amy to Tivo and burn it for me.

At least he's watching more than just Papageno. I got him hooked on the performance prep stuff they show during the overture, then he likes Tamino fleeing from the serpent, so that's cool. He also likes the first Queen of the Night aria, or as he puts it, "The song where she sings really high." He gets upset when Monostatos is onscreen, although he's ok with the German version, so it must be the costume and makeup. I got him to watch the scene where Papageno and Pamina sing together after enchanting the slaves with the bells. Then we had to watch it like 5 times in a row. I wish the English version had their other duet. He'll also watch anything with the 3 boys. Makes sense, they're more his size!

So the other opera pieces he likes (and bear with me as I don't know how to spell everything):

The overtures to Barber of Seville and Marriage of Figaro
Champagne aria from Don Giovanni
Largo al Factotum from Barber (the "Hey, Figaro" song)
Non Piu Andrai from Marriage of Figaro (the "castle song" because the english version we have has the word castle in it)
Toreador Song from Carmen
Habanera from Carmen (sometimes we'll sing, "no no no, no no no no...")
Instrumental- Carmen Suite - (one part of that is " The Big Song")
Donna e Mobile from Rigoletto (Beethoven's Wig version too of course!)

And then non-opera, classical music:

Rondo Alla Turca, or as he calls it, The Piano Song - Mozart
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik - Mozart
Surprise Symphony- Haydn
Different parts of the Nutcracker -Tchaikovsky
1812 Overture - Tchaikovsky
Peter and the Wolf

There are many others that have numbers only so I don't remember what they're called, and since we're often in the car I can't sit there reading the CD case. But he does have his code names for the pieces, or else he'll sing a bit of it, to let me know what he wants to hear. He used to sing bits of what he wanted to hear before he could talk.

Ok, on to another unrelated (sort of) topic.

I'll probably edit this all out tomorrow. But now it's truly bedtime.

Edited on 3/22: As predicted, I took it out. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Things are looking up!

Whew! I found a "date" for the opera-movies this Saturday. I was in a meeting at work and talk turned away from work as it often does, so I mentioned my extra ticket and asked if anyone wanted to come with me. I would have been happy to go with any of the people in the room. Jean jumped right in, almost interrupting me, to say she wants to go! She was very excited. She's the one who recommended Westminster Conservatory's early childhood music program to me for Alex. Her son went there. This year he's graduating from The American Boy Choir School and has scholarships to several private prep schools in the area because of his singing abilities. Wow!

So anyway, Saturday should be fun.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Alone to the opera again!

Ok, not the opera, exactly, but the Met's next HD live broadcast in the movies. It's Rossini's Barber of Seville, this Saturday at 1:30. Jim and I were going to go, and Paul would've watched Alex, but then Alex got invited to Logan's birthday party, and Jim has to go to a memorial service at 2 that day, so once again I'm on my own. Lin can't go. Denise can't go. Liss can't go. Amy wouldn't want to go so I won't even ask her. Anna can't go, obviously! (She's Logan's mom!) And since the entire mom's club is invited to Logan's party, none of them would be able to go. So which is more pathetic, that I keep getting stuck with opera tickets and no "date," or that no one is available or interested in going?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Language Instinct

Yes, I lifted the title of today's post from the Steven Pinker book.

So I wonder what concept Alex has of language. He'll be 3 in June. He asks to hear different parts of Magic Flute in German and then in English. He sometimes asks for the "vogelfanger" song. He knows that some operas are sung in Italian. He even sings a little of "Non Piu Andrai" in Italian. Today we listened to part of the Saturday Afternoon Broadcast of Faust, which was in French. He knows about Spanish from Sesame Street. He knows that his cousins speak Russian and English. I've explained to him that people speak different languages in various parts of the world. But can he really understand the concept? Sometimes for fun I'll ask him where or how he learned to talk, and what language he speaks. He just ignores me. So either it's such an obvious question that he won't grace it with an answer, or else he has no idea what I'm talking about so he just ignores me. Sometimes I think it's the former...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Soap Opera Opera

A day has passed and I am now ready to post my impressions of "Man on the Moon."

Let's get my one criticism out of the way first: Forced.

What do I mean by forced? OK - There's a scene where Buzz's wife is talking/singing to a friend about the troubles in her marriage. It's the same scene where I first noticed that no one was inhaling their cigarettes. It just seemed forced for them to be singing the lines.

The mission control scene- Go/No go. C'mon. It was supposed to be serious but it seemed comical to have these guys singing this.

These scenes that seemed forced to me compromised my suspension of disbelief - they just didn't seem natural, they didn't seem to fit in.

OK, on to the good stuff:

Nathan Gunn- Excellent! Great acting, awesome screen presence. Very convincing. Evoked emotional responses as you shall see if you choose to continue reading. The scene in the church - the telephone call- explaining what it was like on the moon- all captivating. I don't know anything about Buzz Aldrin to know how accurate a portrayal this story is of his life. He came across as a bit self-centered. "I've been to the moon, what else is there" and "I guess I'm 2nd choice again." C'mon, get over it.

Actually his admission about the Other Woman was when I really got sucked into the soap-opera quality of the movie. It was fun to hate the character- I wanted to reach into the tv and slap him. Gotta love a movie that incites me to violence! Hmm I'm trying to avoid using the web acronyms but I really did just laugh out loud when I wrote that. Must... resist... writing... lol. Whew.

Ok, where was I? Oh yeah, the slap. Patricia Racette played the wife. Maybe it was the music but her singing was a little too soprano-y for me. Can't explain it. I'm sure I've heard her on YouTube and liked her voice, so my guess is it was the music. Her acting was good - very convincing.

The scene with the nurse checking out the astronauts (so to speak) was cute. I also really liked how they mixed in the real footage. And the obnoxious aunt - "I know my nephew better than you do." No, I don't think so...

I also liked the exchanges at the beginning in the press conference. I guess the subject matter was too serious to keep up that style of lighthearted rhyming banter throughout the movie.

So... I've seen Nathan Gunn in both a comedic and a dramatic role. Give me the comedy (and the Mozart) any day. No surprise there- I'll almost always choose something lighthearted over something serious. Real life is serious enough, I don't want to escape to someone else's problems. I want to escape to laugh! So my next goal is to see him (live?) in a comedy. Too bad I can't just fly off to Chicago this month or France this summer. Never say never- maybe I'll win the lottery. Maybe I should buy a ticket...

This is the post of... ellipses... ... ... ... and so on...

Heh heh spell check wants to change "Gunn" to "Gunny" and "Gunk."

Brain systems are breaking down... it's obviously past my bedtime.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More kindness!

When it rains it pours! I got a package of DVDs from the first person who offered the Magic Flute to me. She had recorded it in high resolution so it's on three discs, although the final one is just the credits. It's so sharp, and the sound is excellent! Almost too excellent- you can hear every squeak of the equipment on stage. It's great. And now that I have two copies I can loan one to Denise.

My online friend also sent a copy of "Man on the Moon," the British opera-movie about Buzz Aldrin, starring Nathan Gunn. It was strange but good. Many of the characters smoked but it was obvious that they weren't inhaling. All the dialogue was sung. I remember doing fake opera with my friends as a kid and we'd sing opera-style instead of talking. Even as an adult- I remember singing fake Italian opera with Bill in 1990 - We'd "sing" all Italian foods, opera-style: "Manicoh-ti. Gli spagheh-ti. Rigatoooooooni!" But I digress. Actually I have nothing more to write about the moon movie at this moment because I just finished watching it. I'm sure I'll have more to say once it sinks in.

I sent a thank-you email asking if I can send $ or even better, copies of our favorite fun classical music and opera cds.

And now I'd like to write about the title of this blog: I'd rather be sleeping.
When I listen to opera after 8:00 pm, I have trouble falling asleep. Not because the music is running through my head - I think it's more that the complexity of the music must "wake" my brain up as if I had had a cup of coffee. I'll have to ask around to see if this happens to anyone else.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Kindness of Friends

A few weeks ago, Denise commissioned me to make her a pair of earrings for an upcoming wedding. I made these (I think) pretty cool earrings with green and diamond rhinestones on top, and gold "disco ball" beads and other shiny beads dangling down. She absolutely loved them. Then this week she mentioned that she wished she had a bracelet to match, but she knows I don't make bracelets. Who says I don't? That night I made a bracelet to match the earrings, using the same beads. She loved it! I refused to accept any money from her. They were fun to make and she already paid me too much ($40) for the earrings. (She came up with that figure and forced the money on me.) I told her that her enjoyment of the jewelry is payment enough. Anyway... today she gave me a really cool CD that she got when her opera trivia question was used on the air during a Saturday afternoon broadcast. The CD is, "More Growing Up With Opera." It has 18 different arias and a really nice booklet that has a bio of each composer, a synopsis of the opera and the setting where the aria is sung. There are lyrics in the original language and in English. There's even a pronunciation guide! Good stuff.

Last month I gave her a glitzy necklace and matching earrings to wear to the opera. Hey, at least my jewelry is going to the Met! She brought Alex a Magic Flute storybook that included a CD.

We are really Magic-Fluted out in this house. Will I ever get tired of it?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A litte more Magic and how about a haircut?

Finally, finally, after Alex (finally) went to bed, I got to watch the other parts of Magic Flute. I hadn't seen most of it since it was broadcast on PBS. The music is just so beautiful. Of course I didn't skip the Papageno parts even though I could probably perform them myself in my sleep. I'm really looking forward to when Jim and I go see the full version this summer. Of course IF the director decides that he needs adult female supers AND IF I get in, I SUPPOSE I'll give up the ticket for a chance to be a part of the performance! Those are big, unlikely ifs.

So the next operatic event is Rossini's "Barbiere di Seviglia" on March 24, broadcast live from the Met into the movies. Should be a little more lighthearted than Turandot! Paul was going to babysit but then Alex got invited to a birthday party and Jim decided he didn't want to go, so Lin will probably come along again. Jim and Alex will go to Logan's "Thomas the Tank Engine" birthday party.

It's hard for me to think about Barber of Seville without conjuring up pictures of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd raising themselves up in the barber chairs. That and the daisies growing from Elmer Fudd's head. I sometimes sing bits of the opera when I wash Alex's hair.

This barber talk has reminded me... time to call "The Lab" for a trim.

And finally, to use the word finally once more in the post, perhaps this month I'll finally ask around about singing lessons.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kindness of strangers

Hokey title, I know, but it fits.

After seeing Magic Flute in the movies at the end of December, I joined a Nathan Gunn fan group on Yahoo. Someone (might have been me, how lame is it that I can't even remember and I'm too lazy to go look) asked about it coming out on DVD, and I lamented that if only I had Tivo, I would have recorded it and burned a disc. Well two members emailed me and offered to send me a copy! I initially declined the 2nd offer but later accepted, and that's the copy that came today. It works in my DVD player and it even has chapters. No more fast-forwarding and rewinding my already warbly tape! The sound on the DVD is great - so much better than the VHS. And to top it off, the person who sent it refuses to accept any money from me for it.

If only Alex would watch other parts besides Papageno. Not that I mind, of course, but at this point I know ever gesture, every bit of choreography, every background thing... it sort of takes the magic out of it. How many times did I have to see the Pa Pa Pa duet before I noticed that Nathan wipes his nose in the middle, while Papagena is singing a line? When did I notice the loose feather dangling from his wrist? I think I can fill in for the puppet dancers. Heck, I can fill in for the ballet dancers on stilts at this point. Hmm, stilts. Might have to look into that.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Turandot at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ

I didn't go alone after all. I remembered that my friend and neighbor Lin was an avid opera fan so I invited her along and she was thrilled! Turns out that Turandot is one of her favorites. So off we went to New Brunswick. At the box office I told the woman I had tickets reserved through Westminster. She asked one question only: How many? No ID needed. We were seated up up up in the balcony, of course. There were several rows of seats behind us but we were in the last full row. The row in front of us was empty, convenient for draping coats.

So onto the opera itself. It was semi-staged. The 100 person chorus and the entire orchestra were on the stage. The singing and acting took place toward the front of the stage, in front of the orchestra. There were monitors onstage so the singers could see a video feed of the conductor, that was pretty cool.

The singing was awesome. Soprano Sharon Sweet played the title role. She sang effortlessly. Unfortunately, she is disabled and pretty much had to sit for the entire performance. They staged it around her but it took away from the story, in my opinion. The prince (Allan Glassman) sang his arias directly to the audience, nowhere near the princess he was singing to of his love for her. He sang beautifully, although he was sometimes a bit difficult to hear over the swell of the orchestra. I do believe that Princess Turandot's confinement to the chair compromised his ability to act. He sang well, but I didn't believe that he was really in love with her. It seemed awkward when he had to bend over sideways to kiss her.

In my opinion, soprano Barbara Shirvis stole the show with her convincing portrayal of Liu, the slave girl in love with the prince. I think the rest of the audience agreed, based on the applause and standing ovation she received.

After the show we were supposed to head home to meet Ray and Jim and Alex for dinner, but then two women offered us their "Gold Circle" tickets, which included a post-concert champagne reception on stage with the cast. How could we pass that up? So back in we went. I had an agenda: I had contacted the opera company a few weeks ago to inquire about becoming a supernumerary - that's a non-speaking, non-singing role as an extra - and had been in email contact with the super captain, Mike P. This was my chance to meet him in person. As soon as the reception began, I approached one of the supers I recognized from the performance and had him point Mike out to me. I immediately went over and introduced myself. He was really nice. Unfortunately, he said that most of the directors want male supers, but he's working on them, trying to convince them to use women- even if they end up dressing as men! Works for me, if they need a 5 foot tall guy! Anyway, next year they're doing Rigoletto so I'll probably get my chance then, if not before.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Alone to the Opera

So I have these free tickets to see Turandot at the State Theater on Sunday and no one wants to go. Ok, I shouldn't say that. No one can go. They all have "other plans." Not that I don't believe them... So chances are I'll be going alone. Anyway, I'll be able to email the super captain and tell him that I saw the show. In fact, maybe I'll email him now. Maybe I'll get to meet him there.