Friday, October 24, 2008

Mad Scene part 3: The Opera!!!

I know it sounds strange, but I kind of like being on my own in the opera house. Any opera house. I can do my own thing and not have to worry about who is doing what where. So I was happy to lean on the railing and take a few pics with the iPhone.

Those chandeliers are actually gorgeous, but the iPhone lens isn't the best quality when it comes to balancing the exposure. I was more interested in people watching than looking at the chandeliers.

My seat was in the Grand Tier, 2nd to last row.

There were three empty seats on one side of me and one empty seat on the other so I spread out. If only the armrests folded up like on an airplane, then I really would've gotten myself comfortable.

Pre-curtain scrim:

The opera was AMAZING! Diana Damrau has a voice like a bell, like a bird, like... it's unreal. So beautiful. Rather than give you a synopsis of the opera, I will direct you here, or better yet, here, where you can here Diana singing a bit of it. I will mention that the very opening scene, the one of the men scouring the woods, had dogs in it! Two beautiful dogs. Live animals on stage - always a risk, right? They were great and they didn't even get a curtain call.

Lucia's first scene was in the garden with her maid type person. She sang of a ghostly (ghastly?) woman who appeared to her and told her about a lover who perished in the fountain. A dancer in white, very creepy, came out and sort of floated around the way dancers can, and made her exit pirouetting down the fountain. Yes, ghosts talk to her. Perhaps she's already a nut job? The potential is there.

First intermission was rather long. I made a mad dash to the bathroom and was the FIRST ONE THERE!!! Of course I was also probably the youngest one in the building and therefore able to dash. Then I made a few phone calls while I ran up and down the stairs, checking each level to find which bar my friends were lounging around with their $25 glasses of champagne.

Intermission scrim, before Act 2:

I never did find my companions so I just trolled around until it was time for the act to start. It was, of course, amazing, Everyone was amazing. You could see Lucia really going, well, insane, as her brother Enrico lies to her about her lover, Edgardo, and convinces her to marry the rich guy he's picked out for her, Arturo. Act ends with the party for the signing of the contract. It took her a long time to sign - I wonder what she really wrote? Edgardo comes in and sees what has happened, freaks and is escorted out.

One of the most exciting things about act 2, of course, is that it was chock full of supers!! Maids and servants!! Drinks on trays!! Nothing spilled. The glasses were probably glued to the trays.

Another rather long intermission. And an eventful one, for this is the intermission during which I had an argument with an usher! Rather than explain the whole thing, at the end of this post I'll paste in the email I sent to the Met about it the next day.

Intermission photos, including an iPhone self-portrait, trying not to laugh. You can see a bit of the pre-act 3 scrim:

Finally, act 3. Blah blah the brother visits the boyfriend, meet you on the playground after school, I mean, in the graveyard at dawn for a duel. He gets back to the wedding party in progress (Aside: what kind of brother forces his sister into a marriage and then leaves during the reception???) So anyway by this point she's already gone completely bonkers. They had this balcony up across the top of the stage and she comes staggering out backwards. "Where is my husband?" she asks. She's clearly out of her mind. Her wedding dress is stained with blood. She drops her veil over the railing and comes down the steps. (aside #2: When I told my mom about this she asked me if she fell down the steps) There is an absolutely fabulous cabaletta where she's singing these very fast very high coloratura notes and each note is echoed just as quickly by an instrument called a glass harmonica. Apparently that was the instrument of choice to portray madness in a character at the time. Ohh lookie the NY Times has a little video of Natalie Dessay doing Lucia last year. Sets and costumes were the same, but I saw Diana Damrau. Natalie is amazing too! So at one point she sits on the steps and starts tearing at her veil and that's when I lost it. I mean, yeah, I'm a cryer. I cry at operas. But I cry quietly. Well I was trying my hardest to cry quietly when what I really wanted to do was sob right along with her. At another point she was laying back on what I think was the prompter's box but I'm not sure... anyway it was reminiscent of Madonna singing Like a Virgin. (Aside #3: Madonna obviously took voice lessons after her first album... perhaps a before and after post is in order) Ok so back to Lucia - she's in this bloody wedding dress calling to her lover that now they can be together and share bodily pleasures while she writhes around on stage with her knees up and apart and she's running her hands over her own body, and the wedding guests look on in horror. It was awesome. So this all goes on for a while until she collapses. Then the boyfriend shows up in the graveyard for the duel, hoping to die, and when he learns of Lucia's death he offs himself. Of course it took him 20 minutes of singing to do it. He was fabulous. Piotr Beczala was his name. The cast applauded him during curtain calls, that's how awesome he was.

So now on to the non-opera related things that happened at the opera house.

I never did find my friends during the first intermission. Turned out, my one friend, after two glasses of wine at dinner, decided that she didn't want to risk coughing during the performance, because although I couldn't tell, apparently she had a cough. So she drank two glasses of wine and then took a triple dose of cough medicine. Big oopsie there. Middle of the first act she began to feel unwell. She staggered out to the lobby where she collapsed on the floor and asked for a doctor. She got sick and they wheeled her to the infirmary. Yes, they not only have a house doctor, they have a little infirmary at the Met. The doc told her that it happens all the time. Luckily she felt better quickly enough to make it back for the rest of the opera. I didn't learn about this until this morning.

It was during the second intermission that I had it out with the usher. Here's the letter I sent to the Met the next day:

Hello, I had the pleasure of seeing Lucia di Lammermoor on October 22.

One member of our party was an elderly woman. Her seat was Grand Tier, Row G, Seat 123. After act 2, when she stood up, her seat folded up and would not come back down. I approached an usher to ask for assistance. His name was Anthony and he was usher #7. He was very rude. He dismissed me by saying, "Yeah, we know, that seat is broken, there's nothing I can do She should just find somewhere else to sit," and he turned away. I asked if he could help her find a seat. He said no because he didn't know where there were any empty seats. I then asked him if he could please go over and talk to my companion. He gave an exasperated sigh and went. Meanwhile I asked another usher who was very helpful and friendly and tried to solve the problem. I went back to Anthony to ask him his name and he said, very rudely, "I don't understand what the problem is." I replied, "I know you don't. I would like to know your name please." He was then rude to me later during the intermission when I tried to use my cell phone.

My friends and I save our money all year long to go to the opera once or twice a year. It was disappointing to pay over $100 per ticket with the fees to not only find that the seat was broken, but to have the usher be so rude to us about it. I have tickets to see La Sonnambula in March and I hope I do not encounter a similar problem.

Please contact me to let me know how you plan to resolve this situation.

Thank you.

And here is their reply:

Dear Ms. xxxx,

Thank you for contacting us.

We appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention. I apologize for the manner in which you were treated while attending the October 22nd performance of Lucia di Lammermoor. It is unfortunate when anyone’s opera experience is disturbed due to inappropriate behavior. Please know that our House Management Department has been contacted and they will address this situation with the usher so that we can ensure this type of behavior does not occur again.

It remains our goal to continue producing opera and providing service of the highest caliber and your input is valuable to us. We are constantly reminded that we are able to provide great performances of opera for everyone because of our loyal supporters.

Once again, please accept our apologies for the unpleasant situation that you experienced. Thank you for your support of the Metropolitan Opera.


Judy M. Williams

Met Opera Customer Relations

So it was a mad mad mad mad night and I loved every moment of it. (Except for getting car sick in the limo. I didn't love that part.)

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