22 September 2013
In for a penny, in for a pound: went to Covent Garden last night to see our first opera and pulled out all the stops. We aimed for maximum accessibility, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.
It was lovely. The Royal Opera House is just a fantastic venue. We didn't know quite what to expect but overall it was much more relaxed and engaging and flat-out pleasant an experience than I would have guessed. Everything was nice, starting with the welcoming staff at the doors, followed by some friendly assistance inside as we took a moment to get oriented, then settling gently into the evening with pre-show charcuterie and cheddar & chutney sandwiches in the grand, airy, and buzzing Paul Hamlyn Hall Champagne Bar.
First question in the ROH FAQ is on dress code. There is none. There were some folks dressed extremely nicely, and others in jeans. The crowd was excited, enthusiastic, and expressive. Quite a while ago I'd been to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and while the performance was outstanding, the experience was overwhelmingly stuffy and uptight, which was the fault of the audience entirely and not the musicians. Maybe it's changed in recent years. Or was an aberration. I hope so. (Chicagoans normally bring to bear a refreshing midwestern groundedness.) Or maybe it's cultural. I've gone for a bit of the symphonic at Royal Albert Hall and found it to be a pleasantly joyful occasion. (Maybe Londoners are just that awesome.)
The performance was wonderful. More engaging, to the point of engrossing, than I'd expected. Moments of comedy, a bit of tension, and quite a lot of sadness. Figaro's taunting of Cherubino in Act 1 for getting commissioned into the military was done with such gleeful mocking that it was downright mean. The song, "Non più andrai", is a crowd pleaser, and was given a whimsical translation in the supertitles ("no more buzzing about, bothering the ladies").
Supertitles! Yeah, they were easy to read, unobtrusive, and the whole thing was really easy to follow. While quite a lot of the music was familiar for a variety of reasons (seen Trading Places?), I didn't bother listening to anything or reading up on the story beforehand. Not necessary.
The confusion at the end of Act II was delightful. The supertitled "(everyone is confused)" was well received at a very specific moment. I think it's only a matter of time before someone projects "(WTF?)" there.
The Countess is the character in the saddest role. Even the "forgiveness" at the end is more resignation to her lot than reconciliation. The Act III "Dove sono" by Maria Bengtsson, in which the Countess wonders where all the love and joy has gone and why, if the good has gone, the memories of happiness still remain, was beautifully sung and just heartbreaking.
Long before Act IV was in full swing I was well and truly hooked. The whole spectacle was pretty astonishing. Yeah, I kind of knew it wouldn't be people just standing around bellowing out arias, but that's not the half of it. Opera again? Oh yeah!
Posted by pyker at 15:59