S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Exostructure and Opera

Yesterday I spent a great deal of money, but at least most of it was in my long-term interests.
- padlock
- a year's locker rental at the Athletic Centre
- badminton racket (which 15 minutes later they figured out I didn't need to have purchased, but since I arrived at class early, the teacher, who is new, thought we all needed our own so I ran down to the shop and bought one)
- 6 months of temporary contacts (somewhat on whim - I haven't worn contacts in about 4 years - thought it couldn't hurt to try it again)
- a new pair of glasses (for the first time, I'm venturing into the cooler colors with glasses)
- an opera ticket (couldn't buy the other since I didn't know when Jessica could go with me)
- tickets for the Lion King (birthday gift for my sister!)
After returning the DVDs from Suspect, I went home... to find Lindsay needed someone to use her second opera ticket for last night after all. So, with half an hour to change and cook and eat, I went to see Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades with her.

I have never cared so little, one way or the other, about characters in an opera. They were nearly all idiots as far as I was concerned. I wasn't bothered when they all died horribly or ended up miserable. It was a good, pessimistic Russian opera, but played in such a way that it was either unintentionally or intentionally funny. I'm not sure which I would rather suspect it of. We laughed rather regularly, along with much of the rest of the final dress rehearsal audience.

Lindsay's landlady is the choreographer for the production, and most of the choreography was just fine, except for some oddities in the way the crowd was used as a punctuating devide, walking through in the same formation, in the same direction, at various points in a given conversation. It is also thanks to her very very kind and wonderful landlady that we had the tickets at all!

The set was fairly minimal but had some really nifty moments, especially when Hermann (the hero... or perhaps more accurately, the anti-hero of the piece) is lying in bed with nightmares and has a vision of the grandmother/countess he scared to death (literally). The bed was huge, but proportional, and th stage was set to look as if the audience were looking down from the ceiling of the room, down on the bed. (i.e. the singer was standing but looked like he was lying down.) They helped make the illusion work by having Hermann put down a letter he was looking over on the ground (i.e. the wall. velcro I presume). However... then the scene went wierd and for the apparition, they had a slightly larger than life skeleton appear from under the sheets and cuddle up with the man who'd "killed" her. It was presented as if an nightmare but still... this same man is trying to win the hand of the dead countess's granddaughter, so it was like both incest and necrophillia all at once.

To the best of my knowledge, plastic bags weren't very common in the late nineteenth century. In fact, I really don't think they'd been invented. However, the herione of the piece, standing on a perfectly good bridge (i.e. the kind that goes over, say, a river), in order to commit suicide, instead of throwing herself off of said bridge, put a plastic bag over her head and pulled tight. Sadly, it was hard to take seriously.

Since it was a dress rehearsal, some of the singers, especially Hermann, were probably saving their voices for opening night. The singer playing the heroine had gone home to Armenia for a family emergency and only just got back yesterday. Her understudy played the role for the first 2 acts, and the main actress took over for the final act - in which she has one scene, albeit the big one in which she dies (by plastic bag, apparently). It was SUCH a relief to finally hear a voice that could stand up to the orchestra and not be overwhelmed by it! She had a lovely soprano, but then again, she was only singing one scene so it wasn't a problem if she sang the scene properly.

Based on the last two Russian operas I've seen (The other being Boris Godonov), I like the choral music better than that given to the soloists, on average. The crowds get some great mood-effects, tunes, and interaction. Another thing I liked about this production was a lovely scene done with marionettes, beautifully done. (If you know the opera, it was the Shepherd's Pastorale.) And very funny. Intentionally funny.

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