Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Who Are About To Die Salute You

I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but maybe it's time to update my will. I'm in relatively good health and all that, but better men than I have been undone by what I'm facing over the next thirty or so hours.

I hesitate to bring it up because I don't want to scare anyone. Besides, I know that people find their way here from all over the world, so if you're having a meal, don't say I didn't warn you. Anyway: both tonight and tomorrow night, I will be ... attending the opera.

If you've stopped screaming (or, for those of you with weaker constitutions, you've revived from your fainting spell), then I'll elaborate. Tonight, I'm either seeing Carmen or Lucrezia Borgia, and then tomorrow night, I'm seeing whichever one I'm not seeing tonight.

I'm sure I could figure out which I'm seeing tonight, but, really, why bother? They'll give me a program when I get there. And if I somehow don't get one, it's pretty simple: if I recognize the overture, it's Carmen. I know the music from Carmen pretty well. As for LB, well, I believe that it was written by an Italian, and I'm almost certain that people die. The same could be said about at least half of the operas in the standard repertory, I suppose, but why mess with a formula that works, right?

Actually, I've never seen a live performance of Carmen, so that'll be cool. Unfortunately, I won't be seeing Denyce Graves in the title role. Apparently the way it works is that with a subscription series, you either get to see Ms. Graves in Carmen or Renee Fleming as Ms. Borgia. We saw Ms. Graves a couple of years ago. She was one of the few bright spots in a rather disappointing production of Il Trovatore. I've never seen Ms. Fleming, though, and I've wanted to, so here's my chance. I considered getting b&c tickets, as a Christmas present, to one of her performances of Thais at the Met, but it didn't work out, so I had to come up with another way to spend that five hundred bucks. I don't really mean to suggest that if all the world's opera goers redirected what they would have spent on opera tickets we could end world hunger, but, well, maybe I do mean that.

Anyway, I understand from the reviews that Ms. Fleming may be out of range in Lucrezia Borgia. That is, if b&c's reporting of the reviews is correct: I can't be bothered to read the reviews when I know that he'll summarize them for me. This leads to exchanges like the following:
B&c: It says here that Renee Fleming is out of range in Lucrezia Borgia.
TED: Quelle dommage. Or its Italian equivalent, I suppose.
B&c: But they give her credit for trying such a demanding role.
TED: Hmmph. Maybe, but after seeing Electra, any other role seems like a walk in the park. Honestly, what's with the sopranos. What a bunch of prima donnas. Oh, wait.
B&c: And they say that Lucrezia Borgia isn't a very sympathetic character.
TED: [stares]
B&c: What?
TED: Dude.
B&c: What?
TED: It's Lucrezia fucking Borgia. She's not Show White.
B&c: Historically, there's not much evidence that she was really all that bad.
TED: Historically, Snow White's stepmother was a real peach, but that's not how she's generally portrayed in artistic renderings.
B&c: Can we get back to opera?
TED: Certainly. I know that Bashful is a trouser role, but I forget about Grumpy. Is he a bass baritone?

Anyway, there's always a silver lining. On Sunday afternoon, b&c, who had just returned from a trip to Baltimore where he learned that the symphony wasn't playing that afternoon and that his ticket had actually been for the night before, told me that the National Opera had decided to postpone its production of the Ring Cycle because they couldn't afford the exorbitant cost of producing it. B&c is devastated, but, fortunately, in just a few days he's off to spend a couple of weeks doing some consulting in Algiers, where I'm sure he'll find immense comfort in the arms and beneath the bodies of many attractive young Arab men. The damnation of the gods will just have to wait for a few years.

There may even be a second silver lining. I think one of the reviews for one of the operas said something about a tenor who looked good in leather pants. Tenors, of course, are notoriously poorly hung, but when I see a guy in leather pants, I'm mostly looking for a nice ass, so maybe I'll get lucky.


The Blackout Blog said...

ROFL @ "What a bunch of prima donnas. Oh, wait."

Will said...

The LB tenor is a very good looking young Italian in a costume that's part Star Wars and part punked-out hottie. All this and he's supposed to sing very well, too.

To answer your wuestion in my comments, I saw a lot of the worst performances of 1935 when I first started going to the MET as a very small boy. The company didn't have too much cash as it had almost gone under during the Depression and it took Rudolf Bing a decade at least aftder his post-war arrival to lne up some angels to support new productions.

When Rise Stevens had her seismic success with Carmen in 1952, much of the scenery dated from a production Caruso had sung in forty years before. Ditto Tosca and Der Rosenkavalier--patched up antiques thrown out on stage with virtually no rehearsal (there are stories of singers meeting each other for the first time in their lives on stage in the middle of a big scene). Singers just stood around and sang to the audience, frequently having had to bring their own costumes which may well have clashed horribly with the old ones the MET had to give everybody else.

Anyway, THAT's why I made the comment I made about a bad 1935 production--I just saw it 25 or so years later.

Hayward said...

I wish I were going with you. Carmen is one I have not seen in person either.

My most recent opera experience was to see Manon Lescaut ironically performed in New Orleans. Not one of my favs but well done.

Jason said...

I hope you didn't out-sing Escamillo's parts.

Anonymous said...

Dude, the topic of you and Opera and b&c always cracks me up. Your Inner Bottom Guy instantly surfaces every time Opera comes to the fore. And then you try to buy more tickets? Man-o-man, he's squeezing your balls while he twists them!

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog. It has been 3 years since you made this posting. I am also seeing Renee Fleming in Lucrezia Borgia soon. Is she out of her range in this role? Maybe, but for some reason she keeps coming back to it.