Last week I went to my first live, full-length opera. Up until a few years ago, I was not an opera fan, although my exposure had only been the Bugs Bunny versions from Saturday mornings. I liked the music, but it just wasn't something that I was interested in going to watch-a bunch of people singing in languages I didn't know being overly dramatic all over the stage, visions of fat ladies in viking helmets, it just didn't appeal.
Then Ben took an interest in opera and things changed. He was three or four when I picked him up from daycare and he was humming an aria from Carmen. We encourage every interest, so I dived into the internet and started reading all the opera stories (frick most of them are sad) and we got opera cds and listened to them. I talked to my friends who were opera fans and got them to tell me about performers and the background of the operas and the history. I went to a couple of Live at the Met performances at the movie theatre, and took Ben to see the Carmen Met show a couple of years ago which we both enjoyed, although Ben might still have fonder memories of the licorice and the announcer for the evening, Rene Flemming.
So I've been meaning to go to the opera for a while, but haven't gotten around to it, when suddenly it all came together- Guislaine and Adriana were both available and the opera was a classic - La Boheme. Can't go wrong with that, really. We got our tickets in the nosebleeds (or as Adriana pointed out, the hip and young section) and on Wednesday night we met outside the entrance. We dressed for the occasion, really, what's the fun in not making it an occasion considering the price of the tickets, and went in and climbed stairs, and stairs, and more stairs. We actually had good seats near the middle and an excellent view of the stage. Guislaine and Adriana told stories of previous opera shows (the one about opera at the Big O was hilarious) and finally the lights dimmed. Show time!
La Boheme is supposed to be pretty sad, but it starts relatively happy - starving artists joking around, deciding to go out, a romance between Rodolfo and Mimi (they call me Mimi, I don't know why) that is engineered by the guy pretending he can't find her key and blowing out his candle to make it darker - sly devil, and then a big scene at the Cafe Momus with the introduction of Musetta and the strange appearance of a toy maker, Parpignol, for really no reason. They make a big deal about it though. When the scene ended, the lights came up and we talked about it. First, the translations, in French and English which sometimes didn't match and Adriana said didn't always convey the Italian. Sometimes they were downright funny. Then we joked about the romantic scene and how fast that moved along and then the mysterious toy maker. What was the deal with him? Guislaine suggested we should write a sequel just about him, perhaps with his toys coming to life and going on a rampage through the rest of the opera, and thus © La Boheme 2 - Parpignol's Revenge was born. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the opera...... Honestly, he doesn't appear in the rest of the opera, what is the big deal with him?
Great fun, then the next act starts at the gates and Marcello talking to Mimi and Mimi telling him how jealous and awful Rodolfo is being. Then she hides and listens when Rodolfo and Marcello are talking and finds out he feels bad about making her stay at his cold flat and that she's dying, which surprisingly she doesn't realise, which was kind of funny. Then she's discovered because of all that coughing (amazing that she can sing), she tells him she's going back to her place (the translation here is "goodbye, no hard feelings" which has now become a catch phrase for the three of us) and they confusingly agree to stay together until the Spring. I've heard all of the music in the past, but this was the first time I was reading a translation as it was going along. Mimi's "Donde lieta uscì" is beautiful to hear, but I was amused to find out that she is basically singing about her hat.
More discussion during the set change: what the hell was the whole staying together until Spring about? And seriously, how is she surprised when Rodolfo says that she's dying?
Final act- The guys are both missing their ladies and singing about it, then they all start horsing around which was really well done and nice and light. Then Musetta rushes in with Mimi who is on her last legs and the whole thing gets pretty sad from there. Colline's song about his coat is a bit odd, but I guess he needed something to sing about. Her death is sort of subtle, she doesn't die while singing, she just quietly passes while the other characters are mourning her imminent demise and praying. While it was sad, it didn't really bring out a lot of emotion in me. This could be the young age of the cast or the direction, but for someone who cries at dog food commercials, I was shockingly tearless at the end. Still, it was a wonderful night, with beautiful music, good friends, lots of laughing, and ended with burgers and fries in our fancy clothes at midnight.
I'm doing that again!