And on the other hand...

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

50 Years of Opera in the 50th State

Missed seeing the Wolf moon last night, not just because I was sitting in an opera hall for 3.5 hours, but because it turned cloudy and rainy. This was a disappointment to the many opera-going women who had slipped into exotic shoes for the event; it was hard to tell whether the sweet young thing in the four-inch red-soled stilettos (Louboutins?) was just not quite able to walk in them, or was trying to keep them dry and pristine as she wobbled to the parking lot.

The Marriage of Figaro was confusing (it is also called a "day of madness")  but with Mozart's music it put everyone in a good mood. "I don't have any idea what's going on, but I love this" was a comment I heard from more than one person.  Everyone knows the overture for this one, but the rest of the music is less familiar, but beautiful.  The Wizard insists we saw it before, in 2001 (has it been that long?) but I really don't remember it.  The production was probably very different.  Last night's had a fine cast in a fairly simple set.  It was the yang version of my wu xia habit (chronicled in My Yin Side) --supertitles (as opposed to subtitles) to interpret the Italian, above the stage and orchestra, and action on a broad three-dimensional display (as opposed to my laptop's).  But similar in the themes -- revenge, lust, loyalty, and faithfulness.  There's also something political going on in Marriage of Figaro, but I think we missed it.

The high point for the audience was the startling reunion of the mother, played as a larger-than-life Queen of Hearts character, with her son...with whom she was in love until she recognized his birthmark.  She and the boy's father reunite, all together as a family, and with the son's real lover.  The ironic part was that the long-lost son --a stylish and charming Figaro-- and his lover were black.  (It was as surprising as the Barber of Seville's Figaro who one year performed entirely on a Segway.) I don't think Mozart had written color into the plot, but the multi-ethnic Hawaii audience found it quite amusing. It was like an element of Otello had bled into the Marriage.

As I have said before, the thing about opera is that you never know what's going to happen, but it is all part of a repeating cycle, like the lunar event that was obscured but most certainly happening.  We arrived from dinner a little late last night, just as the hall was dimming to raise the curtain. We took some vacant seats to avoid disturbing anyone already settled in.  At intermission we found our actual and somewhat better subscribed seats, as well as the Opera couple we see three Fridays each year.  (We all always get the same seats.) "We wondered where you were," they said. This year, HOT is celebrating 50 years of classic opera in Hawaii.  Mr. Opera told me he had been coming every year for as long as he could remember. Last night's program listed all the operas since 1961 and we enjoyed revisiting some memories over the past seasons; this was the fifth Marriage of Figaro in the company's history.  I'm actually surprised that HOT continues to thrive; our local symphony has declared bankruptcy (a sad phrase to see in print, how the economy affects the arts).  I suspect it's a matter of scale; the opera, which has itself cut its summer light offering, does only three productions a year. The symphony is an ongoing long-term commitment for the organization as well as its subscribers.  Mr. Opera and I agreed that it is easier to plan for three productions over six weeks than an entire season of many months.**  (Even with season opera tickets, we missed the first production in 2007, Samson and Delila, just because we weren't paying attention to the calendar.) And much as I like to hear live music, you can still enjoy a good symphony with a good CD and earphones; but live opera offers so much more stimulation (though there was a televised production of Turandot that I enjoyed a lot).

In two weeks, Wagner!

**Although that doesn't explain why people who are so inclined never fail to miss an episode of American Idol or House.


sybil law said...

People who never miss American Idol have tone deaf issues. And no lives.
Anyway- sounds great! Wagner is one of my favorites!

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