Monday, November 30, 2009

Dressing for the Opera

Pater managed to get some decent snaps of me in my new opera-bound finery before we headed to Norma on Saturday night. This was really fun to wear although I can't say the same for the shoes -- I was fine walking (about 35 minutes) to the theatre, but on the way back, ouch!

So many elements of this production to remark on -- we didn't know the opera at all but were quickly caught up in watching the interaction between the three principals -- Norma, Pollione, and Adalgisa, sung beautifully and played convincingly. The plot features an appealing twist on the standard triangle: the two women come together in friendship against the betrayal of Pollione, father to Norma's children. This emphasis on the women's strength and nobility is movingly manifest in gorgeous bel canto duets, but in the end, Adalgisa gets left behind when Pollione, seeing the error of his ways, falls back in love with Norma and walks to a fiery death with her. What can I say? Operas and plots and credibility? That's not what we go for!

Costumes were effective enough although not particularly striking -- what can you do with a bunch of Druids, after all? The set was majestic, massive stone and timber worked effectively with lights -- the backdrop curtain of forest offered some surprising changes through the evening through some entertaining technology.

But perhaps one of the evening's biggest delights was Richard Bonynge as conductor. The warm, sustained applause at the final curtain call had much to do with his amazing 79-year old energy and talent. It also reflected his long history with the VOA, especially with this particular opera, in which his wife, Joan Sutherland, played the lead role back in 1963 on the very same stage. That would have been a few years before my parents were able to afford the season's tickets they later subscribed to, but I talked with mom on the phone today and she remembers seeing Bonynge conduct and remembers watching at least one Norma through the years.

My daughter Megan goes this Saturday with her boyfriend, Rob, who was smart/lucky enough to move quickly and nab some of the $25 seats the VOA made available to young people through their Facebook page -- I forwarded the info to Megan a few weeks ago, and Rob moved quickly. I think the VOA has been so very smart in bringing a fabulous art form to the attention of a generation that might not otherwise be aware of its appeal. I suspect Meg and Rob will be blown away by the multimedia production that opera is and I know they'll be thrilled with the newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth theatre with its vastly improved acoustics and its great-looking lobby. I'm also sure they'll enjoy the people-watching, and I know Meg's really looking forward to dressing up -- she's dusting off a favourite dress that she never gets to wear, and I hope she snaps a few shots of it for me.

If you're in the Vancouver area and I've piqued your interest, there are three performances left, I think -- Tuesday night, Thursday night, and Saturday. You should go . . .


  1. You look stunning, it must be lovely to dress up despite the pain!
    I will memo myself to check out cheap seats for the opera, I think Daisy should go at least once, and since there is precious little Shakespeare around at the moment it could be our next jaunt.

  2. This dress is fabulous! It's very different but yet classic. You look great!

  3. A dress with a surprise indeed! Very chic . . .

  4. Love Love Love the red shoes! Great look BTW! Thanks Pater for the photo.

  5. Thanks for photo, unusual and lovely dress that I suspect would also look good with boots, and you could move about!

  6. Mater you look just perfect. Perfect.

  7. You look stunning. This look is so dramatic and filled with wow factor that you look like a very thin opera singer( dramatic and gorgeous).

  8. That's a fabulous dress; just the sort of thing I would love to wear if the opportunity every presented itself here in the middle of nowhere. Sadly it doesn't; no-one ever dresses up - for anything! A friend and I drove to the nearest large town last week (a 50-mile round trip) to see a touring ballet company. I wore a velvet skirt and felt distinctly over-dressed; most of the audience looked as if they had just come in from walking the dog.

    Thrilling that you saw Richard Bonynge; I didn't realise that he was still conducting.

  9. IndieAl: I'll look forward to hearing about you and Daisy at the opera. I know many people who are skeptical about the entertainment value of opera, assuming it's for the blue-rinse set, but it's just got so much to offer, even beyond the music. And in London, you'll have several choices on offer, I'm sure.
    Patricia, Miss C, Hostess: Thanks!
    Duchesse: I think so as well. I also tried it out with my new sparkly flats and it works well. Surprising how much I'm willing to suffer for a few inches!
    Thanks LPC and LBR!
    60/16: That's exactly what it's like on my wee island, but when I go to the city, it's a different story, thank goodness.
    Yes, Bonynge was remarkable. Imagine flying from Sydney to Vancouver at 79, and then conducting! And conducting well!

  10. That is a beautiful dress and you wear it perfectly. Just love the asymmetry of it. I admire you for wearing heels throughout. I would have rolled a pair of ballet flats for the way back in my little evening bag.

  11. Oooooh, red shoes with your pretty new dress. Now all you need is that glass of wine. . .

  12. Thanks, Angie -- I'm happy with this version of asymmetry which works better for me than the shoulder-baring variations. As for the back-up flats, I did have a pair (that don't roll up) but it was pouring again and I didn't want to wreck a second pair in one night. That said, I did change before we left the lounge we stopped at for a post-opera bite and glass of wine.
    Tish: And better to drink it in Paris than at the opera intermission where it would make me too sleepy for a dark, comfy seat ;-)

  13. You look perfect, just perfectly fabulous in that dress and the red shoes don't hurt the image either, even if your feet suffered a bit. And clever you with your change.

    It sounds like a lovely evening.

  14. I LOVE THAT DRESS!!! (Yes, the caps were intentional.) You look fabulous, and the red shoes are a stunning touch, if painful.

    The opera you attended sounds fascinating. I've only seen one opera in person; it was a production of La Boheme that was set in 1957 Paris. Thanks for the English translations on a closed captioning monitor, I was amused and delighted to find out that the beautiful aria sung by Musette is basically, "I'm too sexy for my shirt."

  15. Thanks, Mardel!
    Pseu: That's a very cute example of why some complain about the closed captioning -- does seem to reduce the magic of the Italian! On the other hand, it's nice to know what's going on and if you can garner some perhaps unintentional humour along the way, so much the better!


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