Sunday, October 17, 2010

Opera Backstage, Lobby, and What I Wore . . .

As promised, some of the photos from the backstage tour arranged for those of us Blogging at the Opening Night, World Premiere, of the Vancouver Opera's Lillian Alling. But before I tell you what caught my eye, and why, I'd like to suggest that if you've never been to opera before, this is a great way to start, an exciting and accessible introduction which nonetheless offers something new for longtime afficionados. If you're anywhere near Vancouver, I highly recommend Lillian as a great night out. Dress up or don't -- the crowds are always mixed enough at the Queen E. that you'll feel comfortable whatever you choose.

So you want a sneak peek backstage? Above is the stage manager's guidebook -- as you can see, the score is festooned with layers and layers of colour-coded post-it notes. Every imaginable detail is planned for.

More evidence of the careful planning needed to ensure that there are no uncomfortable surprises onstage: a table laid out with the smaller props singers need to grab on their way to the front, divided by coloured tape into sections and labelled with the name of the prop that belongs in that rectangle. Here's the beer stein Lillian needs for the scene in which she tracks her putative fiancé to a farm in North Dakota.

Was it silly of me to feel a wee frisson of recognition when I saw it in her hands onstage? (Hey, I saw that on the backstage table!)


More props.
These ones below -- pertinent to the Ellis Island scene -- don't fit on a table, but are equally meticulously placed.

The Datsun pickup that Jimmy uses to move Irene from her wilderness cabin to her new home in the city runs on tracks -- again, each time it emerged as part of the "frame story" I felt a secret insider's enjoyment at knowing how it worked. And now you've seen it too!

I have a few more photos -- the starkly unadorned, yet ever-so-versatile set, a lone bicycle on its stand waiting for its turn up front, but I only took my little camera and the shots aren't great. If I get another invitation to Bloggers Night at the Opera, I'm considering a Canon PowerShot like my daughter's (really don't feel like lugging my Nikon SLR -- my bag was already heavy enough with the Netbook).
And if I ever get another invitation, I'm going to find a way to get out and about to photograph some outfits and/or shoes. I did manage one shot last night, of these two charming women who were near our table. I couldn't help notice the black-and-white-jacketed woman commenting on her friend's spectacular shoes -- which were then removed and examined. I totally recognized that moment and hurried over to ask if I might snap shoes and friends.
We joked about that pigeon-toed pose so often assumed in those fashionista shots
and kidded around about poses in general

and while I'm not going to give Sart any competition -- and Tish needn't worry that I'll move to Paris and take over her street shots -- I had fun and would definitely try to do more of this another time.

As it was, I felt obligated to sit at that blogging table and write! And for someone who usually only writes in the quiet of her own space and who tries to edit reasonably carefully (not saying I don't make proof-reading mistakes, but I do generally at least make a decent effort), it's a completely different experience to blog as close to live as we did last night.
To Ling Chan, the VOA's Social Media Manager, thank you so much for inviting me to participate and for treating me so well.
Thank you as well to my fellow bloggers who were helpful, friendly, and reassuring.
And thanks to the VOA -- front-of-the-house, backstage folks, performers, donors -- all of you who have worked to put Vancouver on the world's opera map for many decades (as recalled in the numerous tributes to Joan Sutherland that circulated last week, recalling her debut here), but who are obviously never content to rest on your laurels. Bravo!
Oh, you're still wondering what I wore last night? There was a last-minute change of mind (I may tell some of you later), and this is what I went out the door in:
A black stretch-lace dress I've had for a couple of years; the chocolate gold beads I've been wearing lots lately, gold hoops (which I could imagine Lillian sporting) and a silver cuff with a big piece of Baltic amber -- Paul brought me this back from Russia about ten years ago, and I thought it let me channel Lillian, the Russian emigré.
And these burgundy Fluevogs whose heel would have been tough for Lillian when she was climbing those northern mountains or swaying across that suspension bridge -- but their retro styling struck me as another way to channel her late 1920s adventure. (Another attraction of this production -- you'll love the costumes, really!)

Contrary to my three posts from last night, I seem to have managed this without a single "Wow." That's good, because I've used up my year's supply of goofy expostulations. If you go, feel free to use a few on my behalf, though -- just be sure to let me know. I'd love to share impressions.

17 comments:

  1. You look totally gorgeous!! Perfect outfit for the opera - I love the lace sleeves.

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  2. WOW!!! Stunning dress and your hair looks gorgeous up like that. You've got me all fired up to go to the Opera. Opera Australia is producing Madama Butterfly in January/February - I just have to find a way to afford tix!

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  3. You have moved way up ...a fashionista mater....dressing up for the Opera and I find that you are a star!

    Love the insiders view...wish I could be a fly on the wall....
    looks like such fun!

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  4. Just catching up after a short trip -I went to visit my landlady from when I lived in Germany 30 years ago! How wonderful that you got that 'insider's view'. It must also have been exciting to take your blogging to the next level. I'm afraid we haven't managed to get to the ballet yet - it would have been this past weekend, but this trip came up and I couldn't miss it. However, I did go to the theatre on Friday night; a play by Frank Wedekind - absolutely impenetrable to me, I have to go and read up on it to find out what I think, that's how off the wall it was! By the way, I adore those chocolate beads! Patricia

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  5. Philistine that I am, scrolled straight to your pic! You have an array of black dresses, each smashing on you! "Along came a lady in lacy sleeves"- remember the lyric from "Raised on Robbery"?

    I'll now go back and read the opera review. Elissa Poole (in today's Globe) was positive, and that is hard won praise.

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  6. When ever I take a brief break I miss all the action!
    It all sounds very glamorous blogging as you go, and the new traffic coming your way will, I am sure enjoy the eclecticism of your blog.
    I loved your grey layers and coincidently Lisa Armstrong of the Times was working that same black lace sleeve outfit in this weeks Saturday supplement. You could not be more on trend if you were Mr Galliano's assistant herself!
    I am impressed you could write in public, I would really struggle as most of my posts are written mentally as I walk the dog. I like some breathing space before and idea before posting, so well done.

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  7. You are soooooo damn chic that I feel sure if Bizet was alive he would write an opera about you and that dress and those boots!!!

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  8. hey frances! it was a pleasure meeting you and blogging alongside with you. i had an amazing night as i'm sure you did as well. the black lace you wore was wonderful. i'm glad i put my outfit together...finally! haha... stay in touch. i'm going to add you. maybe i'll see you at another opera?

    nikjillb.blogspot.com

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  9. WOW!! You really look fabulous in that outfit. Not that you don't usually look fabulous, but the lace dress, with the lace sleeves is very chic, especially with the spice of the boots. You were a very elegant opera blogger indeed and I love the backstage photos.

    I want to go to the opera. Listening at home will have to do for me for a while, imagining the opera in my head -- never as stunning I am sure.

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  10. K: I bought the dress pretty spontaneously post-Christmas two years ago -- since then, I've worn it to a wedding and now twice to the opera. Given that it wasn't much more than $100, it's earning its keep very nicely!
    Tiffany: It is a big splurge, especially when you're off to New York soon. But Butterfly is such a great opera and you have that marvellous opera house! (I love getting the season's tickets, 'cause altho' it's obviously a big gulp when we buy them, after that it feels like a free night out!)
    Hostess: Ha! Well, I like your view of me, but that's as close to stardom as I'll ever be and it's very, very modest -- most of the opera-goers were much more focused on lining up for their intermission glass of wine ;-)

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  11. Duchesse: I'd do the same thing -- and I'd forgotten that Joni song, and will have to download it into my iPod now . . . I thought Elissa Poole's was a great review, and she helped me solidify a few impressions I'd had. The opera's accessibility might be considered a limitation, but she was generous in her assessment of that aspect of it. It's not John Adams, but why should it be, after all?
    Alison: So far I haven't seen extra traffic here -- the VOA blog has so much going on and I'm sure visitors to it are more focused on opera rather than new blogs.
    You make me laugh, Galiano's assistant indeed! That's me! As for glam, I did feel right in the thick of it and it made up for envying you at the Art Frieze in London.
    LBR: Why thank you, and my boots thank you -- they are opera-worthy, I must say. Carmen might fancy them!
    Nik: Wasn't it fun!? Yes, we'll have to keep in touch, maybe at the opera again!
    Mardel: I'll have to show you later my first choice -- Paul much preferred this dress styled as is, and I have to admit I felt great in it.
    Sorry the opera won't work for you right now -- I'm sure you really do miss it, although I know you have many compensations. There's just something about all those elements coming together in one grand bravura performance, isn't there?!

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  12. I'll say it for you, Wow! What an amazing recap of the opera (you've intrigued without giving away too much) and I love the "how they do it" aspect!

    And your ensemble? Perfection! I love the sassy boots with the lace dress.

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  13. I enjoyed your outfits and writing about the opera doings. I especially love that black dress.

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  14. Pseu: Thanks! The boots are, surprise, surprise, Fluevog!
    As for the intriguing without giving too much away, the VOA people asked us not to ruin the surprise twist -- although they said we were welcome to tell folks that the girl in The Crying Game is a dude! ;-)
    Susan: Thank you! It's turned out to be a surprisingly versatile LBD despite the lace. And because it's stretch, it's super comfy to wear.

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  15. Patricia: How did I miss your comment earlier? Re-connecting with your old landlady must have been a rich experience -- did your family come with you?
    And your comment re the Wedekind play has made me want to haul out some of my notes from way back when to see if I might have studied something by him once upon a time . . .

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  16. You look Fabulous in your opera-going outfit. May I suggest you use it for your profile picture? You look more and more stylish every time you post pictures.

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  17. SewingLibrarian: Thanks -- you're too kind, but that's a good idea re the profile pic. I'm getting tired of the current one, plus it feels a bit of a fraud since I so seldom straighten my hair. Have to see if I can find a minute or two for that over the weekend.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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