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 . . .