Sunday, May 1, 2011

Opera, the morning after -- more than the usual drama!

We didn't stay for the backstage after-party last night although we could have bumped elbows with Jonathan Miller. But elbow bumping and a possible exchange of a few lame (on our part) words, along with the possibility of meatballs and profiteroles (and other sweet and savoury bite-size treats) couldn't compete with the lure of Guinness and thin-crust pizza up the road at Bacchus in the company of two of our daughters who had watched the opera from our subscription seats (Paul and I were given tickets in return for my blogging efforts, but we have been subscribers for years).

On the way to Bacchus, we exchanged impressions about the opera -- Bronwen's biggest enjoyment came from recognizing the music she's always loved in Pretty Woman, which she ends up watching every year or so (it's one of those cheesy movies, isn't it, perfect for when you're sick or needing a lift or escape). Paul was especially taken by the performance of James Westman as Alfredo's father, Giorgio, trying to convince Violetta that she should renounce Alfredo in favour of his family's happiness.
I had to agree that Westman's singing and acting were fabulous in that scene, although my favourite duets were the ones between Violetta (Erin Wall) and Alfredo (David Pomeroy) at the beginning -- when they declare their love -- and in the final deathbed scene (Pictured at the top -- all photos by Tim Matheson and provided by VOA). Verdi's rich harmonies woven out of two such energetic and complementary melodies were realized so beautifully by these performers. I have to admit that I find this opera's overall pace and tone almost too dramatic, too unflagging, too relentlessly intense, but each time one of Wall's soprano notes melded just so with one of Pomeroy's tenor notes,  I was charmed.

The big discussion over the table, though, revolved around an incident in the theatre that I debated sharing with you -- I wasn't sure if passing it along was anything more than gossip which might extend an audience member's discomfort. Thinking it over, though, I know it deserves a mention because such events do have the potential to affect performance. And my daughters were seated right where the action was, unluckily for them.

What we noticed from our seats across the room was that after Act I, when the lights should have stayed dim during the (brief) set change, and the curtains should have risen soon on Act II, instead the lights went up, the surtitling announced , and there was a flurry of activity. This is highly unusual -- if you're late to the opera, you wait until Intermission rather than go in and disrupt the performance. We assumed that the unusual traffic caused by the Canucks playoff game across the street had created such a crowd of latecomers that an exception was being made. We were surprised at how long the pause lasted and a bit perturbed by the change to the audience energy -- chatting resumed, building to a dull buzz all around us, and the lights took away from the suspended disbelief that had been achieved -- we were right back in the 21st century, far from the past romance of a Paris ballroom.

At intermission, we learned from my fellow blogger Gwen that someone had vomited in the row ahead of them and the break was for cleaning up the mess and re-seating those affected by it (think sloping theatre floors, gravity, bags and shoes on floor, never mind the other physics of vomit -- not pleasant). And, as we found, 'round the table at Bacchus last night, the row in front of Gwen happened to house our regular seats, where our daughters were sitting. Megan watched the first two acts with her scarf over her face, fighting against the effects of last night's hangover, determined not to follow her stomach's copycat impulses. Bronwen borrowed an end of the scarf and wished for one of those face masks the Asian tourists often sport. Not nice. Not nice at all.

But while amusing, how is it any more than gossip about another poor soul's misfortune? Well, as I mentioned earlier, the audience certainly felt the interruption to the opera's energy, although we were swept up soon enough as the curtain rose on the second act. But how difficult it must have been, backstage, to maintain the  momentum, to win the audience back. And yet they came back as if seconds, rather than minutes, had elapsed and win us back they did.

Indeed, the opera fans filing out of the theatre and onto sidewalks thronged with hockey fans leaving their arena were the happier fans. Our performers don't get to make the best of seven games -- they have to put on a winning show for each and every audience, each and every night. . . . you have five more chances to watch them do it! To find out about tickets, click here. 

One last note -- the glaring omission, what I wore? Somehow photos never got taken,  but I wore a drapey grey jersey MaxMara dress that I bought in Paris. Quite conservative, perhaps more work than play, but it was all I could muster from the travel wardrobe I'm still managing with 'til we get home to the island later today. And my Fluevogs twisted it up a bit, I hope. My fellow bloggers did a much better job -- check them out here (scroll down for lots of fashion-y shots of Natasha and her friend), here (check out Stacey's snazzy jacket), and here (newcomer Gwen overcame some technical problems to pull off a solid first opera post -- welcome!). That was the last opera of the season, and next year I'm assuming Pater and I will be back in our regular seats. It's been great fun Live-Blogging for the VOA, though, and I encourage you all to get to an opera performance soon -- you won't regret it!


  1. Hi
    welcome home! I've been dipping in to your blog on your travels--ok, I confess, lurking enviously. Off to Honduras tomorrow until May 29--let's celebrate both our birthdays when I return!

  2. You looked lovely last night. I have a picture of you, I'll send it to you. Cheers!

  3. Mater, I enjoyed catching up on your opera posts. The sets were stunning and I appreciate your commentary on the singers.

    Sorry to hear about the vomit episode. That sounds unpleasant.

    I first saw La Traviata on a school field trip to NYC in 1970 and loved it.

  4. Alison: Have a great trip -- I'll look forward to sharing a glass of wine and comparing travel notes when you get back.
    Tracey: Thanks! I was pleased to meet you under such fun circumstances (and I'd appreciate a copy of the picture -- you could send it to fsproutATgmail.COM)
    Susan T: Thanks -- it's always tough to figure out what to say about an opera production in such a limited time frame.
    I saw my first opera somewhere around that time as well -- nowhere near as exciting a location as NYC though.


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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