Friday, October 24, 2008

Lucia di Lammemour.

So more about opera. So why a bagpiper? For the one opera set in Scotland of course and because a piper was outside the theatre as I went to a dramatic concert version of Lucia di Lammermoor. Before the opera began the piper came into the auditorium, walked down one aisle, across the stage and up the other -- the whirring and whining and trilling in the medium sized space make my scalp all prickly. I imagined a horde of tartan clad redheads, swords flashing, as they loomed over a hill to a beach to chase away invading Vikings [no, Mel Gibson was not in my picture] A bagpipe makes an awesome, scary sound.

All the more to contrast with the lushness of Donizetti's very Italian opera. I've never been more aware how odd to have this Sir Walter Scott story set to such music. Wordsworth wasn't thinking of opera when he coined "suspension of disbelief" but opera demands supreme suspension of disbelief. But using the imagination is a joy when reading fiction and a necessity when thinking about grand opera. I was happy to believe the men in tuxedos were Scottish lairds and that the gorgeous diva in a very modern strapless red dress was young Scottish woman being forced into an unwanted marriage.

I have seen Lucia performed only once although I've heard it often -- that was at the Met and believe me, it was a serious test of my ability to suspend disbelief. In the very first scene I discovered that Lucia and her brother were both Asian singers -- perhaps Chinese, perhaps Korean. Beautiful voices, beautiful people but NOT Scottish! However I was far from the stage so I put away my opera glasses and enjoyed once I wrapped my head around the "nontraditional" casting.

Anyway, I'm not writing about the opera so much as the evening as experience since in the previous post I suggested one can read about Sonam's culture shock. For those with the impression NYC is all sophistication and la-de-dah, this was at my neighborhood culture center, Symphony Space, a renovated movie theatre. Not large and lavishly red and gold like the Met or City Opera. The performance was by Opera for Humanity, an entirely volunteer organization, including singers, with proceeds going to feed the hungry both in NYC and in other countries. Good! The Lucia was very fine, the men were good, if not outstanding, he orchestra was small but it was good to watch them for a change as they were on stage with singers. So for a change I really listened to the orchestra score along with the singers.

The music is magnificent and this was the first time I've really enjoyed the mad scene and didn't get bored part way through -- which is a tribute to the acting and stage direction as well as singing. Intermission was interesting. A couple sitting in the row in front of me slightly to my right did not seem to be particularly opera lovers. I was looking around at the crowd when I head the woman mention twice the word "Viagra". Not a frequent public topic at such events. I have no idea what the man said but his [I suppose] wife later said "Well, maybe we can arrange for you to be introduced to him." I thought, there are short stories I could make up about this couple but ... So I turned my attention to a young woman on the other side of me whose outfit was possibly very cool or in-style, or maybe very misguided. From feet up: high heeled platform mules, pinkish tights, a 13 or 14 inch wide piece of stretch fabric that was supposed to be a skirt, some sort of top in a somewhat different pink with a very low neckline and over it a black bolero-ish piece of clothing that fit tightly. I didn't get as far as her makeup and hair-do because some rather loud voiced people behind me were calling to someone coming up the aisle.

There was considerable sense of community in the auditorium. I felt most people had been coerced to purchase tickets and weren't really there for the music. A shame, the music was worth being there for. It's a wonderful town and I am prejudiced but I think the upper west side is a super part of the town.

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