Outrageous Opera

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are very few bike racks outside the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. For the traditional opera subscriber, concert attire would usually preclude being able to climb onto a bicycle and pedal off to the show. But with temperatures still hovering around freezing – albeit with glorious blue sunny skies, layering up and cycling through Times Square traffic is a perfect way to prepare for a spirited afternoon of ardor and angst. For Sean and I it was a ride of much anticipation, not only were we going to the Met, to see La Traviata, but the bill included Placido Domingo…

The opera house itself carries the spectacle of Austrian crystal chandeliers, plush red carpets and staircases that sweep up and around, with restaurants and bars providing views and vantage points. Lunchers made an early start to meet the 12.30 gong, but many people also brought their own. As we shuffled to find our spot in the packed house, there were as many plastic bags as there were plastic surgeries – the diversity of opera lovers apparent in the detail. Of course it was a matinee full of regulars in their regular seat. People chatted familiarly with the usherette, they rustled the wrappers on their snack bars and drank Poland Springs. But that was not to take away from the event or the environment – that’s New Yorkers out on a Saturday afternoon, feeling at home and happy.

Forty three years ago, Domingo sang his first Alfredo in La Traviata at the Met. Today we saw him debut as Alfredo’s father in the same opera, but with a dramatically different style. The first act was in three colors – black white and red. Red was the colour of Violetta’s dress, black were the suits of her suitors, and white was the whole stage behind her. It was fantastically sparse, dramatic and effective. The only prop was a gigantic clock that teased her with the passing of time. A few square couches and swaths of fabric added colour to the second act but not enough to take away from the graphic boldness of the stage. I loved it. Diana Damrau was an outstanding Violetta, the tenor playing Alfredo was sweet but was overshadowed by the enormous enthusiasm of the audience for his superstar predecessor. Personally I fought – unsuccessfully – the prejudice of rich memories from years ago, driving the straight line from Alice Springs to Darwin accompanied by the three tenors and the unforgettable emotion of Domingo’s voice…

At the end of the performance there was a stereo of opinions accompanying us down the stairs. It seems the starkness of stage that I so enjoyed was not necessarily the general feeling. ‘Outrageous!’… ‘When I come to the opera I want classic!’… ‘Outrageous!’… ‘They did it with Madame Butterfly, Carmen, and now with La Traviata!’…”Outrageous!’…           I just think it’s marvelous that you have access to such remarkable artists and performances in this city. On a regular Saturday afternoon you can pop into the Met and see the best in the world. And then you can feel free to review the show loudly on the way out – or get on your bike and ride home on a high – Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l’amore….

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4 Responses to Outrageous Opera

  1. Dallas Colley says:

    Outrageously fantastic is how it seems to me! Melissa just home yesterday after stage managing Opera SA choir for a Festival in Bundaleer Forest ( James Town) on Saturday night, paid me a delightful visit to report on what was a great event. She agrees with me and sends big thank you from her re the blog and especially the photos.

    • How wonderful for Melissa to experience the opera from the artist’s side – great job! It would give you such a rich perspective. I’ve learnt you can do tours of the back house of the Met so this is newly on my list. Maybe we could do it together…?

  2. Louise Mrdjen says:

    Oh darling Gabrielle what a wondrous experience! I shed a tear and such happy memories thank you xxx

    Sent from my iPhone

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