Weekend At the Opera

As you may know, I left for San Antonio early due to an encroaching storm which would have delayed my departure by at least a day had I not. Not that I’m complaining, spending an extra day with Bill is a real treat. I had Thursday pretty much to myself and didn’t do much outside of the norm.

Friday morning (… 11:59 is still morning) we left for the long drive to Houston. There is absolutely nothing of interest to see on the drive from San Antonio to Houston, NOTHING… it’s really an incredibly boring three-hour drive which I’m very grateful that Bill drove… I would have fallen asleep I’m sure.

Friday night we saw a late movie: Another Year. This movie was rare in that it was a movie Bill hadn’t actually already seen. We really both enjoyed it and I only have one caveat for you, if you’re not a fan of people drinking a lot on-screen, this may not be for you. It was a good little movie, and I do recommend it.

Saturday evening was our first Opera, Dead Man Walking at the Houston Grand Opera. I will be upfront with you and say that I have never seen the movie and never read the book but I knew the basics. Before the show there is a brief lecture about the show by someone connected to the opera, this may be a singer or a conductor, I’m not sure where these folks come from. The gentleman who told us about Dead Man Walking was very good, he gave us good back ground on where the story originated and a lot of biographical information on the Sister who wrote the book. It was such a good lecture that I really wanted to go rent the movie to see it after he was done. During his lecture he mentioned a part of the play where there is no music (vocal or otherwise) only the sounds of the death machine and he points out how powerful it is to have this silence after such grand music… I wish he hadn’t said it as I think it would have had more of an impact on my thoughts of the show had I not been waiting for the silence…  it was still pretty powerful.

When the Opera started we were seated in the middle section in the front row, not Bill’s usual seat as a season ticket holder, but they made changes when I opted to come with him. The seats, in my opinion were great, I was close enough to the performers that I could really read their emotions on the stage very well and I felt really connected to the story. I really enjoyed the vocal and instrumental sounds and the scenery was really used in such a way that it changed the feel of things as we progressed. There was a screen with subtitles so I could read along if I wanted, but I rarely found the need. I really enjoyed the entire thing, and only found it mildly disconcerting that they could sing the word “No” with a trail of notes so often. [“No” is just an example, I understand it’s an opera and they sing everything, but it was different]. We left the Opera House having enjoyed the show, and for a first Opera, I’d say it was a great one to start with.

Sunday morning we awoke to rain and the prospect that the Chevron Houston Marathon was between our hotel and the Opera House. After an attempt trying to find away around the marathon we were forced to park and hoof it, not so bad as the rain wasn’t torrential or anything.

Our second opera of the weekend was Lucia di Lammermoor, I think I’d call it a classic opera. The entire thing was sung in Italian (with English subtitles). I tried not to look at the subtitles, as I had read synopsis of the Acts and thought I could follow along, I found that I could follow along most of the time, but did look more than I had looked during Dead Man Walking.

The set was simple enough but the lights and the panels managed to really change things. The background and panels were all painted sky with billowing clouds. The costumes were all very well done era pieces from the 17th century and really pretty.

We did see a lecture before this show as well, but it was more focused on the history of operas and the writers of operas rather than the opera itself. She did talk about this particular opera, but not as much as the previous lecturer did for Dead Man Walking.

To be completely honest with you, I nodded off at least three separate occasions during this show. I wasn’t bored really, I just kind of found the music soothing with the lights dim and Bill right next to me… I didn’t snore or fall out of my seat or anything, but I did struggle to stay awake. I think it would have been easier to fall asleep, but fought the good fight and won?!

The Soprano, Lucia, was stupendous, some of her notes were just perfect and I found her voice to be captivating. Not one word that she sang did I understand, except “Edgardo” her true love, but only after a few times of her saying it did I start to get it. The good thing is, I didn’t need to understand her words – her face and body and intonation managed to convey everything she sang to such a level that I could relate to her heart ache, her love and her sense of fate closing in around her.

The tenor, Edgardo, I really didn’t think as much of. Yes, he could sing, very well, but I think you need to do more than sing well to be in an Opera. His facial expressions, his body language, his interaction with the other players just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t feel like he was the character at all, more like he was a good singer so he got the part.

The smaller parts were all very well done, the singing, the marching, the dancing and I loved the orchestra.

Having attended a modern and a classic Opera now, I’d have to say in general that I really enjoyed myself. The people watching was nice before the show and during the intermission. There was a great variety of people there in all manner of outfits. I would like, in the future, to see a Comic Opera now, as these two were tragedies… I did really get emotionally pulled in during scenes of both Operas based on the acting of players.

I don’t think I would have ever classified myself as an Opera attender. It’s not one of the things that would jump to the top of my list of things I would like to have associated with me. I think that has something to do with misconceptions about the Opera. But this weekend has really given me cause to say that perhaps the Opera is for me, and perhaps it’s for you too. The Opera is really pretty good entertainment which could easily surpass some of the options you’ll find most weekends at the Box Office or the TV set in your living room. Take the chance, the opportunity, spend a little money for a night out at the Opera, I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by how much entertainment you get out of that one show and be exposed to the unexpected gem that is the Opera.

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