Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Long Weekend at the Theater

This turned out to be a big weekend at the theater for me. First, CPA Boy and I went to dinner and a movie ("Lincoln") with CPA Michelle and her husband on Friday night. And second, I saw a simulcast performance of "Aida" on Saturday.

"Lincoln" was excellent and all the accolades accruing to Daniel Day-Lewis are well deserved. I didn't think I had ever seen a Daniel Day-Lewis movie before so I looked up his filmography. Apparently, the only thing I've seen with him is "The Bounty" and in those days (mid-1980s) it was more about seeing Mel Gibson or Anthony Hopkins. I've also seen a few minutes of "A Room with a View" but I don't recall him in the scene I watched.

But I recognized many actors in "Lincoln" and that made it fun: Sally Field (obviously), Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn (from way back when he was in "The Days & Nights of molly Dodd", an all-time fave TV show of mine), Jared Harris ("Mad Men"), Hal Holbrook, James Spader ("Boston Legal" and "Pretty in Pink"), Lee Pace ("Pushing Daisies" and "Wonderfalls"), Michael Stuhlbarg ("Boardwalk Empire"), Adam Driver ("Girls") and a few more.

But we didn't get home until 10:30 pm and then I had to get up on Saturday to drive to San Rafael for the 10 am broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera of "Aida". "Lincoln" lasted about 3 hours, counting all the previews and "Aida" was 4 hours long, thanks to 2 intermissions. My rear is still numb from 7 hours in theater seats in less than a 24 hour period!

As for "Aida", someone in the audience sitting behind me mentioned that it was probably one of the three most famous operas. Certainly I knew the name but until I read up on it, I had no knowledge whatsoever about it. On the other hand, I know very little about ANY opera. It's always one of the "Jeopardy" categories I can answer very few clues.

So, "Aida". The basic plot is this: Aida is an Ethiopian princess who is a slave in the service of the pharaoh's daughter, Amneris. No one knows Aida is the daughter of the Ethiopian king. Both Aida and Amneris love the Egyptian general Radames. He loves Aida but is offered the hand of Amneris after his big victory over the Ethiopians.

Aida's father is captured as a slave (but the Egyptians don't know he's the king) and he guilts Aida into finding out the route that Radames and his troops plan to use to invade Ethiopia. Amneris overhears the conversation and, out of jealousy, turns Radames in as a traitor. He is condemned to death by burial in the vault beneath the temple. It turns out Aida is hiding in the vault so she can die with Radames. The end.

Other tidbits and opinions:
  • Everything is sung in opera. There is no spoken dialogue. I do not know if the performers should be called actors or singers!
  • The Met Opera broadcasts once a month to theaters all over the world. The transmission is in high-def and looked AMAZING. There were a zillion cameras and many of the shots were close-up of the performers on stage. You could see every emotion
  • During the intermissions Renee Fleming (herself a famous opera singer) interviewed the performers, the conductor, and assorted other people working backstage. You also got to see how they moved scenery around and got the stage ready for the next act.
  • The woman who performed Amneris, Olga Borodina, was just wonderful. During her final solo, when her character realizes she was wrong to turn Radames in, a single tear dropped down her cheek as she sang the last line. And we got to see it all in close-up thanks to the HD cameras. Wonderful!
  • The woman who performed as Aida was also very good and had just made her Met debut last month. Her name is Liudmila Monastyrska. 
  • As for the story of "Aida" itself, it was kind of depressing right from the start. Aida is sad because she doesn't know if her father is still alive, she is a slave and she has a forbidden love with an Egyptian. Her story never has any real moments of happiness. The minute she smiles some new sadness comes along and makes her sad again!
  • The characters are real quick to contemplate death during their low points, which seems a little much in this modern world. I kept thinking that this was NOT an opera to show to impressionable teenagers. (This could be a standard opera storyline for all I know.) And Aida does basically commit suicide at the end by sharing Radames fate.
  • I was probably the youngest person there. By far. I looked up opera and found that the Met has an average audience age of 57.7 years.
  • I didn't recognize any of the music. None of it was stuck in my head afterwards and I am usually a great sufferer from "earworms" (a piece of music that gets stuck in your head, not actual worms). The Verdi pieces I have on my iPod are mainly from "La Traviata" and "Il Trovatore". 
  • I guess I liked it a lot but I didn't love it. I will need to try other operas first to see whether it's opera or "Aida" I don't love.
  • The next Verdi opera broadcast by The Met will be "Rigoletto" in February. Also coming are "Les Troyens", "Giulio Cesare", "Maria Stuarda" and "Parsifal". I'm not sure if I will see any of them; maybe "Parsifal".
And now Christmas is just over a week away and there's still so much left to do!

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