A Night at the Opera

As readers of Gourmay are aware, Sheila and I are passionate about the Opera.   Unfortunately, we had to surrender our tickets at the Metropolitan Opera a few years ago because the commute into NYC and rushed dinner were simply too much for our bodies and mental faculties to overcome.  As such, we were thrilled when the Metropolitan Opera began transmitted a live Saturday matinee performance from the Met to select cinemas (i.e. theaters) across the United States that had HD capabilities.  While we can’t make the live Saturday transmission (work conflict), the Met was kind enough to offer an encore “live” performance on Wednesday night a week or two after the original transmission.   We and many other opera lovers are delighted that they have done so.  I would strongly encourage all of you to locate a theater near you and attend one of these life-enriching performances.

This last week, we attended a performance of  Russian composer Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov.  Boris Godunov, The Tsar, was sung by René Pape a German bass, whose voice which makes your heart vibrate.  Long known for his performances in Wagner operas, the role of Godunov is a match made in heaven for both Mr. Pape and his deeply appreciative audience.  His rich voice and charisma simply dwarfed the stirring but somewhat monotonous choral interludes.

While René Pape was certainly worth the price of admission, Boris Godunovfailed to inspire.  I think it was the dark sets and Russian dialogue that looked like they had been carved out of a Dostoevsky novel.  With mad monks, scheming  politicians  and frustrated peasants looking for inspired leadership, this opera had much going for it.  Nevertheless, it was a bit too introspective for me.  As Denis Forman, who writes The Good Opera Guide, summarizes:  Boris Godunov is “the one where the Tsar gained the throne by killing the true heir when he was a baby, the memory of which drives him to madness and death.”  I would like to thank Abigail for tracking down The Good Opera Guide in London, which in my mind is the definitive guide for those looking for backstage gossip and crisp analysis. 

In fact, I was thinking that the political intrigue chronicled so elegantly by the Opera was quite representative of our own political discord.  Nevertheless, Boris Godunov had a conscience, something our own politicians seem to lack. 

While Boris Godunov was perhaps a bit too heavy for Opera novices, I strongly encourage you to see Anna Netrebko in Don Pascuale which airs shortly.  Find below a short clip of her singing an aria from Puccini’s La Bohème:

Nachos, Popcorn and the Opera

While standing in line at the Westchester Mall Theater last evening to get a paper cup, I watched a woman queueing for a large bag of popcorn with extra butter (1100 calories) and nachos with extra cheese (1875 calories).    As you can imagine, I was both surprised and relieved to discover that she also decided to order a large “diet” Pepsi.  Glad to see that she is sticking to her New Year’s resolution to lose weight in 2010.

The reason for the paper cup was to transport my glass of Merlot (120 calories, but I don’t keep count after the second glass) into the theater to watch the Metropolitan Opera’s reprise transmission of Jacques Offenbach’s signature opera, Les Contes d’Hoffmann.   Despite the fact that the theater program listed Giuseppe Verdi as the author and we lost transmission in the middle of the climactic third act, it was an evening of great entertainment and virtuoso performances by Joseph Calleja (Hoffmann), Kathleen Kim (a brilliant Olympia as the mechanical doll), Anna “Eye Candy” Netrebko (Antonia), Alan Held (a very convincing Devil) and the lovely and talented Kate Lindsey (Nicklausse and The Muse).

Renee FlemingSheila and I have been attending the Metropolitan Opera’s HD transmissions for a couple of years now.  The grind of dashing into NYC to see the live performances at the Met finally got to us and we are indeed grateful to the Met and their sponsors for making these memorable performances available to the general public.  For those not familiar with the Met HD program, the Met will broadcast a live Saturday matinee performance in HD at a theater near you, followed by a reprise of that same performance on Wednesday evening a week or two later.    Simply go to the Metropolitan Opera website, check out the schedule of performances, and type in your zip code to locate a theater near you.   

Two exeptional performances are coming up shortly:  Richard Strauss’ Des Rosenkavalier with Renée Fleming and Susan Graham on January 9th (the live transmission) and George Bizet’s Carmen with Roberto Alagna and Elina Garanca on January 16th (the live transmission).   While we can’t make the live performances (working), we certainly will attend the retransmissions.   The pagentry, music, staging and performances are memorable.  Do yourself a favor and attend one of the upcoming Met performances at a theater in your neighborhood.