Sunday, May 08, 2005

Saturday night's alright for opera

On Saturday night, Liz and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary a few weeks early by attending the Metropolitan Opera's performance of Faust by Charles Gounod. Neither of us had been to the Met before, so we were both awed and amazed by the hall and the performance. I'd see operas from the Met on TV, but the small screen doesn't do justice to what a staged opera really looks like. The hall is enormous, but the singers had no trouble filling it with the most wonderful music we'd heard in years. In particular, the actor singing the role of Mephistopheles (Rene Pape) was mesmerizing, and he received some of the loudest ovations. The other leads were equally spectacular, but the Devil had the best lines and some of the best scenes. We had seats near the front of the stage on the orchestra level, so we had excellent views of the stage as well as James Levine in the orchestra pit. I've been a fan of Levine's work for almost 20 years, so it was especially exciting to see him in person.

One of the interesting effects was in the set design. The entire opera was staged on risers set at about a 20 degree angle rising from the front of the stage to the rear. From our viewpoint down front, the whole opera looked tilted, but I assume the set was designed to look right from the upper balconies. It's a deep stage as well, and when the stage was filled with the chorus and backdrops, having a tilted set allows everyone to see the action. The sets themselves were just beautiful and some in the audience applauded each time the curtain opened for another act.

We had such a great time that we're already planning our next trip. In January the Met will stage Julie Taymor's version of Mozart's Die Zauberflote, and since neither of us has ever seen that particular opera, we'd love to see it here. I wish we could afford to subscribe to the opera, but I'll settle for once a year if we can manage it.

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