Grandmar & Grandpar are back from Florider, and had 2 extra tickets for the opera in Toronto. We figured we'd take up the offer. Why not; it's a night out, and we haven't seen Jethro's folks in a few months.
This isn't the first time we've done this, believe it or not. It's the third time.I don't know if there'll be a fourth time.
So far, here's my unsophisticated take on Opera: It is veddy veddy serious. The lighting and the sets are perfect. There is the thrill of live entertainment, of this moment happening right now, that will never happen exactly this way again. And, it is completely, to me anyways, incomprehensible. Oh, and somebody has to die at the end.
So on Saturday morning I was in my coveralls and rubber boots, standing in three inches of mud+manure, covered in horsehair. Several hours and a trip down the 401 later I was giving the parentals the studio tour, because Jethro had to show them the studio before anything else. We stopped for supper in a restaurant that gave me a bucket of beer. Hoegaarden, on tap, in a glass as big as a bucket. That way I figured I could handle sitting through an opera.
When travelling with these parentals, one must deal with their hyper-punctuality in order to appease Grandpar's anxiety. Having to deal with my own anxiety issues, I will do anything to keep this man calm. If that means arriving at the Hummingbird Centre an HOUR before the show starts, then that's what we do.
If anything this gives me time to do some people watching. Being completely uneducated in the culture of opera-going, I am fascinated by the wide range of personal presentation. In other words, most opera-goers are very tacky. Lots of poorly matched items and bad synthetic fabric. Way too much make-up. As Grandpar commented frequently, "Mutton dressed up as lamb." Jethro particularly found the Leather Pants Cougars amusing.
The Outfit of Horror: black velvet dress, sheer sleeves and chest, sheer black hose, top of dress and hose MATCH. Spindly black strappy shoes with some kind of white stones on front. Rhinestone V necklace. Bleached yellow hair. Everything too tight. Fascinating. Awful.
And I just have to say, if you can't walk in heels, don't wear them. I myself am in either running shoes or boots, and if I choose to put on the heels, it's because I can walk in them. Hell I can dance in them. If you can't, wear flats. So what was I wearing? A pink stretch top, black ruffled skirt and my black leather platform boots. Was it appropriate for the occasion? Who friggin' knows. The folks just put on something clean and called it a day.
This was the last performance of the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre, after which they will have their own building in September. I didn't see any sentimental tears. These opera people are a cold bunch, I guess.
There are rituals involved with being an opera watcher that confound me. When does everybody know when to clap? Does one start, then all others in order to not look like a fool? The musicians are doing their little warmup noises in the pit. The conductor walks into the spotlight with waving hands and of course we clap for him. Obviously.
The show was NORMA by a man whose last name was BELLINI. It was written in 1831 and set in 50 BC, in Gaul. It's about a Gaul Druidess, a Priestess, who has defiled herself by having an affair with the Roman Important Soldier Guy aka Bad Boyfriend, with whom she has had two sons, both of whom have been kept secret from her father and her followers.
Apparently Norma needs to kill Pollione. I believe she needs to kill him because of his announcement that he has fallen in love with someone else. Norma is now aka Old Girlfriend. Bad Boyfriend has put Old Girlfriend's job and her honour in jeopardy, because he's bored with her and has traded her in for the younger model. We soon figure out that he's the kind of guy who will say anything to get into a Gaul Priestess's skirts.
Her young protegee, Adalgisa, aka New Girlfriend, asks Norma to release her from her Priestess vows because she has fallen in love. Norma lets her go because she knows the heartache. New Girlfriend has no clue that her boss's unfaithful lover is her New Bad Boyfriend, but the two women figure it out.
Tragedy ensues!!! And that's the end of Act 1. That took about six hours. Honestly, I dozed off for awhile with my head on Jethro's shoulder- luckily he did not snore- and I still got that much of it. Opera is not good for people with short attention spans. And crazy legs. Sometimes I get the crazy legs. And scoliosis. My crooked spine can't deal with sitting like a good girl for two hours. And an anxiety disorder; got a bit of a chest pain. I'm not really cut out for this opera thing.
It never fails that Jethro and his old man put their heads together during intermission and discuss whose pitch was the worst.
Now Norma can't decide if she should kill him, herself, or the two children, since they will be rejected in Gaul or tortured in Rome. Oh the drama. Oh the wild desperate gesturing of the arms. Oh the back of the hand pressed to the forehead.
Eventually after another four hours or so, Norma decides that the only solution is for she and Pollione to die together on the funeral pyre. I cannot remember what the heck happens to the two secretive children. But Opera did not disappoint me: somebody's always gotta die at the end.
According to Grandmar, "Soap opera plotlines haven't changed much since 1830."
Because the whole thing was in Italian--and I must specify, everything was sung TWICE in Italian--there was a strip above the stage with "surtitles" in English. This is one of my favourite things. The translations are a blast. Here are my favourites, which I either memorized or scribbled into my notebook in the dark.
"I resolve to remove myself from the air that I desecrate with my presence."
"An abyss has opened at my feet. I wish to fall in."
"It is my fate to love you and leave her."
Did I not say that this guy would say anything to get into a Druidess's skirts? Seriously.
"I realize too late what a sublime woman I have rejected."
"With my remorse my love is reborn. My dying words will be that I love you."
Right up to the bitter end, he's still lookin' for some skirt.
MORAL OF THE STORY (as far as I could see): Don't jilt a Gaul Priestess. She will order your fiery and bloody death by singing at you in a piercing soprano.
Other than the brilliant quotes above, I really appreciated the stage sets. Because this was set in the forest, there were stumps and very stylized backdrops of sharp wooden planks. The lighting was amazing. I honestly believe, after three of these shows, that the lighting guys are the real stars. And of course the orchestra is perfect.
As my final observation, I am puzzled by the lack of goths in the audience. Aside from the Tacky Clueless Wealthy, the Tacky Nouveau Riche, the Flaunting Nouveau Riche, the Bearded BackPack Students Who Got Cheap Tickets, and the Pair of Hicks Who Are Only There Because The Folks Gave Us Free Tickets And Jethro Got To Drive The Old Man's Passat To Get There...I saw no Goths.
Come on! Are you kidding? It's all there. It's dark. It's dramatic. It's tragic. There's always some kind of dagger or sword, there's always a threatened murder or suicide, and often BOTH! Other than not having anything to do with Trent Reznor, it's perfect.
On me, it may have been wasted. There was much to be enjoyed, but opera is a demanding entertainment. I wasn't allowed to get up and scream and throw the old horns at any point. I guess I could have, and after being escorted out of the theatre, just sit outside chatting with the guy on the sidewalk with the money in his hat until my companions came out after the show.
But after all, it was an excuse to get out and visit with the folks for an evening. And, I managed to find some comedic gems in there, although I'm sure that wasn't the intended result. So, a good time was had. No regrets.