Sunday, October 25, 2009


Yesterday was a beautiful Saturday -- clear blue sky, trees in full color, temps crisp but not cold. We slept well and got up to go find plates of scrambled eggs, French toast, and bacon / sausage at our favorite breakfast bar. Then the boys romped in the park. We all felt fine.

Hubby suggested a movie so I checked online and our favorite local movie megaplex was showing the The Metropolitan Opera live performance of Aida. Projected on the big screen in Staller Center’s Main Stage Theater, performances are shown in high definition with Dolby Digital surround sound. I have never seen the Verdi opera. Hubby thought I might not really like it, but agreed that $20 a ticket was a fair price and four hours spent at the opera might be a good way to spend the afternoon, so off we went.

Dressed in our sweat pants and Obama sweat shirts, we loaded up on Goobers and fresh popped buttery corn along with a huge soda, and we settled in for one of the most enjoyable afternoons ever. The theater was nearly full, though I admit the patrons were all on the old side. I don't think there were any in the audience under 50 except for a couple of grandkids that had tagged along. Some had gotten pizza to munch during the performance, many had sodas, but on the whole this was a very serious audience who appeared to be regular attendees at these live performances.

Renee Fleming does the "backstory" -- she fills in the intermission with great tidbits about the opera itself, and interviews the stars. Before the show opens and during the intermissions, the film crew shows us sets being constructed and props placed. It was only during the last 45 minutes or so that either Hubby or I began to squirm in our seats, simply because we were tired of sitting. Otherwise the movie production and the opera itself was riveting.

Violeta Urmana stars in the title role of the enslaved Ethiopian princess, with Dolora Zajick as her rival. Johan Botha, the South African tenor, plays Radam├Ęs, commander of the Egyptian army, and Daniele Gatti was the conductor. Interesting, especially from Hubby's point of view, both Violeta and Johan started careers singing in other vocal ranges: Violeta was a metso and Johan was a baritone. Hubby oved the Johan interview because he gave voice to many of his own memories of vocal training. Dolora Zajick, though, stole the stage from everyone else. She had played the Egyptian princess over 250 times and she could both sing and act the part to draw the audience into her feelings and motivation. My favorite interviews were with the "supers" -- those people who just come onstage to fill it up. One man was an attorney, another had his own business in health care management, and the woman made her living as a full time extra on the Met stage.

Though I had heard the Aida march many times, I never realized that what I was hearing was FROM Aida -- and yes! the staging, even without the elephants, was wonderful. I loved the second act very much. The stage was filled to capacity with all manner of visual treats, including live horses -- and the full voiced chorus was beautiful.

The opera began at noon, had two intermissions, and was over just before 4 p.m. The next showing is Turnadot in two weeks and I don't think we're up for another four hours so soon, but Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss in January might be just "the ticket."

I feel bad that I don't really want to attend live performances of opera here in Kansas City. I really enjoyed this movie version, which speaks badly, I'm sure, of my true interest in opera. But it was so easy to understand Aida with the huge translation at the bottom of the screen and the camera kept me focused on the parts I should be watching instead of what I usually do at live opera -- watch to see if the guy in the back who's hat is on crooked is going to keep it on or will lose it and trip of the dancers in the supporting ballet. Plus I could clearly see the details of the costumes and the staging -- and when the beauty of the music lagged for me, I was visually thrilled the entire time. And finally -- seeing opera in sweat pants with a box of Goopers is, honestly, the best way to view a four hour spectacle.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

I love opera and have never seen a movie version BUT I am just like you and get distracted by the actors/singers standing in the back--or I get obsessed with one particular person like I did in Faust. :) (well, he was very good-looking)