Tuesday, February 03, 2009

First Time at the Opera

Dear Giacomo,Giacomo Puccini

A little over a week ago, I took my first trip to the opera since grade school. Given my rationale for going then (a day without class is better than a day with class), I believe this was the first true opportunity of my adult life to appreciate the beauty of the opera.

First, I must say that the most striking thing about Madama Butterfly--and what I expected the least--was the set. Although the set consisted of but a single location, it seemed that it might be more appropriate to a Broadway Musical than an opera stage. I know you didn't really have anything to do with the scenery of this performance, but I cannot help but thank you for picking such a beautiful setting for your work. I only wish the video gave justice to the scenery.

I must also complement your soprano for the performance, Patricia Racette. She certainly does bring the emotion into her singing that this piece requires--and the endurance. From Cio-Cio San's first entrance in Act I, she hardly leaves the stage, and she is part of nearly every piece. No wonder there's a long intermission!

And I couldn't help but feel sorry for Cio-Cio San's misguided hope in "Un bel Di Vendremo". Knowing (from the program notes and the pre-opera lecture) that Pinkerton has long ago abandoned her, it was painful to see such hope and longing.

And truly, your music was lovely. It captured the emotion wonderfully--the soaring love duet and the pain of the end of your story.

My only complaint about the opera (and I'm sure this will not endear me to BRD), is that the plot moves slowly. For all the beauty of the music, I couldn't help but want to shout, "Get on with it!" But then, I'm accustomed to movies, musicals, and TV, where plot is quick, and the focus is on the acting rather than the music. If it weren't for the beauty of the set, I might have preferred to listen to a recording.

As it was, I thank you, Giacomo, for your work of beauty, and for sharing such a pitifully sad story. I look forward to my next opera (so long as it isn't the 5-hour Tristan and Isolde and only hope it might be as beautiful as this one.



brd said...

It was "Un bel di" when I discovered opera for the first time. And for me opera is an art of developing discovery. That development is expressed, in a way, by the credits at the end of the first YouTube video that you posted. It encourages folks not to miss "the Butterfly" that is being produced by the Chicago opera. Yes, "the Butterfly". As I look back over the years I have listened to opera, I remember operas by production. It is an art of the whole--the house, the sets, the costumes, the vocalists, the lighting. It is such a complete art form. The score and lyrics are, of course, the ground upon which all of this is built, but with each new production is new wonder. Your appreciation of the set for this, your first "Butterfly" will remain in your memory, as will the beauty of Patricia Racette's voice, and the tragedy of Cio-Cio San's tale.

cadh 8 said...

Yes, one cannot go to the opera for adventure or even really for plot at all, although some operas have wonderful plots. But the story itself is not the point. It is the musical telling of the story that is what makes opera special. In fact, sometimes when you get the plot summary of an opera you wonder how that is even a story. But the beauty is in the telling, I guess.

cadh 8 said...

Oh, by "adventure" I meant a fast paced plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Certainly a trip to the opera can be an adventure!

brd said...

One thing that I love to do is go to You Tube and choose an aria, like "Un bel di" and then listen to a dozen or so different performers do their renditions. This has been very helpful to me in really coming to understand the subtleties of vocal differences and why certain performers are known for certain strengths and weaknesses. For instance Maria Callas (Great emotion), Montserrat Caballe (Technically incomparable), and Renee Fleming (Rich and contemporary in style).