If you ever think your heart is made of stone, or that you’re some kind of special tough guy (or gal), I suggest viewing a performance of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to truly test your ability to control your tear ducts. Butterfly is a 3 act opera I guarantee will have you choking down your emotions at least a dozen times before the ending--which will have you sniffling like a fool. Today it was a cool 15 times I had to choke back the tears, 5 for each act, and still one tear ran the length of my fat face ... and of course it was during the final scene.
But today was different. Today I also choked on some humility and went to see my first opera in a movie theatre. Live from the MET, it was a new production for me, (it’s actually 10 years old) of Puccini’s, Madame Butterfly. I’ve seen the opera live twice before, but really live, like in the 10th row Orchestra or the first row Grand Tier. Of course, those two performances, the old production, came compliments of being a criminal with a ticket scalper in his pocket. Back in those days, I could afford opera at the MET … I could even afford to be an opera snob and buy the tickets I wanted.
Crime doesn’t pay, huh?
Today is was me and the Principessa, Ann Marie, and we watched live from the Hazlet movie theatre in very comfortable seats for $25.00 a ticket. Listen to me: not only were we super impressed with the entire experience, including a 20 minute drive to the theatre and free parking (it’s north of $50.00 near the MET), we already bought tickets for the next one in two weeks, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, and are planning to attend quite a few in the fall next season (including one of my very favorite operas, Tristan und Isolde, featuring Nina Stemme).
Okay, it’s not the same thing as sitting in the MET, but its close enough for jazz … and the $450-600.00 savings cannot be sneezed at. And since I’ve seen and/or heard many of the operas on the schedule, it’s like being there for me.
Today’s performance, no question about it, actually outshined what I remember from the two Butterfly’s I saw at the MET many years ago. Roberto Alagna is now a long standing opera star. I’ve seen and heard him in several different roles at the MET (the actual MET), but it’s been so long for anything close to regular attendance for me at the MET (we saw Elīna Garanča in Carmen last year, but that’s because I have a Garanča fetish), I’m way out of the loop … so everything is new again.
The star, without question, was Latvian Soprano, Kristine Opolais. She was a magnificent Cio-Cio-san, and having camera views of very close-ups offered facial/acting expressions you just can’t see from 40 or 100 feet away (never mind a friggin' football field). Sharples was played by one of my favorite baritones, Dwayne Croft (he’s a GREAT Don Giovanni). Maria Zifchak sang Suzuki’s role and was also excellent. This new (to me) production also featured puppets with actual puppeteers, and although it may sound hokey, it was terrific and incredibly well choreographed.
One of the terrific extras you get at the theatre (for just 25 fazools, I remind you) is before and during intermissions some backstage viewing and interviews with various people involved in the production. I can tell you from reading hall of fame baritone, Shawn Milnes’ terrific memoir, American Aria, that there’s often lots of intrigue, wanted or not, behind the scenes. Today the hostess for the performance was Soprano, Deborah Voigt. It was a great way to kill the time between the two intermissions in Butterfly (without having to fork over $10.00 for cheap champagne). We saw and learned how the screen doors operated, how the falling flower pedals were swept and vacuumed, how the puppets and their masters (puppeteers) worked, how the dancers had to stretch between acts, etc. Frankly, for $25.00 a ticket, and a 20 minute drive to and from the theatre, it’ll be a long time before I return to the MET proper.
Perhaps the best feature of this program between the MET and theatres is the accessibility nationwide. Check it out here, amici ... it's impressive ... you can watch from pretty much anywhere.
JFK the opera … Shawn Milnes’ article in the Daily Beast this week discusses a new opera premiering in Fort Worth, on April 23. It deals with the night before the assassination and some fate analogous to Greek Gods (brought on by morphine injections). Milnes also discusses some other operas based on political figures. It's fascinating stuff ... Take a look see here:
Kristine Opolais …