January 9, 2010
Cinemark, Palo Alto, CA
Thus begins the description in A Night at the Opera — An Irreverent Guide . . . by Sir Denis Forman, Random House 1994. And if you’re confused now, just wait until the mezzo-playing-a-Count becomes a mezzo-playing-a-Count-playing-a-chamber-maid a little later in the scene.
In the Met HD production I saw this morning it is all done with good humor and extreme good taste — and with great acting expertise. But what else would you expect from RenÉe Fleming and Susan Graham, especially when they have been playing their roles together for years? As always, I appreciated being able to clearly see all the subtle emotional changes in the close ups of their faces. Honestly, if I lived in New York and if there were a Met HD Theater next door to Lincoln Center and if prices were the same, I would still go to the HD performance at least 2 times out of 3.
A Strauss opera, even a Strauss comic opera, is different from most of the operas I see. The music is relentless. With only a few exceptions individual arias don’t stand out, but the total musical effect is overwhelming. I walk out of Rigoletto singing La Donna è Mobile, but I walk out of Rosenkavalier with my head full of a mixture of melodies, harmonies, and dissonances swirling about with no possibility of actually vocalizing it. They are both good feelings — fortunately I don’t have to choose but can go to both Verdi and Strauss.
The plot is less banal than that of many operas, and the Marschallin has a very complex character. Amidst all the humor of the details of the plot, there is a serious undertone of the tragedy of aging. And to me, the true sadness is that aging is regarded as a tragedy. Despite her maturity in facing it, the Marschallin is unhappy about it; the oafish Baron Ochs simply refuses to admit its existence; and I’m sure that Octavian will go on being 17 as long as he can. And that is sad because it is all so unnecessary. There is so much good in being older that it’s a shame to lose sight of it in mourning the loss of youth.
End of sermon.
I enjoyed it so much that during the intermission I bought my ticket for the Encore performance at 6:30 on Wednesday, January 27. I strongly recommend that you do the same.
The popularity of Met HD in Palo Alto is increasing measurably from performance to performance — particularly for the Live Performances. In early November Turandot was sold out at 9 am Saturday. In December Tales of Hoffman sold out 24 hours in advance. This month, Rosenkavalier sold out early in the week, and Carmen sold out during intermission of the Encore Performance of Hoffman 10 days before its performance a week from today. I already have my tickets for all the remaining Live Performances and plan to get the rest of my Encore tickets when I go to Carmen.
Ciao – – Philip