A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life is Short, Opera is Long

Saw two spectacularly done productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago--Handel's GIULIO CAESARE and Strauss' DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN. What a great job they do!

The Handel was an unusual blend of baroque gestures--a use of forced perspective and scenic machines--with a very charming, tongue in cheek, vernacular staging. It was the longest opera I've ever attended--over four and a half hours. Still it held the audience's attention. Seems to me it would have done even more than "held my attention" if it had been about a third shorter.

I still don't get Strauss. It seems like a lot of accompanied recitative punctuated by brief interludes of orchestrally brilliant clarity. That makes a certain amount of sense from a psychic point of view--talk it over, light bulb goes off, talk it over, light bulb goes off--but it doesn't add up to an easy listen. By the time the opera reached its ten minute climax at the end, I was ready for a brisk walk and a bus ride home.

The audience at the opening night of FRAU was surprisingly casual. My favorite lobby moment was watching an old patron sit on the red carpeted steps and get sustenance to prepare for the long evening by scarfing down a family size bag of plain M&Ms, complete with pouring the contents of the bag down his throat at the end.

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