Yesterday I attended my very first opera, Francesca da Rimini, with Irish-born Eva-Maria Westbroek performing the title role. (She was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.) The best part? I got to wear jeans. Not only this, but an older couple to my right snuck in their own caramel popcorn – imagine sneaking your own caramel popcorn into the Metropolitan Opera! But it's not what you think. No, folks...this is Met Meets the Midwest, where enjoyment and comfort outrank class.
|Screen shot: Live at the Met before the start of the show.|
The best part of seeing my first opera at the movies is that it had subtitles! I knew what was going on the whole time. However, I did pay attention to see if the acting was such that I would have a general idea of the plot even if there had not been subtitles. My conclusion is that the acting was superb, but the dialogue moved so slowly with the music sometimes that I would have missed A LOT if there had been no translation. I might have picked up a little. When I say the acting was superb, I mean Westbroek and her male counterparts tore it up! To be able to belt out operatic notes almost nonstop for 4 hours, and still be able to convey proper expressions at their appropriate times must be very difficult. But these guys did! Westbroek, in fact, so expressive and completely into her character, created the dramatic mood beautifully and powerfully throughout the production.
Overall, I thought it was nice to have a first-rate production, even live (though it was on a screen – but hey, so are the Oscars and the Presidential Election), conveniently available in my own small Midwestern city.
My complaint: the intermissions were too many (three regular and one brief only to rearrange the setting near the end) and too long (15 minutes plus commentary, 12 minutes plus commentary, and 20 minutes plus commentary, respectively). I understand it takes a while for so many people (both audience and cast) to take a break and regain their seats, and the actual opera-going experience includes the facet of socialization, and also, it definitely takes some doing to get the set changed between acts, and that takes time. But one idea that might make it so there wouldn’t be a need for so many intermissions is a rotating stage. That way, all the scenes could be assembled before the performance, and when they needed switched, the curtain could drop, the stage could rotate, and a few minutes would be all that was needed. I think it’s quite genius, really (thank you). (And yes, I do realize others have probably thought of this and even implemented it long before I ever did, and there are probably very good reasons the Met does not do so!)
It must be noted, though the breaks were (in my opinion) excessive, the set was ornate, detailed, and lovely. The outfits were described as carrying the silhouette of the fashion prevalent at the time of the play's setting (13th century), but their actual detail/designs were from the era of the writer, Riccardo Zandonai (1914) to accentuate how he was influenced in the writing. Not only this, but the costumes' colors were chosen to emphasize the mood of the scene in which each was worn (light, sheer materials for the happy, opening scene, darkening to a deep, somber purple as the story progressed).