Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Coronation of Poppea

I went to the opera last night for the fist time in my life.

My friend Tara had some free tickets she couldn’t use and gave them to me.  After a cancellation had me trying to give them away and almost posting to Craigslist to find a stranger to go with, my friend Steph ended up being free and we trudged through the thunderstorm to the Eglin Wintergarden Theatre.  The show was The Coronation of Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi and was first performed in Venice in 1642. 

The show started out with some Goddesses coming down from the rafters in some kind of cloud-chariots.  It was kind of hokey, but I had to remind myself that I was seeing a show that was over 300 years old – there was bound to be a bit of hokiness.  I was blown away by the beautiful costumes and the amazing voices.  People that can sing like that generally bring me to tears, but people that can do it while running around a stage and embracing other characters really blow me away. 

I also need to make note of the guy who played Nero.  At first, he looked like a man; strong jaw, little belly, wearing pants, etc.  Then, however, he started to sing...and hit notes I can't even hit (and I'm a soprano).  He was a soprano.  Steph and I were sure that they must have cast a woman in the role until we got our hands on a program and saw that his name was Mark.  Definitely a man.  A male soprano.  I had no idea these existed, but after we got over the shock of it and had a laugh, I really was impressed with it.  Why the composer/writer would choose to use a male soprano in this authoritative, loving role I'm not sure.  Anyone have any ideas?  I will definitely have to research more into the role of male sopranos.  

So the costumes were great, the singing was great, the set was simple and effective, the scene changes were seamless and entertaining.  And it was long.  It was almost three hours long.

While I was watching the show I kept cringing at how melodramatic and over the top everything was; huge arm gestures, lots of flinging oneself onto tables/benches/beds, singing to a painting (like, a lot)...not to mention the fact that these people fell in love/decided to murder/decided to help a murderer/confess/punish and then forget it all in about three heartbeats.  But, again, I had to remember that when this show was originally put up, people generally had nowhere better to be.  They didn’t have to see if so and so texted them, they didn’t have movies or tv…a three hour show was welcomed and a great night out.  So I sucked it up, sat back and tried to take it for what it was: a different form of art I was completely unfamiliar with. 

All in all, I liked it.  Sure, I couldn’t understand what was going on sometimes and the ending was pretty damn abrupt...but it was good.  It was interesting.  It’s not something I could see often, but once or twice a year I wouldn’t mind going.  I will see opera again.

((Some of the real drama, though, was going on with this couple beside us who kept leaving in a huff and were obviously having some sort of relationship breakdown.  They were gone after intermission.  It would’ve been cool if they sang their problems out to us.))


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