Saturday, January 23, 2010

Il Trovatore @ Seattle Opera

Overhead as we were leaving "Well, it got better . . ."

That about sums it up.

Seattle Opera's Il Trovatore was pretty disappointing for this opera fan. I've heard it (you all have heard the best bits) but never actually seen it live and was quite excited at the prospect. But, the sentiment quoted above sums it up for me. I'll give this opera another chance. Just not this production.

Don't get me wrong, the singing was simply beautiful and I could believe the pain in the words. The production design was appropriately drab as befits the story (the corpses swinging from the rafters . . ?). I even enjoyed our very own version of Statler and Waldorf sitting behind us as they made all kinds of inappropriate noises and comments (they left during the intermission as did a goodly number of the people sitting in our section)—though the fact that I was actually enjoying something annoying is not a good sign.

Two problems throughout the evening really made me not want to see this again.

First, the conductor stopped the music after every aria. As M observed, the audience was initially reluctant to clap. Late during the second half, the conductor abandoned this tactic and the audience, well trained to clap by this time, persisted through the music and the singing. It sucked the life out of the first two acts and threatened to do the same during the second two. Is this a opera tradition? If so, Please stop! Either that or just throw a concert Andre Rieu style.

Second, there were some choices made with the staging that really slowed things down, further destroying dramatic tension. The best example I can give takes place during ACT III. (The Gypsy's Son) when Manrico and Leonora are pledging their love before going to the wedding chapel. Just prior to this, Manrico's mother, Azucena, has been captured by the Count Di Luna and taken off to prison. In between these two scenes there was a pause while the stage hands placed and lit I don't know how many candles on the stage. It was beautiful, striking even, and (perhaps) did double duty as the candles in a wedding chapel and also the pyre to which Azucena is destined. But it took something like five minutes to get going, minutes in which the audience sat hushed in the darkened hall and then gradually started murmuring and muttering and even giggling. Was this visual effect worth the break in concentration? I think not. You have to know that some poor choices had been made when that happens. Every scene change was like this. A couple I can handle, but all of them? I really hope that all this is being rethought.

Now, I am a generally tolerant opera goer and can find something to enjoy in just about everything I've seen. Seattle Opera usually does a much better job than this.



Slomohusky said...

Who is the Stage Director for this production? Seattle Opera had a highly acclaimed prduction of La Boheme no long ago. Is is the same Director?

While this is a highly popular Verdi opera, and is almost a "greatest hits" of Verdi within itself of arias and chorus - the story is a bit messy at times. Put together the arias most in the audience are overly familiar with, plus a convaluted story - Stage Directors are almost painted too far into a corner of trying something new, just for the sake of being different. I was not there obviously. So how would I know, but that would be my best guess.

Hey, did you run Seattle Rock and Roll Full last year? If so how was it for ya. How were the hills and road surfaces?

rpd said...

Hey Slomo, yes, same stage director, José María Condemi. No complaints about that per se and I really enjoyed his work on Boheme and Cosi. He is a funny guy as well. Don't even mind the story, it is a bit silly. Why do tenors have to be so stupid?

rpd said...

As for the Seattle RnR. I sure did and enjoyed the experience. Very organized and well-run as I am sure you know.

It looks like they are using the same course as last year and that I was not over the moon about. IMHO, too much freeway concrete—I-90 bridge and then an out and back and another out and back on Aurora. Wear your cushiest shoes. ;-)

Hills are long and gradual, especially on the north bound section on Aurora up to the bridge and then again until just after the south side of the bridge. I saw lots of people having trouble at that point in the course. The folks playing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" at the north end of the bridge were a welcome pick-me-up.

Going south on the upper deck of Aurora is interesting but seeing the long line of runners stretching for miles all the way to Dearborn St. was a bit hard to take as well. Hot and exposed up there when I did it. You'll probably not have challenges there given where you train. Of course, what the weather will be like this June is anybody's guess.

Long sections where you are basically alone so be prepared for that. Family and friends can root for you for the first nine miles or so and then again in the downtown area before you head off onto the limited access roadway.

I understand why they are doing the course this way because of the difficulty of bridges, water, and hills elsewhere in the city. The 27K people this event brought into the city simply can't fit anywhere else either.

Getting to Tukwila in the morning is a bit of a trial too. My neighbor and I rented a limo with some other friends of his and we managed to get dropped off about a half mile from the start area.

I am not running it this year, Eugene in May. BUT I would love to meet you and will be happy to crew if you need it.

My Race Report from 2009 is

Slomohusky said...

Thanks rpd and for the crew offer. I am not set in stone yet on Seattle RR Full. I actually have looked at Eugene as well, but the month of May is going to busy coaching Soccer each weekend. I have yet to register for Seattle, but will decide no latter than April. If I remember the race was full by the end of April last year. Regardless, the next time in Seattle it would be fun for a meet up. Take care and thanks for the info!