Sunday, July 26, 2009

Toreador, en garde!

So I finally got to the opera this season, even though it took me until the final show of the summer. I was not disappointed by Cincinnati Opera's offering of Carmen.

Janelle Gelfand was unusually negative about the acting and staging. That's okay; she's entitled to be wrong her opinion. (In all seriousness, Ms. Gelfand no doubt has a much more sophisticated opera palate than I do. Since I go to the opera just once or twice each year, I'm generally destined to be blown away by just about anything on the Music Hall stage, particularly an opera that's as much fun to listen to as Carmen.) Unlike the Enquirer's critic, I enjoyed Ruxanda Donose's performance as Carmen. (I don't speak French, though; if Ms. Gelfand does, she's no doubt a better judge of Donose's acting ability.) Without any doubt, tenor William Burden (as Don Jose) stole the show.

I agreed with Ms. Gelfand that the Cincinnati Symphony's performance of the prelude was a bit rushed. In fact, it seemed at times almost as if the instrumentalists were tripping over themselves through the toreador theme. (Think about hitting the fast-forward button on your old "Bad News Bears" videotape while leaving the audio up.) The CSO also almost overpowered the vocals a couple times. But all in all, it was a terrifically-spent three-plus hours.

A friend who was kind of enough to bend her schedule to my last minute whim to buy a couple tickets and accompanied me to the opera commented that watching the opera brings into clear relief the type of entertainment those of us born in the 1970's and later are accustomed to. Can you imagine watching a movie set in only 3 or 4 different places, or with a single camera shot that doesn't cut away from over an hour? But I think that's part of why I love attending the opera or the CSO. An afternoon or evening at the CSO is all about that moment. It's not about what happens next; there's no hurry to move along to the next thing. The cell phone is stowed away and turned off, so there's no chance of the outside world pressuring me to hurry up and do something else. Instead, an opera or symphony performance provides two or three hours of pure escapism: the opportunity to totally immerse one's self in the music and story of that performance, leaving everything else behind.

Speaking of CSO, its new season looks pretty impressive, too (although perhaps a bit laden with guest conductors). Guess I ought to think about picking up some tickets.

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