(Bad title, I know. It was that or Fleming-Fest.)

I ended up getting my hands on some free tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Gala last night. For a movie theater in the suburbs–not at the Met.

Thinking about it, I’m actually kind of disappointed in myself. So I scored these tickets and decided it was certainly worth a trip to a suburban mall before realizing that my local community scene was having its own gala of sorts: the Ivey Awards. I had gone two other times when I was covering the event as a highly credited arts columnist (ha) for my college newspaper, but this year after thinking about a few times I never was compelled enough to buy a ticket.

So I feel like I betrayed my own local arts community in a way. To make up for it, I actually have plans to stand in rush lines tonight and tomorrow to see productions at two local productions.

[My head is just spinning right now with the complexities of marketing the arts. It’s something I’m incredibly interested in, but I’ll just keep reading Amanda Ameer’s fantastic blog until I can actually form a coherent opinion of my own.]

Now back to the Met Gala. I have a lot of random thoughts that would ideally weave together in a witty and thoughtful review if I had the motivation. Instead I’ll just list some observations.

  • First and foremost: Susan Graham belongs on the stage of the Met; she should not be outside of it joking with Christine Baranski or talking politics with Mayor Bloomberg. And she certainly should not be making cocktails with Martha Stewart. Now that that disaster is behind us, we can look forward to seeing her in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust.
  • Deborah Voigt (who had much less forced awkward interviews to deal with and the more interesting setting of Times Square) may have been better suited for the job. I hate to make this Graham v. Voigt issue parallel to presidential politics, but I would much rather have a drink with Voigt. And not just because of the whole little black dress ordeal.
  • My friend and I were easily the youngest people in the audience. By far.
  • I love that for the first act most people in the theater did their best to pretend they were actually at a classy opera house. I don’t even know how to react to the awkward “to stand or not to stand” moment when the orchestra played the national anthem. But once we hit the first intermission and it became quite clear that we all were going to be there for a while, almost everyone came back for the second act with popcorn or milk duds in hand.
  • After all of the pre-show festivities, the second act of Traviata started sans subtitles. I immediately assumed it was a technical glitch and imagined the producers frantically struggling to get them on the screen before half of their audience across the country stormed out of the theaters in frustration. But quite a bit of time passed without them, and I actually started to wonder if there was some opening gala tradition that bans the use of subtitles. But they came back just in time for the audience to be utterly confused. “What the hell did that old man say to Renee that’s making her so upset?!?!” The poor guy who was to blame for the lack of titles probably got fired. And if not, I’m sure the Met people whose jobs are devoted to making the operas accessible to newcomers are working on getting rid of him as we speak.
  • Did I mention that Martha Stewart was making cocktails?
  • The Met loves Nico Muhly. And, well, so do I. From what I’ve seen, Muhly can give a great interview. But every time he tried to say something interesting, Susan Graham would either mock him for being so young or ask him a limited question. “What’s your favorite Verdi opera?” Really? Also: When the Advocate asked Muhly about his new opera for the Met/Lincoln Center, he said “It’s like a teen gay Internet sex drama!” When Susan Graham asked him about his new opera, his answer was far more vague.
  • I cringed when I heard Ann Patchett (author of Bel Canto) make the point that she almost enjoys seeing opera in the movie theater more than in the opera house. If that really is an argument that people want to make, then Fleming’s performance of the last scene of from Strauss’s Capriccio is the perfect counter-argument. I spent every second of those twenty minutes wishing that I were at the Met and not in a movie theater. I do support the new possibilities of presenting opera in this way, but at the very least, Strauss simply is not Strauss unless you’re experiencing it live.

~ by ohactually on September 23, 2008.

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