Friday, April 16, 2010
Your First Time
In talking with them, I've been reminded of my first time at the Metropolitan Opera. My friend Beth was visiting from Austin in January 2004. It was the coldest it had been in New York City since Grover Cleveland was president - almost 20 below! Therefore, we were desperate for inside entertainment.
We had been to see Bernadette Peters in Gypsy (and you know what that set off), but we also decided to see an opera. Beth was already an opera fan and attended the Austin Lyric Opera. I had already become a fan of Renée Fleming from watching her on PBS and Ovation, but had yet to take in an actual opera. I thought it would be too expensive, too fancy - it seemed out of my reach. My only exposure to the Metropolitan Opera was via Cher and Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck so naturally I thought I also needed to get all dressed up for a date with a dude with a one hand and bedroom eyes. (Well, not really, but if you're a dude with one hand or two and you have bedroom eyes, feel free to call me.)
So, we were watching Renée's Chatalet concert on Ovation when the subject came up. I consulted Time Out New York and found out that Rigoletto (Armiliato; Pons, Nioradze, Rost, Flores, Lopardo)
was on and that it was actually affordable so we bought our tickets over the phone. We fretted a bit on what to wear - since Beth was visiting she didn't pack evening wear, plus like I mentioned, it was almost 20 below zero outside! We dressed in black jeans and of course, because it's New York City and the Met, it matters not what you wear for a Night at the Opera.
We settled in to our balcony box and I don't believe I took a breath for the next four hours. From the moment the chandeliers rose to the ceiling to the very last minute of the curtain call I was mesmerized. It was simply the most magical evening I had ever spent in a theatre. I was like a kid in a candy shop - I simply couldn't believe my eyes and ears.
Two nights later, I went back alone for Madama Butterfly (Armiliato; Bunnell, Villarroel, Berti, Caproni) and I sat in the very last row of the Family Circle. I was so enthralled by the drama and music, I forgot to look at the translated words on the Met titles screen in front of my seat.
So today, I emailed Kyle to remind him not to forget to look up to see the chandeliers rising to the gold ceiling. I wish I could be there just to witness his face - and that of Ashley and Glenda's too next week - on this magical night. There's just nothing like fulfilling a dream - or your first time.
By now, I've been many times and plan to go many more and yet, the magical feeling of walking up the steps at Lincoln Center, seeing the fountain, entering into the shrine of the Metropolitan Opera house never, ever gets old. The anticipation of going again and hearing heart stopping performances is always with me. Coincidentally, Beth is arriving Monday for her annual trip to New York - fortunately the weather isn't quite so frigid and as luck will have it, we'll also be seeing Renée Fleming in Armida.
I'd love for you let me know about your first time at the Met Opera - or any opera house or theatre - in the comments section below.
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I transplanted from Ohio to New York in 1962 fresh from college. My first opera was AIDA with Leontyne Price at the old Met -- Lincoln Center opened in 1966. First ballet was in that same venue with Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Have been a huge opera and ballet since and now, from California, I see all Met productions live in HD at the neighborhood movie theater. Can wear jeans and eat popcorn and tickets are only $22. Can't beat that.
Tuesday at 3pm my then girlfriend calls me and tells me that Susan Graham is performing in Lepage’s 2008 La Damnation de Faust. By 8pm that day we have our plane tickets from Denver to NYC, tickets to the production and a friend’s floor to sleep on. Now it happened to be that that was the same weekend I was planning on proposing to her, and I figured what better time than intermission to propose. As she is studying to become a mezzo (and the two of us are die hard Graham fans) I wrote the met to see if we could possibly meet Ms. Graham. Long story short I was told I was maybe on her backstage list, and just to go see after the show.
Arrival was stunningly impressive, and the brownies were $10 of pure heaven, and the crystal chandeliers breathtaking. At least I thought they were until the curtain went up and I learned what breathtaking was. At intermission I haphazardly proposed (she said yes) and with a $10 glass of campaign we went back in. I know that day was the day I proposed yet the moment Graham hit the crescendo on the “D'amour l'ardente flamme" is the moment that will live with me from that night. While not my first live opera experience, it was absolutely my first transcendent opera experience.
After the show, in our post opera haze I told my then fiancé to come with me I may or may not have a surprise for her. I walked up to the counter and said “Hi I may or may not be on Susan Graham’s back stage list.” It turns out I was, and next thing I knew, me, my fiancé, Susan Graham, and a smattering of some of the most influential opera directors sat in her dressing room chewing the fat. If it were possible I became a bigger opera fan that night.
Ah! My first night at the MET. . .
Almost 20 yrs ago I was watching the Three Tenors concert on PBS and fell in love with Opera when I heard Luciano Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma. As it turned out Turandot was playing at the MET that month so a friend and I bought orchestra seat tickets for the performance. I can not describe the magic of that evening. It was a Franco Zefferelli Production that made us feel as if we were on a Hollywood movie set. The singing, the costumes, the beauty of the MET, the Grand Tier Restaurant during intermission where you placed your order the day prior to the performance and your meal (or dessert) was waiting for you at your table when you were seated, all contributed to that magic. Broadway theater is great, but going to the MET is an EVENT that stays with you forever. That one night led to 18 years of a MET subscription for me. I feel so Blessed that I was able to hear Luciano Pavarotti perform in several operas during those years. I never tire seeing my favorite operas sung over and over again as each changing cast brings something new to the performance. Thank you Luciano up in heaven for enriching my life by exposing me to the world of Opera.
My first opera at the Met was Anna Netrebko in I PURITANI back in February 2007. I had recently moved to NYC and wanted to know if all the fuss over this particular soprano was justified. While it wasn't a perfect marriage of singer and role, Netrebko was a captivating stage presence and the second act mad scene had me on the edge of my seat. I was hooked. The following week I returned for Renee and Dima in ONEGIN (my first standing room experience...like you said, Sarah, I don't think I breathed for three hours) and Mattila and Silja in an emotionally-charged JENUFA. In the three intervening years, I've attended nearly 100 performances at The Met, which have included some of the best theatrical experiences of my life.
My first Broadway show--like so many of my generation--was CATS, back in 1992. The first play that ever made me sit up and pay attention was the 1998 revival of Miller's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE with Anthony Lapaglia, Allison Janney, Brittany Murphy and Stephen Spinella. I was still rather young at the time, but the raw emotion conveyed by the actors and by Miller's riveting text left be gobsmacked. From then on I knew that I wanted to spend my life attending theatre. Since moving to New York in August 2006, I've attended nearly 400 theatrical productions on and off Broadway. I wouldn't trade them--even the bad shows--for anything, and I realize how fortunate I am to be able to see the amount of good theatre and opera that I do on a regular basis.
First time at the Met? 1966 or 67, I was six years old and my mom and dad and I got the last tickets available for a partial view box of Grace Bumbry in Madame Butterfly, of course.
Now an interesting question for Sarah Beth is how many theater productions you've seen since you've moved to NYC. There's multiples for many shows so which show have you seen the most--Sweeny Todd?
How many have I seen? 100s! But before Gypsy at the Shubert (w/ you Beth!) and Rigoletto at the Met (w/ you Beth!), in New York I had only seen The Lion King and Mamma Mia (on vacation), 42nd Street (on job interview trip), Chicago (1st show I saw the first weekend living in NYC), Contact, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables. Things obviously and really changed after seeing Gypsy. My hunger for theatre increased plus I started meeting people who knew the ins and outs of theatre (NOAH!) and started learning about rush and discounts. And then this blog was born on December 17, 2005. The rest is history.
First opera ever was Hoffman at the San Diego Opera with Beverly Sills as the 4 heroines and Norman Treigle as the 4 villains. I was 9. Is it any wonder I have been an opera lover ever since? Alas, I am also an impoverished West Coast opera fan and have never been to the Met. I did see Boheme in Shanghai once.
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