Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Opera in London, without the plane ticket!
Last night I had a truly wonderful experience. I attended a performance of Tosca, sung on the stage of the Royal Opera House by Jonas Kaufmann, Angela Gheorghiu, and Bryn Terfel. I got dressed up, went to the theater, picked up my tickets, settled down in my seat, and looked around the opera house. The lights went down, the conductor came out, and the music began. It was the most incredible Tosca I have ever seen, and believe me when I say I have seen a lot of Toscas. And here's the thing: I didn't even have to cross the Atlantic to see it! It was broadcast on the screen of Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale as part of Emerging Pictures' Opera in Cinema series.
First, a couple of words on the performance itself. As I have said before, I have seen and heard many Toscas, live and recorded, on TV, in the theater, and in the second row of the Met, in the days of the Zefferelli production. This one easily beat them all dramatically, and probably even musically. Bryn Terfel, of course, was no surprise to me. If you have read my previous post on the many portrayals of Scarpia, you know that I had high expectations for him. I was not disappointed. He took every subtle difference that many singers have brought to the role, and managed to combine them so perfectly, and then to add a bit of his own flavor, that one might say he didn't play the part of Scarpia at all; he WAS Scarpia. Opposite him, Angela Gheorghiu played Tosca admirably. Her singing was beautiful, and my trepidation about her dramatic abilities (after seeing her performance with Raimondi) was quickly put to rest. The real surprise of the evening, at least for me, was Jonas Kaufmann. I had previously only seen YouTube clips of him in concert, usually opposite Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and I didn't like him. I thought his voice sounded muffled, and I wondered what everyone else seems to see in him. I did not have high expectations for him at all. So I was completely blindsided and totally blown away when he not only acted it better than anyone I have ever seen, but also sang it so incredibly that his performance was second only to Domingo. While I still think his pianos were at times a little muddy, at full volume his voice was so rich and warm that I am ready to search out as many of his other performances as I can find. Also worth mentioning was the supporting cast, particularly the Sacristan, who played the role with just the right amount of humor to be positively delightful.
Now on to the Opera in Cinema program. We all know about the Met Live in HD transmissions. They are well-publicized, and are available in about two dozen theaters in the South Florida area. Most people, however, have never even heard of Opera in Cinema, which brings performances from such great venues as the Royal Opera House, La Scala, the Salzburg Festival, and the Liceu in Barcelona. I only found out about it because, as a diehard Hvorostovsky fan (in case you couldn't tell), I was desperately searching for a theater that was showing Faust from the ROH. I eventually found two, Cosford Cinema in Miami and Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, but ultimately I missed both showings. However, in the process, I discovered that there is so much more opera available to us here than I ever imagined. (This, incidentally, is how I came about creating this blog in the first place.) And while I am still working on updating the calendar past December, I can tell you that there is no shortage of performances to carry us through the opera season.
Last night was my first time at Cinema Paradiso. I arrived less than ten minutes before the performance began, stressed as I always am when I get stuck in traffic on my way to the opera. But as soon as I stepped through the front door, I immediately began to relax. The theater has such a warm, inviting feel, and the attendees all seemed to know each other. It was like sharing the performance with an extended family. The seats were very comfortable, and the view was unobstructed. Champaign and hors d'oeuvres were served during intermission, and everywhere I turned, I heard people discussing this and other performances. It was a truly special evening, as it brought together spectacular opera and a wonderful community of opera lovers. I will definitely be back, and I eagerly look forward to sharing the experience with as many of my friends and family as possible!