Remember on Tuesday how I whined about the English National Opera translating Mozart's "The Magic Flute" into...well, English? That's been a common theme of my life as an opera fan...I've only ever seen operas performed in English, which is not the traditional language of opera performance at all.
Having spent half a semester studying some of the world's greatest operas and composers while I was in London in 2010, I know how amazing opera can be when it's sung in a foreign language. To me, it just adds to the emotive aspect of the performance...passionate Italian by Puccini, Wagner's epic German Ring Cycle, and the romance of French by Gounod and Délibes. It just so happened that every opera staged by London's big companies while we were abroad was performed in English...what a travesty! I also saw the Lyric Opera of Chicago perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream" back Stateside...also in English. Ahhh!
My other issue with seeing opera these days is that I don't really have a friend to go with. While most of my friends (and my mom of course!) are down for musicals, the Guthrie, and even the orchestra, opera is honestly not up everyone's alley, and I get that. Needless to say, I was ecstatic in Phoenix over the Fiesta Bowl when Michael and I started talking opera, and he said that he'd come down from Fargo to see pretty much anything.
The Minnesota Opera staged a new production of "Tosca" in March, and it marked our inaugural opera trip, and my first-ever foreign language opera! We started the night off right splitting a bottle of champagne at my apartment (where I also got a major puppy fix courtesy of his former roommate's darling dog!), and headed to St. Paul where we ended up grabbing the last two seats at Meritage's bar. We got all fancy with escargot and my first oysters in a long time...
...and I discovered that Michael is my new favorite person to go out to dinner with because he's willing to go halfsies on absolutely everything. Including every champagne cocktail on the cocktail list. There were eight, and we made it through four, and we shared all the way through. Same deal with our entrées of duck and venison. Basically, I want him to come go halfsies at Meritage with me all the time.
We cut it perilously close to make it to the opera on time, but still snapped a selfie outside the lovely Ordway.
And then I sprinted (as much as I could, in four-inch heels) to the bathroom, while Michael headed to our seats. As I headed in, looking for "Row H," I couldn't see him anywhere in the vicinity of where I was looking...until I scanned the literal front row and spotted him literally dead center. I had bought our tickets fairly last minute, and while I did have a connection helping me out, I had NO idea our seats would have this view:
Or this view from behind:
Or this view for a super attractive selfie:
I was in heaven.
"Tosca," by Giacomo Puccini, is set over the course of three days in Rome during the Napoleonic wars. The title character is a classic jealous diva, in love with a revolutionary artist named Mario Cavaradossi, and they both end up entangled with Baron Scarpia, a powerful police chief who is basically the worst person ever and essentially threatens to kill Cavaradossi if Tosca doesn't sleep with him. That's enough of a spoiler, except to say that it is not an uplifting opera: by the end, almost everybody is dead.
The opera is truly iconic, and the MN Opera's staging and performance lived up to my expectations for sure. There was actually some major drama just days before opening night, when Hungarian soprano Csilla Boross backed out last-minute, and Minnesota native Kelly Kaduce stepped up to the plate. It could have been catastrophic, but Kaduce and Leonardo Capalbo as Cavaradossi had electric chemistry and both sang beautifully. Stephen Powell as Scarpia played and sang a fabulously bone-chilling villain as well, and the sets, though a bit odd, were visually striking from start to finish. I absolutely loved every minute of it.
And I was right...hearing it in a foreign language majorly made a difference! I found that I could catch a word here and there of the Italian and could figure a LOT of it out by following the action (and being familiar with the plot). The subtitles projected above the stage did help me out a bit during the recitative parts, where conversations were being sung back and forth in a normal cadence as if the performers were just chatting.
Here's a clip of one of my all-time favorite parts of the opera: Cavaradossi's heart-rending "E lucevan le stelle," a goodbye to life when it's at its sweetest.
And just because I think it's an awesome picture: the last page of the score, taken by Michael, who casually leaned over the orchestra wall into the pit. Because did I mention we were front row? ;)
To check out the rest of my 101 in 1001, head here...and if you're dying to see operas with me, let me know, yo!