Last September, my husband M and I decided that we should “get cultured” in NYC, and what better place to do so than the opera? I read that Metropolitan Opera Gala tickets were on sale (It was the 50th year anniversary of the Opera at Lincoln Center) so we became “subscribers” and pre-bought tickets to The Barber of Seville, Rusalka and the Gala.
M and I have a low combined knowledge of opera. In fact, the most I’ve “studied” an opera was during O’s local music appreciation class for pre-schoolers where we learned the story and songs from Mozart’s the Magic Flute. We still sometimes You Tube Papageno’s song and Diana Damrau’s rendition of “Queen of the Night”.
Fast forward to May 7 and it was the day of the event. We had had a scare earlier in the week when I read the Gala would be black tie (M doesn’t own a tuxedo, and we were back in Canada at a friend’s wedding so couldn’t arrange one in NYC on short notice). Luckily, when I called the Lincoln Center they assured me a suit would be fine. So Sunday afternoon, we got home from the airport at 4pm, showered, got dressed and were out the door by 5:30 for the 6pm show. Walking up to the Lincoln Center you could feel the energy in the air, it would be a special night. In lieu of a full opera, various superstar opera singers performed arias from a selection of operas.
The evening started with a video depicting the building of the opera house while the orchestra played the theme from Westside Story (get it? Lincoln Center is at 66th and Columbus on the Upper West Side). The opening aria was sung by Placido Domingo, whom I knew as a former member of the Three Tenors. Interestingly, he is now also a conductor and sang in a baritone role. It was incredible to hear him sing live.
Musical highlights included a showstopping performance by Anna Netrebko as the villainous Lady MacBeth, a surprise performance by Dmitri Hvorostovsky who is battling brain cancer, Papageno’s song from The Magic Flute, and Handel’s Son nata a lagrimar duet where the male vocalist sings in a higher range than the female.
The sets in the first act were amazing, especially an ethereal roof top scene from La Boheme where the singers were literally inside a scooped out wall with cinematics and smoke machines creating the set.
Movie clips were also projected between arias. We saw how the Lincoln Center was designed and built, heard from conductor James Levine and learned that the chandelier design was the result of a paint accident – the architect accidentally splashed paint on a rendition of the entryway. There was no time to re-draw the picture and no way to erase the splotches, so the architect drew some spikes coming from the paint drops and made them into chandeliers. Decision makers Rockefeller and Bing loved how different the chandelier looked and that was that!
By the end of the 5 hour long concert we had been treated to a show by some of the world’s top opera singers. While I’m not an opera connoisseur, I certainly appreciate the range of talent that night. My only wish is that Diana Damrau had performed “the Queen of the Night”.
To view videos of some of the performances, visit http://www.metopera.org/discover/video/?videoName=50th-anniversary-gala-un-bel-di&videoId=5427245112001&utm_source=GalaThankYou&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=1718_ss&utm_content=version_A