October 16, 2012
Yes, it’s that time again- opera season! Tomorrow marks the official day for the Detroit Opera. I am tres’ excited! Or maybe not. It has been a confusing and disappointing time for choosing and buying tickets this year, and for the first time too, after many years of being a patron. I will start off with the good news. With the recent popularity of Baroque opera, the Detroit Opera is jumping in with the premiere of Handel’s “Giulio Cesare.” And guess who will be filling the title role? The famous counter-tenor David Daniels! As much as I am jumping up and down for the chance to not only see my first Baroque opera (and Handel’s most famous might I add) and the beautifully voiced David Daniels, the production isn’t what I expected. For the first time in Detroit Opera’s history, they will be showing a very non-traditional production of “Giulio Cesare.” It is a lavish, Hollywood-glam style production set in the 1940’s. This production first premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 2005, with supposedly wonderful reception. But for this very traditional opera diva, I was very much at odds. It was strange to me that the Detroit Opera would premiere their first Baroque opera in history in such a non-traditional way. So with much thought, for me it came down to this- I would go just for David Daniels and the beautiful music. If it weren’t for Daniels, I definitely would not have bought tickets. I am not sure how a production like this could work when the story is a true part of history. I guess I will have to really use my imagination. Or shut my eyes and just listen. But on another note, I will only be 5 rows away from the stage in the middle of the main floor. How lucky am I to see David Daniels that close!?
“Giulio Cesare” isn’t until November. The great opera “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini opens the new season tomorrow. It is also when I am going, so look back for a review. And you will want to, believe me. I buy tickets for 3 operas (or ballet) every year. I love “The Barber of Seville” but have never had the chance to see it in person. Before I bought my tickets, I was worried about the rest of the operas since I knew “Giulio Cesare” wasn’t traditionally staged. I asked about the rest of the operas, and even more specifically, “Barber,” and was assured that it was traditional. Content enough, I bought my 3 tickets- the 3rd being Aida. Well, to make a long story short, I found out a week prior to this post that it was, indeed, NOT traditional. Logging onto Facebook, the first thing I saw was a photo from dress rehearsal of Rosina in a flapper sort of dress. Yes, if you’ve guessed it, they brought it up to the 1920’s. And again, another “very glamorous” production I was told when I asked about it. I guess glamorized opera is in style this year. But with my heart literally pounding, I called the gentleman I spoke to when I bought the tickets, and have bought from nearly every year. He “claimed” to know anything about it, even though the premiere was a week away! Hmm. If that is true, it is really sad that the staff who sell the tickets aren’t informed on what they are selling. It’s bad enough that the public isn’t even informed. By then nearly everyone have already bought their tickets. I had to put it out there that patrons deserve the right to know what they would be seeing, so they can make a good decision. To me, it’s not any different than purchasing something at a grocery store. I can handle some things that are a little out of the composer’s intent/story, but this was FAR from it. I was told that the only option was that I trade my tickets in for something else. Pssht, frick that! I want my money back! To no surprise, I felt tricked. Heck, maybe even lied to. And with the Detroit Opera in the deep debt it’s been in, I can see that there is probable cause that I may not be far from the truth.
I would have traded my tickets, but there were so many reasons why I couldn’t. One of them, was that I had already bought an expensive dress and accessories for my Spanish Rosina theme. I always try to dress up with a theme, according to which opera (or ballet) it is, and usually after a character in the opera. I didn’t have much time to look for my ideal dress, a fun orange, peach or maybe a bright red color with black lace that you normally would see in “Barber” or think of when it comes to an opera set in 17th century Spain, but not something that looked “Carmen-ish.” So, I decided on a very pretty blue, in which I call “Rosina Blue.” This is the color I usually see Rosina wearing in Mozart’s continuation of the story, “The Marriage of Figaro,” especially by Renee Fleming, who’s interpretation brought her to success and fame of the role of the lamenting blue-gowned Countess. “Barber,” on the other hand, usually seems to have a more “Spanish” theme than “Figaro” productions, even though both are set in Spain and are part of the same story. So I combined both “The Barber of Seville” and “The Marriage of Figaro” together; the Spanish accessories and the famous look of Rosina from “Figaro.”
I do not have good hopes for this opera tomorrow. And in a video posted by the Detroit Opera, Figaro’s entrance in the famous “Factotum” shows him flying in on a red scooter and riding around a fountain while singing. Did they even have scooters like that in the 1920’s?? (It was worse than Musetta’s entrance on a red bicycle when I saw “La Boheme!”) The scenery looks traditional. When he is done with the scooter, instead of seeing him showing off his wigs and shaving tools, he sings to the fountain that is in center stage with the water pressure going up and down, as if to respond. To top it off, as if they ran out of ideas for lack of props, he starts tap dancing. As they say,”When in doubt, dance it out!” I do give him props for being able to tap dance and sing this terribly hard song at the same time. Another thing I found out in a “Behind the Scenes” video (which really wasn’t), is that they even added (and I quote) “Some music…that Rossini himself…didn’t necessarily write…for this opera…” Still trying to figure out what that means, as it was carefully and cautiously spoken, not to give it away. Hmm..I guess I’m just going to have to wait and find out! but I’m going to guess that it has something to do with Rosina’s music lesson.
It’s strange the way they chose to do this, as last season closed with a wonderful traditionally staged “Marriage of Figaro” (which I unfortunately missed from being in the hospital.) All I can say right now about “Barber” is that it looks like someone stole all the costumes and props and everyone had to come up with whatever they could last minute. Ouch.
Update and correction: The premiere of “The Barber of Seville” was on Saturday, Oct. 12, not the 17th.