I attended an opera at the Met Opera House recently. I have so many questions1…
The orchestra began with a bang and drifted into a tumultuous riff carrying with it a melodic undertone – a little foreshadowing. It’s a tale about the lecherous Giovanni, who spends most of the play showering unwanted attention on women – most of whose affections are otherwise engaged. It follows him from the opening murder2 to his unrepentant death where he’s pretty much dragged into hell.
Having never experienced an Opera3 I did a tiny bit of searching beforehand to figure out what to expect. I knew the entire thing was sung in Italian and that there would be translation devices at each seat, and I knew that it would be long. I decided against listening to the music beforehand like I do with musicals because I won’t understand the words anyway! I did read the synopsis to better follow the story, but armed with very little knowledge I ventured into the um, unknown.
This production of Don Giovanni had a contemporary set, and modern costumes deviating at only one point – when Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, and Don Ottavio attended the party (or like I whispered in my friend’s ear “Masquerade!”4). While I know conceptually that this isn’t standard costuming I didn’t find it distracting at all, and even though I thought the starkness of the background would be distracting it did quite the opposite, forcing the eye to look at the actors versus the scene.
The plot itself was somewhat discomforting, especially when viewed through the modern lens after the Me Too movement. However, as a casual observer of Booktok, I wondered if some of the plot – especially Masetto and Zerlina’s storyline – couldn’t be found in one of the more recent viral novels out there5. (To be abundantly clear, this is in no way an approval for lack of consent, merely an observation).
Paying attention to the translation was a little tough but I read enough to get the gist of what was happening on stage. The orchestra and singers were amazing. I’ve done a lot of searching this week and while I’m not 100% certain I think none of them had mics6 – neither the orchestra nor the singers, and while I’m not an audio nerd, I know how hard it is to make a performance audible within different spaces, so I felt some wonder listening to them perform and hearing the voices travel across the stage.
Overall, after putting aside my mild melancholy7 and anxiety about making my train home8, I think I rather enjoyed the Opera.
1 And some of them are about the opera!
2 Yes, murder, that’s not a typo (this time)
3 Does Phantom count?
4 Which was a nod not only to Phantom but also to the hours we spent memorizing that song. “Flash of mauve, splash of puce, fool and king, ghoul and goose”
5 Looking at you – you know who you are!
6 There are photos and articles online of them wearing a mic pack, but in almost all those articles the reason is for recording and live streaming – which makes sense to me.
7 All week long I’ve had bouts of sadness and feeling downcast until I finally realized it was Mother’s Day this weekend, the third one without Mom.
8 This was the first time I would be taking such a late train home since the panorama.
Don Giovanni – Leporello, Act I, sc. v
My dear lady! This is the catalogue of the women my master has loved. It’s a list that I’ve compiled – look at it; read it over with me! In Italy, six hundred and forty; in Germany, two hundred and thirty-one; a hundred in France; ninety-one in Turkey – but in Spain there are already a thousand and three.