Sunday, May 16, 2010

Opera Cleveland: Opera Sampler - Lucia Di Lammermoor

I'm a sucker for anything that gives a glimpse into the creative process--or offers free food, so when Opera Cleveland's "Opera Sampler" invitation arrived in my inbox it didn't take more than a few seconds to sign up.

The agenda for the evening, hosted by Opera Cleveland Marketing Director Paul Jarrett was simple yet effective: Talk, listen, tour, eat. And if you read no further, I have to say that the rehearsal I heard of Lucia's Act I this evening was one of the more compelling pieces of opera I've heard. You have one weekend -- Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday next week to catch the performance: With a early dress rehearsal that was this well played and sung I'm eagerly looking forward to hearing the full opera next Saturday... When evaluating that sentiment, consider that I've had very mixed feelings about opera.

The evening began with an introduction by Artistic Director and conductor Dean Williamson: Each time I've had the pleasure of hearing him speak on an opera, the piece gains an amazing clarity and it is clear that he understands the material. I found the set conception -- recycled pieces from another opera company's set, combined with both front an rear video production intriguing, as well as the "slightly modernizing" aspect of pushing the setting into the 1930s mobster era to add realatability. Generally interesting were Mr. Williamson's comments on the acoustics of Playhouse Square's State Theatre; and his casual yet confident demeanor really helps to take the "stuffy" edge off Opera.

That segued into an early dress rehearsal of Act I which was beautifully sung, and beautifully played. I took the invitation to move around to heart using the opportunity to both see and hear the opera from literally every corner of the theater: Aside from the loge I lucked into for Solome, I've never really found a seat that I loved for opera--the floor-level side boxes are lousy, and the front few rows of the orchestra (my normal preference for anything but opera) leave a bit to be desired if you're trying to watch the action and read the surtitles at the same time. Based on my informal survey, I think those may be only really bad seats. Sure, the loges are supreme, but the first few rows of the balcony (where my subscription seats are this year) are good offering a full view of the stage, good view of the surtitles, and an amazingly clear and well balanced auditory experience. Even at the back row of the upper balcony or orchestra, it sounds great and the surtitles are legible, though you may wish to take opera glasses if facial expressions are important.

Things wrapped up with a quick backstage tour including a brief appearance by Opera Cleveland's technical director -- who I could have smothered with questions if time allowed -- before winding up across the street at Bricco with free pizza and no-so-free drinks (Ok, seriously, the martini that goes by the name "Apple" is probably the among the best drinks I've had in years) with very casual socializing -- including bumping into two people I recognized from other cultural events). I even met Carl the Opera Chicken, a photo may be (crosses fingers) surfacing soon can be found below.

Did you know that a chicken has been hidden in every Opera Cleveland production?

It was a great event and I hope it will be offered again; certainly a good way to dip your feet into the opera experience.


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