Sunday, September 11, 2005
Opening Night of the Opera, Finale
The actual opera on San Francisco's 83rd Opening Night was "The Italian Girl in Algiers," a comic opera written by the 21-year-old Rossini.
Rossini was given extravagant gifts by the gods, but he was a working musician, a son of musicians, and he literally composed his brains out, writing 30 operas from the ages of 18 to 36.
Then he retired, exhausted, after finishing his grand final opus, "William Tell," for the Paris Opera, which ended by being the bedrock influence for all of 19th Italian opera, in particular for the other great Italian composing god, Verdi.
His health pretty much failed him for the next 15 years and he yo-yo'd between Bologna taking care of his father and one Italian spa town after another. His better spirits returned eventually and he moved with his second wife back to Paris in 1855 where he had a totally brilliant second act in his life.
He didn't bother writing music for the stage anymore, but took his vast, accumulated wealth and lived beautifully, creating a weekly artists' salon for those HE considered the artistic elite, with special chamber concerts in the living room with songs he'd written for favorite performers. It sounds like a beyond-wonderful way to age, especially since he didn't have to churn out any more operas for impatient impresarios. Click here to get to the Wikipedia biography which isn't bad.
The intermission bells started being tinkled by real people on real bells.
I went to the Box Bar and was invited to join a table by the Groves, who used to live in Palo Alto but were now living in Atherton. They were a charming couple who seemed to know quite a few people, but who obviously weren't taking any of the "society" stuff very seriously for one second.
A friend of Mrs. Grove came by to say hello and was asked, "Are you still doing Pilates?" and the answer was "no" with a rueful shrug.
I left without staying for the second act.
Olga Borodina, the Russian mezzo-soprano diva, is truly one of the many faces of God, and she sang beautifully besides, but I'd much rather be listening to her singing something like Marfa in Mussorgsky's "Khovanschina" than trying to sparkle in Rossini.
The tenor, a last-minute replacement, was in way over his head. The rest of the cast was just fine. The direction was stupid, incoherent and full of schtick that encouraged bad chorus acting, which was somewhat offset by the fact that the set and costumes from the Santa Fe Opera were simple, whimsical and beautiful.
I'm taking off for La Paz, Baja California tomorrow for a week. I may be writing the blog from down there or I may not, depending on mood and technological whatevers. One truth, however, is that it's just about impossible to take a bad photo in Baja California. I promise to do my best to stray a little off the beaten path.