Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Destiny of Norma

This afternoon in Zellerbach Rehearsal hall I watched Albert be a friar in the third act "begging for soup" scene of "La Forza del Destino." I'm the alternate, which means that in case Albert doesn't show up for a performance, I get to become Miss America.

The rehearsal was enlivened tremendously by the young Italian conductor Nicola Luisotti (pictured above), who is making his San Francisco Opera debut. The director, Ron Daniels, at one point last summer made the remark that "the conductor for this is really good, he's going to be great with this music." And I think he's right, though the tempos are so much faster than what was rehearsed earlier that the chorus and the principal singers were thrown way off balance today. Still, it's going to be exciting sounding Verdi, which is about as good as it gets.

After the rehearsal, I went for a couple of beers at the Lone Star saloon.

It was fairly empty, warm and charming.

Avis the Tarot Reader, looking operatic and colorful, presided over the backyard.

In the evening, there was an orchestral run-through of "Norma" on the opera house stage.

Two nights ago, we had the first dress rehearsal with loincloths and mud smearing and diva blood swapping, and it turned out to be completely fun. Here's a bit of what I wrote to our "captain" later that evening:

"Tonight was one of the most fun evenings of my entire life, possibly because I'm old enough to appreciate it. Sitting around virtually naked smearing stage mud on another dude's body in slo-mo, Burning Man stoned style, on the very front of the opera house stage, in silhouette, with a symphony orchestra playing Bellini and a male chorus singing in legato Italian about going to war with the Romans, well, it just doesn't get better than that, period.

Probably the greatest bonding moment was when the youngest and cutest of our group, an 18-year-old from Lafayette named Kurt Krikorian, painted a happy face with mud on his own butt and you could see it through the whole opera house. I haven't laughed as much in a long time."

Unfortunately, tonight we had the first orchestral run-through of "Norma" (where we weren't running around in our loincloths), and we almost died of boredom. The conductor, an old Italian named Oleg Caetani (sounds like a shoe designer), paced the music at truly slow, lugubrious tempos, which is the quickest way to kill a Bel Canto opera imaginable. Yikes.


Anonymous said...

I love you! Your priorities are so ... evolved.

I was off in yoga bliss land for the weekend. Better than great.

Need to catch an escaped bunny now.


Ray Bridges said...

You are my new bestest friend. I just returned from seeing the final dress rehearsal of Norma. What fun! I've haven't seen that many bare cheeks since they closed the baths in San Francisco a brazilian years ago. I just knew you guys were enjoying the mud painting part. I didn't realize it was mud. I thought it was blue war paint. Maybe it was the germans who painted their bodies blue and attacked the Romans naked. Now those boys knew how to have fun.

One of the volunteers asked me if I was a teacher, it being high school night and all, so I lied and said yeah, sorta. He wanted to know if we gave the kids enough background to the story so that they'd know what they were seeing, and I said, well, yeah, sorta. Then he said he didn't understand why the kids laughed at that scene in the first act that's so incredibly corny. (I'm sure you know the exact line, but I smoke dope and drink alcohol, both which make immediate recall difficult at times.) I kindly explained to him that my kids did indeed know the difference between tragedy and comedy, but they also were able to appreciate the ridiculous as sublime. Hell, I laughed.

I discovered your blog by Googling "What year did Renata Scotto sing Norma in Houston?" That lead me to that other blog where you went on about several things. Well enough that I wanted to see who you were and send you a note. How much finer that you're a blogger.

Like I said, you are my new bestest friends. I work in the Civic Center. Let's do lunch.

Houston Bridges

Civic Center said...

Dear Houston: I'm so happy you were at the dress rehearsal and got to see the most amusing moment of public nudity in which I've ever indulged. The "mud" which was poop-brown at the first dress rehearsal was changed to blue war paint by the final dress rehearsal, which was a great improvement. And what was the sublimely "ridiculous" scene in the first act? To tell you the truth, I haven't even watched the rest of that act after I drag the Roman body down from the ugly set.