Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Norma Opens Part Two: The Blue Moon Group

For the second act of "Norma", the four Roman soldiers were transformed into Celtic Warriors (talk about going over to the enemy!) which meant going to the wig room. This is where people are tortured with sharp bobby pins, spirit glue, and tape among other skin-unfriendly items.

Most of the men's wigs for the opera looked as if they were supposed to be from the American Revolutionary era with small pony tails. This didn't make a lot of sense for Roman-occupied Druids, but there you have it. They must have run out of that style, however, because three of us were given amazingly fabulous, hideous wigs that looked like some kind of cross between Peter Frampton and Welsh Wench.

Back in the dressing room, three makeup women had stationed themselves in the showers.

They were there to pre-decorate Celtic Warrior backsides before we entered the stage for the infamous blue-paint-smearing scene as we prepared for war.

At the first "dress" rehearsal, it was decided that our white butts were a bit too big and a bit too shocking as we mooned the audience.

So the makeup women were sent in to make sure our butts were a bit darkened and decorated, which made for some giggly, surreal moments.

In truth, at that first rehearsal, we were all painfully shy in different ways...

...on how we would measure up...

...and if that beautiful trip to Italy had made us fat...

...or whether the entire scene would be completely ridiculous.

But we got over it, fast, like good Californians who had all been to a nude beach at some point or another in our lives.

It helped that the 13 Warriors were quite a varied group, ranging in age from Ralph at 62...

...to the 18-year-old Kurt.

The group was also about half homo and half hetero with a few guys that could be either.

What was most encouraging was that in San Francisco in 2005, nobody gave a crap about any of that.

Be whatever you want, was the attitude, just don't bang into me onstage, and do help me out like a buddy if things go wrong.

And things often do go wrong on stages, particularly operatic ones where the spectacle is usually so ambitious.

The sheer exhilharation of running around on stage with major professional singers singing in your ear and a symphonic orchestra playing at your feet is for me an unparalleled thrill, especially when the music is done well.

This production of "Norma" isn't great, by any means, but it's "not bad," and doesn't get in the way of the opera, which IS great.

Steve Winn, the reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote a very kind review today saying much the same thing.

Click here to check it out.


cedichou said...

was it you who tripped on the trunk during Sunday's matinee? Oh man, that guy came so close to disaster...

Those posts are great!

markleym said...

Oh, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful - as always. The open studios and now Norma. You get such such great pix and you write so well, telling us the details that are exactly what we want to know and won't get anywhere else. Thanks again, Mike.

sfmike said...

Dear Cedric: No, it wasn't me tripping on the black-tree-stump-on-the-black-floor, but Norma almost backed up over one in the finale and so have a number of the other supernumeraries. We're still waiting for the first person to do an unintentional head-first dive over one of them and there are enough performances left that it's a real possibility.

By the way, the second performance on Wednesday night sounded quite a bit better than the opening Sunday afternoon, except for the tenor. Norma is really letting loose and her duets with Adalgisa are finally becoming sumptuous, intimate and beautiful. They should be awesome further down the line.

cedichou said...


you are so lucky to have the best seat in the house. I thought the opening sounded mostly ok (Mishina was amazing in particular). I wish I could see more operas and see the run evolve. Oh well, won't be back before Verdi.

Houston said...

Good pictures, great story.

the Witch said...

You are a gift, Mike.