Thursday, November 22, 2007
Homo Night at the Opera with Angela
The San Francisco Opera started a dubious marketing campaign a couple of years ago called "The Rainbow Series"...
...where "same-sexers," as Gore Vidal likes to call gays and lesbians, are invited to subscribe to a special series of evenings where there will be plenty of other same-sexers attending.
Besides lighting up the facade of the opera house with rainbow-colored gels...
...and throwing up a couple of large rainbow flags on the outdoor Grand Tier balcony...
...the same-sexers are invited at intermission to a special party for them on the same balcony complete with complimentary champagne.
I'm not sure how one would go about proving that one belonged in this group, but I wore a "Gay Mafia" T-shirt under my jacket just in case.
Wednesday evening's opera, though adamantly heterosexual, turned out to be a perfect fit for the evening. It was Puccini's late attempt (1917) at Viennese operetta, "La Rondine" ("The Swallow"), which was all about a kept woman in Paris who leaves her rich banker sugar-daddy for true love with a young, innocent provincial. When his mother writes to them at their lovely rooms on the French Riviera that she looks forward to meeting his "chaste" bride, our heroine has a moment of moral clarity and refuses to soil the mother's doorstep, returning instead to Paris to suffer in luxury with the old banker. And what wordly San Francisco gay or lesbian couldn't relate to that story?
I stood in the balcony for the first performance of the "La Rondine" run featuring OperaVision, which are two high-definition Jumbotron screens that descend from the ceiling on the far left and right, and feature closeups of the performers.
Though management was a little worried about how this would be received by balcony operagoers, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and personally I love it, since the sound is so good at the top of the opera house and I can finally see the little singers on the stage without opera glasses.
The performers and the production were both outstanding, and my only quibble is with the ugly fake fireplace looking like a Yule Log Television Show all through the first act. (The very entertaining blog, "Opera Tattler," click here, also decries the sparkly disco ball in Act Two which kept shining in her eyes).
The opera itself is weird and it's easy to see why it hasn't been a popular success like "Madama Butterfly" or "La Boheme," where the soprano dies for her sexual sins. The four major roles are written for two sopranos and two tenors, which almost has the effect of canceling each other out, and the score is all over the place. Still, it's late Puccini, and the music is much more complexly gorgeous than anticipated.
What the opera needs above all is a Serious Diva in the title role, and Angela Gheorghiu making her San Francisco Opera debut gave a classic, over-the-top diva performance, marshaling her resources with intelligence and letting loose with unspeakably pretty lines when the moment called for it. Both Angela and the young Ukranian tenor Misha Didyk looked fabulous on the OperaVision screens, and were actually convincing as French-kissing young lovers. There are two more performances, on Sunday afternoon the 25th and next Thursday evening, November 29th. I wouldn't mind seeing the production again.