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Opera, kind of - The Lyorn's Den

Sat Mar. 10th, 2007

11:59 pm - Opera, kind of

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Saturday I had to work, shop for groceries and wash my hair. All that was done at half past two, which didn't leave time to go hiking, but enough to go into town and see a show. I had planned on seeing the "One Man Star Wars Trilogy" at the Post Street Theatre, but I didn't feel up to comedy, not even Star Wars comedy, and the Berkeley Opera showed an adaptation of Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio", so I decided on the latter.

Which gave me some hours to catch up on sleep, and the usual "Nothing is worth getting out of bed for..." lethargy two hours later. These days, I can mostly overcome it by imagining how annoyed at myself I would be if I was fully awake and realized that I had missed something that might have been interesting, and so I did.

The BART train was less smelly this time (usually I can't really complain about the BART trains, expect for what I do not see: like cadhla's encounter with the local wildlife at the next station from here. [via metaquotes]).

Despite my newly gained respect for the size of a "block" in Berkeley, I decided to walk from the Downtown BART station to the site, so I could stop in any bookstore I might encounter on the way, and have some coffee. I made my way through four or five bookshops (I skipped a few), without any significant successes regarding my search list (sorry, folks), but I still got a bunch of books. I'm starting to really worry about getting them home.

It was fully dark when I finally arrived at the address I had memorized, only not to find the site. In fact, there was no building with that number at all. I walked up and down the block two times, then recalled the advertisement for the show and realized that I had switched the middle numbers. Which fortunately were not a "1" and a "9". Five minutes later I had found the building, a large, somewhat drafty and slightly barn-like wooden hall with near-perfect acoustics. The hall was not too big at 350 seats, and I got a very good one despite arriving with only five minutes to spare.

I have never seen "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" as far as I remember. The plot, in short, is that a Spanish noblewoman, her maidservant and her servant have been captured by pirates and sold to a Turkish pasha, who treats them OK, but of course the noblewoman's suitor has to get her and her servants out. It's a comical opera, or more correctly a "Singspiel": spoken dialogue mixed with singing, but the dialogue and the arias do not always go well together, as the arias are much more dramatic and emotional than the dialogue. (I got that from Wikipedia, in case you were wondering.)

The company seems to have felt the same about the mismatch between arias and dialogue, and had the libretto completely re-written, and in the same go changed the setting from an exotic-romantic Turkish harem to a post-apocalyptic whorehouse and opium den. I was not entirely convinced with the world building, but I realize that my demands are unreasonable. They played with a small orchestra and replaced the choir with a small ensemble of four singers, but kept all the main roles and added a young girl and an invisible dog. I really liked that dog. I have a weakness for surreal and absurd things.

The voices were very good. Constance was amazing, and Osmin, the Pasha's head thug, was a pleasure to listen to. As for the hero and the servant, I do not care much for tenors in general -- I'd say they were OK, though they were probably better than OK, just, well, tenors. The costumes were great, and the stage design simple but with some surprising and enjoyable touches, like the column crowned by a winged aardvark. The new text was occasionally really funny, especially when Osmin was calling everyone names. There were a few moments when the dialogue suited the drama level of the arias, which worked very well. The happy end, though, became even more incongruous with the added drama level, but happy endings, I feel, are always hard to do. "Everyone dies" is so much easier.

The hall hadn't become any warmer during the performance, and when I left I felt nearly frozen solid. My guide book said that Telegraph Ave. wasn't entirely safe after dark, but I was too cold to wait for the bus, plus, it was Saturday night and I expected the place to be crowded. I was right, and if I hadn't had a train to catch I'd have detoured into a pub or café for a beer and a bite to eat. But I didn't know (still don't) how late the trains run.

In the small parks and in the doorways along Shattuck, homeless people were sleeping. Not only a few -- pretty much every place that offered either shelter or privacy was occupied. Some beggars were still awake, asking passer-bys for spare change. J___ told about his travels in India, when he was at a crowded train station in the evening, waiting for a train, and then realized that most of the people around him were bedding down for the night in the station, because they didn't have a home to go to. I am familiar with backpackers camping out at train stations to catch an early train and save the money for a room, but the scene J___ described would have disturbed me, and so did walking down a major street in Berkeley after dusk and seeing people sleeping in the doorways.

It was close to 1 a.m. when I got back to my room[*], fixed myself dinner, checked my e-mail and dropped into bed just in time to lose an hour in the thirty seconds between touching the pillow and falling asleep. I hate Daylight Saving Time.


[*] Backdating again. Because I don't care about when I wrote this, but only about when it happened.

Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted