Friday, May 17, 2013

Our 1st trip to the Walt Disney Concert Hall

As with our tour behind the scenes with Zarkana, our dear friend Cassie really spoils Eric and I. This past Tuesday evening Cassie offered us free opera tickets to the following night's performance of The Marriage of Figaro! Since her Cirque du Soleil experience with hair and make-up, Cassie has moved on to other shows in the SoCal area. This show is her latest gig that is to be performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. 

Being that this event was "last minute", I had to secure an earlier off time and avoid the traffic up the 5 freeway. How we managed to get from work to home (tend to the dog), then get to Downtown LA, with little traffic, was pure luck! 

Being silly near the Ahmanson Theater

Upon our arrival in LA's version of towering skyscrapers, we did a quick walk about for photos. Eric and I couldn't resist a few silly "selfies" and snaps of the architecture. The concert hall itself is a masterpiece and really glistens in the sunlight. Sharing our excitement was our friend, and Cassie's husband, Ryan. Cassie's mother, Robyn (who we've also known for years) was with us as well. All of us were visiting this venue for the first time and all were dying to see the theater. Eric and I were overwhelmed with the space that is inside that location. It's a perfect and strategically carved out void that literally brings the music right to your ears. 

Our view from our seats. There is Ryan's head :-)

This performance was the cast's final dress rehearsal before Friday's opening (this isn't an OFFICIAL review). I had read a bit on the synopsis because I was sure I'd be completely lost with the Italian. Figaro wants to marry the love of his life, Susanna, but the other 6-8 characters create drama around them. The story includes The Count. He wants Susanna for himself. And, there's a sexually driven teenager that wants to be with The Count's wife, Rosina. The drama unravels and spirals during the performance that took place in four acts, about 3.5 hours. We were relieved that subtitles were used above the stage. They aren't fed "line by line" but rather just enough to convey what's happening. 

If presented traditionally, I believe the story takes place in the 1700s, but this production had a modern spin to it. The stage was bare and lighting was heavily relied upon to set the mood. Although the design was wonderful to look at (especially the hair & make-up), the lack of distinct sets made it slightly difficult for someone new to the story. Although the subtitles helped, the complicated plot would leave us scratching our heads. An example of this was at the top of Act 4. The setting was a well executed representation of a garden. Unfortunately the lighting overshadowed the actors and dimmed their faces. This fact made it tough to discern which soprano was singing. And, since the cast all sat in concert style, we had to make out who each character was addressing. 

Eric was getting a little artsy!

I want to mention how much we loved the voices of the cast. This was still a rehearsal, so to save their voices the cast would "dial it down" during certain moments. It was at those times we felt disappointed because obviously the lyrics were to be sung in a grandiose way. There are also  moments between songs where performers do what I like to call "sing songing" (not singing, not speaking, but somewhere in between). And, if you'd like to know the actual term, it's called Recitativi. It was also a thrill for us to witness the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. The musicians were in full view at the stage's edge. They're all so beautiful to watch as the bows strike across the strings of cellos and violins. 

If Eric and I have the lucky opportunity to see a different opera, like Madame Butterfly, we would jump at the chance. Cassie's mother said she is sure we would love that one. This version of the opera had the viewer working to piece together the actions, settings, motivations, cross-dressing, and character to character deceptions. Some directors would tell you that the days of a passive audience are over and the viewer should be involved. What's great about theater is that once the last note has vibrated through the building, many interpretations exist at one moment in time. Eric and I had an exciting peek into the  genre of opera and look forward to the next. 

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