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Your First Opera


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#1 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 06:32 AM

I would love to hear stories of your first operas. The first opera I ever saw I was also in; it was at the lyric opera of chicago in 1973 and was their production of 'carmen'. it starred viorica cortez, the romanian soprano, with james king as don jose and a wonderful, wonderful singer named julian patrick as escamillo. i remember i found it unusual at the time that the director was a woman, luciana novaro. also the lyric didn't stint, they hired antonio gades and his company to dance in the cafe scenes.

when i came to new york, the first opera i saw (and also my first performance at the met) was their production of 'don pasquale' with beverly sills and alfredo kraus. it was televised later with the cast i saw. i remember my surprise when the curtain rose on her smoking (or at least pretending to smoke) a cigarette! and read a romantic novel. the part seemed to suit her perfectly and the performance on video is very good.

#2 Helena

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 07:53 AM

The very first opera I went to was Britten's Let's Make an Opera, when I was a young child - I don't know if that counts. And then I was an angel in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel (a dancing part) when I was 17. The next - I suppose the first really - was Gounod's Faust in Amsterdam. It was unforgettably bad, and it's amazing that I ever went to another opera. Both Faust and Marguerite were short and fat - I was used to ballet, where heroes and heroines looked beautiful - and one of them sang in French and one in Italian, or possibly German. They sang in different languages, anyway. I was appalled by the whole thing, and it was only when I went to Britten's Peter Grimes the next year that my faith in opera as an art form was restored. I was knocked sideways by it, and he is still my favourite opera composer.

#3 Jane Simpson

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 08:29 AM

As so often happens, I seem to be trailing around in Helena's footsteps! The school I went to did school operas (often cut down versions) instead of school plays, and so the first one I ever saw was Hansel and Gretel - and I too was a dancing angel ( and a village child, also a dancing role); and the first 'real' opera I ever saw was Gounod's Faust - though in my case I quite enjoyed it. And then Peter Grimes, which indirectly changed the course of my whole life.

#4 Melissa

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 10:05 AM

I've only had one live opera experience. It was 4 or 5 years ago at the Met in a production of 'Siegfried'. I was proud of the fact that I chose not to start off with a more accessible opera like 'Magic Flute' or 'Carmen', but with a mammoth part of the Ring cycle. It was, up to that point in my life, the finest theatrical experience I'd ever had. The Met orchestra sounded gorgeous, the cast sang well, except for the stiff, bellowing Brunnhilde, and the production was impressive.

#5 Giannina

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 05:23 PM

My Italian father was an opera nut and I grew up with opera music playing constantly. I can hum a lot of arias! My Dad's favorite opera was "La Boheme" and he always cried at the ending. When I was about 10 he took me to "La Boheme" at San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House. I wasn't crazy about it but I loved being there with my father and we both cried at the ending.

Giannina

#6 Manhattnik

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 07:06 PM

A couple of years ago I realized there there was something going on at the Met when there weren't any ballet companies, so I got myself a standing-room ticket for The Queen of Spades. It was quite wonderful, although it took a bit of a willing suspension of disbelief to accept Placido Domingo as a young student (perhaps he was held back decade after decade). It took even more of that suspension to accept (or try to -- it was beyond me!) Jane Eaglen as a vision of beauty in Turandot, but no matter.

I like opera because, well, the music is wonderful, it's emotionally florid (well, quite often -- there's a reason why we use the word "operatic,"), and because I really don't know very much about it at all. Whatever I see at the ballet is informed by and filtered through the vast stores of knowledge about the subject I've managed to accumulate over the years (OK, I know the difference between an arabesque and an attitude, at least). When I go to the opera I just sit back, let it wash over me, and enjoy, as happy as a clam in mud.

That's not to say I don't realize that a Hvorostovsky or Swenson isn't pretty damn good, but I'm just not interested, at least right now, in accumulating the knowledge to tell you why and how.

I guess I'm still in a happily naif state of nature when it comes to opera.

Oh, yes, and I love those Zefirelli productions. The more elaborate, the better. Sometimes more is more.

#7 Farrell Fan

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 10:57 PM

When I was about ten, my parents took me to Randall's Island for an open-air performance of Aida by the Salmaggi Opera Company. Randall's Island is in New York's East River, convenient to East Harlem, where we lived. We got there via a short walk on the recently-completed Triborough Bridge. This was during World War II, and the Salmaggi Company, never exactly top-drawer, probably was even worse in those years. Nevertheless, I remember enjoying the performance, particularly the Aida. I still remember the notes of her "Numi, Pieta" floating in the summer night. The sound system must have been ahead of its time.

The first indoor opera I remember seeing, also with my parents, was Traviata at the New York City Opera at City Center. My father liked opera and had recordings by Caruso, Poselle, and Titta Ruffo. I listened to them and to the Saturday Met broadcasts, but didn't get to the Met for a long time. Nobody asked, but the most memorable Met performance I attended with was with Sutherland and the young Pavarotti in La Fille du Regiment. But I think even better was the New York City Opera production of Puccini's Trittico in the early 60s, with Sills, Domingo, and the great Norman Treigle.

I used to wonder what the best opera would be to introduce someone to the art, Boheme, perhaps, or Carmen. But nobody can possibly predict what will provoke a favorable response. It might even be Siegfried!

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 11:25 PM

This is a lovely thread, and was exactly what I'd hoped for. Thank you for starting it, pmeja, and thanks all for your responses.

My first was "La Boheme" (Washington Opera 20 years ago). I stood. I was bored to tears. It was the legendary tacky production, with the tiny tenor and the huge soprano and I saw no magic. I went around the time I started going to ballet, but I retreated to recordings for a long time.

#9 LMCtech

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Posted 06 March 2002 - 08:40 PM

My first live viewing of an opera was City Opera's Carmen, when I was in college.

Before that I had seen a bunch of Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts.

Now I've seen a couple of operas 40+ times and about 20 operas once or twice. It helps when you work for an opera company for three years.

#10 casloan

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Posted 15 March 2002 - 11:29 PM

quote:


Originally posted by Mme. Hermine:
I would love to hear stories of your first operas. The first opera I ever saw I was also in; it was at the lyric opera of chicago in 1973 and was their production of 'carmen'. it starred viorica cortez, the romanian soprano, with james king as don jose and a wonderful, wonderful singer named julian patrick as escamillo. i remember i found it unusual at the time that the director was a woman, luciana novaro. also the lyric didn't stint, they hired antonio gades and his company to dance in the cafe scenes.

when i came to new york, the first opera i saw (and also my first performance at the met) was their production of 'don pasquale' with beverly sills and alfredo kraus. it was televised later with the cast i saw. i remember my surprise when the curtain rose on her smoking (or at least pretending to smoke) a cigarette! and read a romantic novel. the part seemed to suit her perfectly and the performance on video is very good.



#11 Alexandra

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Posted 15 March 2002 - 11:32 PM

Hi CSloan! How about telling us about your first opera!! (Hit the Add Reply button. It's at the bottom of the little window where you type. If you want to see what you've posted before you post, click Preview Post. THEN close out that window, and click Add Reply.)

#12 casloan

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Posted 15 March 2002 - 11:46 PM

'Sorry that my previous attempt at posting a reply did not work.

My husband was a super (that is, an extra) in the Lyric Opera "Carmen" you described. He was one of the two guardians of the gates of the bull ring in Act 4. Unfortunately, what I chiefly remember about the production, other than his participation, was that, when inspiration failed, the director had cast members throw things (oranges, flyers advertising the bullfight, etc.).

My first opera, also at Lyric, was "Aida" with Leontyne Price. Yes, it was wonderful. I'm tempted to say that it has all been downhill since then, but that's not really true. Although that performance will always be a highlight of my opera experiences, there have been many more.

To cite just a few examples: My husband and I were absolutely delighted with the Met's "Meistersinger" in December, even with Ben Heppner's (we hope temporary) vocal difficulties. Lyric's "Hansel and Gretel" last fall was a bizarre production that, nonetheless, worked beautifully. And, Chicago Opera Theater's recent "Cosi Fan Tutte," set in a bar, was superb, both vocally and visually.

#13 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 06:22 AM

i would love to correspond further with you about this, you are the first i have ever found who remembers it! *(yes, i was one of the flyer-throwers!)
please feel free to private message to me as your profile does not allow it, and i will e-mail you my address.
thanks!
p

#14 piccolo

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Posted 10 April 2002 - 04:23 PM

A late post but a post nonetheless.

My first opera was La Boheme at Santa Fe Opera. I didn't have a strong reaction to it, one way or the other. My brother and I sat apart from my parents and I seem to remember our amazement at how well the soprano sung considering she was dying of consumption...

I just recently saw Tosca for the first time and it blew me away. If any of you see this message, go and see Tosca or buy a good recording of it. It is great opera. That Puccini was something else! :rolleyes:


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