Monday, December 7, 2009

An Afternoon (to forget) at the Opera

For the second year in a row, I attended opening night at La Scala. Through the glory of simultaneous live HDTV broadcast from Milan, I was able to thoroughly enjoy an entire performance of Carmen from a theater seat in the West 90's. Well, almost thoroughly...see below....

The voices and staging were excellent, and though acting skills were wanting in a few cases (a flaw magnified by HDTV, which places you literally on stage during much of the performance), the Italians loved it and were squealing with delight at the final curtain.

As for the local audience here, well, it was one of those Only in New York moments. Don't know if you'll recall my blog entry last season about the two patrons who arm wrestled each other to the floor one night at the Met. Today was worse.

I knew we were in for a rough ride when a nice man in black tie came on stage before the performance to try to narrate what we were seeing, as the pre-curtain commentary from Milan was, naturally, in Italian. He was not three seconds into his introduction when the cat-calls began from the back third of the auditorium---Speak up! Can't hear youuuu! Louder! And as he tried to raise his voice to accommodate those in the rear, they only grew more insistent: Speak UP! Louder! LOU-der! LOUUUDER! WHAAAAT!? COME ONNNN! CAN'T HEAAAAR YOUUUUUUU !

Here's the surprise....or maybe it's not so much: the cat-calls were coming from 60, 70 and 80+ year old men and women scattered throughout the audience. I didn't mind the pushing and shoving and walkers and canes in my face on the way in---all in a day's work on the upper west side, after all. (Luckily, no strollers...) But the shenanigans did not stop there--in fact, they only got worse.

1. A 60-something woman four rows ahead of me was complaining about the woman in back of her making too much noise and aggressively began pointing fingers at her---and this was BEFORE the lights went down. The 'noisy' woman's husband brushed her hand away from his wife, and then the shrieking began---he TOUCHED me!! don't you dare TOUCH me!! A woman two rows back from her starts hollering: honey, you should be so lucky. And others immediately got into the act. Shut up! Backing forthing backing forthing. A nightmare.

2. The distinguished maestro for the evening, Daniel Barenboim, a somewhat odd duck to be sure, entered the orchestra pit and must have caught the back of his formal coat on his chair, since he became ensnared as he was settling into his seat, provoking howling and peals of laughter everywhere, as if I were watching a Three Stooges movie with a bunch of 8 year olds. At the beginning of Act II, as he settled into his chair once again, this time un-ensnared, the giggles and catcalls and derisive laughter started all over again.

3. During the second intermission, I went downstairs to the men's room, only to discover that all three toilet stalls were occupied by 60-something ladies, who finished their business and then marched out in front of 4 or 5 of us, complaining that they had decided not to wait in the line for the ladies' room.

4. People were complaining and critiquing the performance all around me. Nothing was good enough for them. I've been going to the Met for nearly 25 years, and I never heard so many opinionated 'experts' as my fellow $26 general admission ticketholders today.

5. No one stands up to let people pass through the rows when they need to arrive late or leave early. I literally tripped over a man and his wife as they refused to budge at the end of the opera and nearly catapulted myself into the aisle.

Did I do something wrong? If this is my future, hand me the pistol, Mabel.....

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