Friday, March 20, 2015

a night at the opera

For many years I had season tickets to the Lyric Opera in Chicago but I gradually let them go by choosing packages with fewer and fewer operas.  the truth was I really didn't want to hear them sing yet another Marriage of Figaro, or Tosca, or La Boheme, or the Magic Flute, or the Barber of Seville... the old war horses - about every five years the rotation would start again with a few less frequently sung operas thrown in for variation- several that come to mind- The Cunning Little Vixen, the Cav-Pag combo and an occasional new opera like The Wedding.....

So why am I telling you this? because I am always on the lookout for things that are rarely sung and would be something new to hear.  Il Trittico was sung at the Met a few years back and I enjoyed it immensely - the three separate acts being completely different in tone- and also getting to hear them sing Gianni Schicchi was a highlight (since it is so familiar yet had not been staged at the Lyric in more than a decade of my subscriptions.)

When I saw that the Sarasota Opera was doing a season with Tosca (yawn) and Marriage of Figaro (yawn) and Don Carlos along with the Rimsky-Korsakov Golden Cockerel, I spang into action and bought tickets for the Golden Cockerel.  I had never heard it sung or seen it staged before - a NEW (to me) opera!!!!

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was famous for his ability to produce rich and exotic melodies as well as masterful orchestral textures, such as in his treasured orchestral masterpiece, Scheherazade. Already in his late years, but captivated by a poem by Pushkin, the Russian master was compelled to write The Golden Cockerel. The opera tells the story of the bumbling King Dodon who enlists the help of a magical golden cockerel to protect his country from attack. However, the poor King and his land fall prey to the seductive powers of his adversary, The Queen of Shemakha. (from the website for the opera)

So last night we went to hear the Golden Cockerel. Here are the good things about the opera:

  • the music was beautiful and the orchestra was excellent
  • the costumes and the sets were absolutely magnificent
  • the singers all did a very nice job
  • the opera was light-hearted and funny
  • the opera house is a little jewel box
  • and, we had great seats...

here is the synopsis from the opera email -

The Golden Cockerel

Stepping before the curtain, the Astrologer tells the audience that they will see a fictional tale from long ago which will have a good lesson for them.

ACT I - A great hall in the palace of King Dodon
King Dodon, surrounded by his court, complains that while he once was a young and vigorous warrior, now he just wishes to rest. Unfortunately his enemies threaten from the East and he is anxious and cannot sleep. His sons Princes Gvidon and Afron propose illogical solutions, which are applauded by all except General Polkan who dismisses them as unfeasible, much to Dodon’s annoyance.
The Astrologer appears and offers King Dodon a cockerel that will crow a warning when there is danger. Dodon is delighted and offers the Astrologer any reward. The Astrologer asks for Dodon’s promise to fulfill his wish in the future and leaves.
As Dodon begins to doze off, the Cockerel crows, warning of danger. He calls his sons to deal with the enemy. The two Princes reluctantly go off to war and Dodon settles back down to sleep.
The Cockerel crows a second time, waking Dodon and renewing the danger warning. Polkan tells the king that they must go to battle. Dodon reluctantly puts on his old armor and awkwardly mounts his horse, going off to war. Intermission

ACT II A dark night in a narrow gorge
The war has not gone well. King Dodon and General Polkan arrive to survey the damage. Corpses are everywhere; including both Princes, who have managed to kill each other.
The mist clears and a tent appears. It  opens to reveal a beautiful woman, the Queen of Shemakha. She sings a hymn to the rising sun. Dodon and Polkan admire her as she approaches. She tells them that she is their enemy who plans to conquer their city with her beauty.
The Queen begins to entice Dodon, who is confused by her attentions. She invites him to sing which he at first resists until finally succumbing to her entreaties. When he does, she laughs at him. She then reflects sadly on her homelandand Dodon promises to make her happy. Breaking from her sadness she encourages Dodon to dance with her. Since he hasn’t danced since he was a child, he declines, but again she encourages him and he breaks into a wild dance to the amusement of the Queen and her retainers.
Exhausted, Dodon begs her to return with him to his kingdom, where he will give her everything. The Queen agrees to marry Dodon and preparations are made to depart as the Queen’s servants mock the old king. Intermission

ACT III  Outside Dodon’s palace
The crowd is told that the king has been victorious and will bring home a new Queen.
Dodon and the Queen arrive in a procession to the cheers of the crowd. The Astrologer returns and asks the King to fulfill his earlier promise by giving him the hand of the Queen of Shemakha. Dodon finds this ridiculous and offers half his kingdom to the Astrologer, who nevertheless persists. In his frustration, Dodon hits the Astrologer on the head with his scepter, killing him.
The Queen is amused but Dodon thinks this is a bad omen for his wedding day. The cockerel begins to crow and lands on the King’s head, pecking at it until the King falls dead. The crowd laments their dead King as everything goes dark.
When light is restored, the Queen and the cockerel have vanished.


The Astrologer reappears before the curtain and reassures the audience that this was just a fairy tale and only he and the Queen were real.

and here is the other stuff- LOL-

The story makes no sense and even within any given act or scene is inconsistent. The program said it was based on a Pushkin ("Ah! Pushkin!"- LOL a joke from our trip to Russia) poem based on a Washington Irving story from Tales from the Alhambra. It was so muddled there was really nothing to do but go along and enjoy the fabulous scenery and costumes and music and singing- LOL - which really was more than enough for an enjoyable evening.

and - the golden cockerel was waaaaaaaaaay toooo fidgety for me- and that was a distraction- it was sitting there in the upper right rear of the staging forever breathing in and out and fussing with its feathers and generally distracting from the action in the front of the stage... it became a ridiculous part of an already ludicrous story...

but as I said- it was still a completely enjoyable evening! Tonight we are off to the Wine Walk to Ca d'Zan (year three) and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous and that means we will be dining on the terrace on beautiful Sarasota Bay!

hey- life is good!

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