Saturday, October 5, 2013

Trip to New York - Day 2 - Operarox Meetup/ Met Backstage Tour/ Norma

Hey guys! So, I'm totally having the time of my life right now, so let's get down to it.

Woke up around 8 and after taking far too long to get ready me and my mum went out for breakfast. We went to this fantastic place called Le Pain Quotidien, half of the menu is in french and it's kinda posh but the food is incredible. As I had plans to have coffee later I ordered a raspberry lemonade, plus a waffle and a croissant that I enhanced by adding cheese and smoked salmon. 

Then I rushed to Lincoln Center to meet my good friend Kim. It was so nice to finally meet a friend from my twitter/internet world in real life. She's the sweetest and we had loads to talk about while having coffee just bellow Lincoln Center. Then she took me to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and I was so stunned. Man, there are no places in Brazil like that. Shelves and shelves of all kinds of sheet music you can possibly think of, there just a touch away and you can actually take it home with you, WHAT? I took some pictures because I'm such a tourist, right?

And that's me and Kim at the Library

Time flew by today! Before I knew it it was one in the afternoon and I had to rush to my mum so we could have lunch. We ended up going to the place just bellow the Empire Hotel (Chuck's Hotel), I don't remember the name of the place right now but I'll edit this as soon as I do. 

So we were there waiting for our lunch and along comes this cute old couple and sit right beside us. It was only obvious that we started chatting, and when I say we I mean me and the lady, my mum just nods haha. And what do I find out but that she's also a huge opera fan and has been going to the Met ever since FOREVER. That she even bought her apartment 50 years ago just around the corner from the Met because she loves opera so much. Her place is worth 20 times the price she payed. 20, insane. I had such a lovely time talking to her that I barely touched my Fish and Chips which were delicious but the conversation was so engaging! She told me she had seen the new production of Norma and that it was spectacular. Unfortunately we had to leave since we had to be at the Met at 2:30 for our backstage tour.

Well, we crossed the street and went straight into the Met. Our group had about 10 people I think and our guide was very nice indeed. But nicer than that was discovering just a few minutes in that there was an operarox peep with me there. Our Donna Elvira, Kelsey, what a coincidence, right? Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any pictures but I will try and describe the tour as best as I can.

We went in through the stage door and I was so excited! First she showed us the auditorium. She explained how everything there has a round format in order for the sound to travel better and how the ceiling was actually made of gold and the wooden walls came ALL from the same gigantic African tree. It was my first time inside the Met so I felt like crying a lot, it's really HUGE. I'd be afraid to try and fill that house with my voice! There had just been a stage rehearsal of Midsummer Night's Dream and the stagehands were muscling down the stuff from that production and setting up everything for tonight's Norma.

From there we went to the actual backstage part of the tour. We went behind the stage and really, this place is huge, like the whole stage is the size of a football stadium, with a bunch of elevators and all sorts of things you could never imagine seeing in an opera house. What was exciting though was that the boxes and pieces of scenery all had the opera name tags on them. I was very tempted to one 'Werther' tag home with me, but didn't. Actually when we went by a rack of costumes that said Eugene Onegin I spotted Tatyana's first act dress and touched it because I'm such an idiot haha.

We saw the costume department with hundreds if not thousands of awesome costumes, gosh everything at the Met is so huge and awesome! Then we went to the rehearsal rooms. We only saw a tad bit of two rehearsals through the relatively small glass of the doors. The first one was Tobby Spence singing a Midsummer Night's Dream and that already was very exciting. The next one I almost a heart attack and died. It was FREAKING ALICE COOTE! She was rehearsing Two Boys and me and Kelsey were FREAKING OUT! I couldn't actually believe it, I adore her. I seriously did not want to leave there, really just not. 

But I had to and then we headed to the dressing rooms area. Really exciting since we see a lot of that at the Live in HDs and The Audition documentary. It's so funny because it's a long corridor and they separate the rooms by voice type, so in the middle you would have the sopranos and tenors and to the ends mezzos, baritones and basses. weird, right? We couldn't actually get inside the dressing rooms but one had it's door opened and I could see both of Norma's dresses hanging and I was like "HOLY MOTHER OF JESUS THIS IS SONDRA'S!!!", I'm such a goof. But anyways then we were off to the Set department and Jesus, huge, gigantic, holy crap. Really, guys, those people at the Met are building dreams, every single one of them! After that it was bye bye time and I couldn't help but think that this tour should have showed us more and lasted longer.

I chatted with Kelsey for quite a while before her dad arrived and then I decided that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't grasp the opportunity to see Norma later that day. So I went to the box office and asked the very nice (and cute) guy if they had any tickets left for today's performance. He told me he did and that he actually had a pretty awesome student ticket for $37 sitting at the Grand Tier. The normal price of that ticket was $200. THANK YOU GOD and cute guy. I was so happy hopping around with my precious ticket.

Then me and my mum went back to the Hotel and I tuned in to watch what remained of Joyce's Masterclass. What I could hear of it was, of course, awesome as can be. I wasn't able to go to the Masterclass itself because it was only for Juilliard students and guests so no luck there. But as I got ready to go to the Met and watched the Masterclass it dawned on me that I could actually catch her when she left Juilliard. So the second the Masterclass ended I rushed out of the Hotel all dressed up to go to the opera and ran 4 blocks to Juilliard. But when I asked the security guard if she had left he told me she was probably in a reception they were giving upstairs. Then he asked me if I had arranged to meet her there and I just put on my non fanatical fangirl face and said "On no, I just wanted to tell her something, but that's quite alright, I can't wait for her because I'm going to the opera. I'll talk to her later, but thank you, bye!"

Well, I had one a blueberry scone for dinner and headed off to the Met for my first opera EVER there! I was actually glad I was alone because I find that at the end of the day I am a loner you know and I could just have this moment to myself. Well, of course I took pictures of the chandeliers and just looking at them makes you believe in magic you know. My seat was REALLY NICE. It had an amazing view, I was so lucky. The gentleman sitting next to me was extremely nice and of course, again, I started to talking to him and his wife. They are from the Netherlands and also love opera. Man, all these people that I'm meeting here are so awesome. Why aren't there people like that in São Paulo? 

The Chandeliers and the view from my seat

The chandeliers went up and it was time for Norma. One amazing thing about the Met is that they don't work with surtitles above the stage but with amazing monitors just on the seat in front of you were you can see the translations. And at the tour we learned that it is not automatic, that there are actually two people controlling the release of the translation in EVERY SINGLE PERFORMANCE! Wow!

This was my first time ever seeing Norma so that already is pretty exciting. I hadn't read the story and was ready for the opera to tell it to me. Curtain comes up and it's a pretty simple set and also simple costumes for the chorus. It was so odd seeing a live opera at a house as big as the Met, because you think you will never be able to hear the singers well because it's so big, right? But it was scary how clear everything was and I could hear everybody quite well. 

The story is not our usual opera plot but we have the heroin being actually totally rejected by her beloved even though they'd been together for quite a while and even had kids! When Sondra walked in I gasped and when she started singing my mouth was hanging opened and it only closed to clap for Casta Diva. I can't even begin to describe how her voice is, it's so big and just as it is in the CDs I have of hers which was just delightful! It's so incredible I never heard a voice like that before, it is velvety but has a strong brilliant point that just showers you with amazing sound. 

Her Casta Diva was INCREDIBLE. Just so amazing. Really. And I think everybody in the audience agreed with me because she got almost a minute of ovation after that. The plot moves on and we met the mezzo who has stolen Norma's love and she has a great duet with the tenor and he finally convinces her to come away with him. Second act we have sad lonely Norma with her two cute kids and Adalgisa comes along to confess to her everything that has happened between her and the Roman who stole her heart. At first Norma is totally sympathetic and supportive and their duet just soared, I liked the cadenzas specially when they sing together in thirds that was really lovely. 

But along comes the tenor and they realize they are talking about the same man. This trio at the end of act 2 was so amazing. Their voices really melted so well with one another and it was just a bomb of "YOU BASTARD" "I DON'T WANT YOU ANYMORE" "OH MY GOD I'M SO CONFUSED". And I love it how Norma starts getting a bit of that crazy vibe at this point. It just explodes and at the end of act 2 I was mind blown. 

Intermission was spent basically tweeting and at the ladies' room line but it went by pretty fast, before I knew it this scary sounding gong was going on and on and I went back to my seat. 

Act 3 we have worried Norma who wants to kill her children, going all Medea on us, but she can't do it (thank God, how awful would that be, hun?). Sondra was real amazing in this, specially her pianos and pianissimos, they were so poignant at this point to express her absolute despair and loss of hope it touched my heart. Adalgisa comes along and they make a plan to have Adalgisa convince the tenor to return to Norma and her kids and they are quite happy with the arrangement. And again we have the happy sappy thirds cadenzas and cool phrases that soared!

Of course, they plan does not work out because the tenor is such a jerk (this character is a real jerk to Norma). So Norma is pissed  and goes totally bananas, this is the kind of stuff that I love. She calls on to her people and says that the Gods have commanded for them to on into war with the Romans and just when she's about to announce who's gonna be the sacrifice they bring in her old lover. 

Now this part is so insanely cool, she hates him and loves him so bad. She was to tear him into shreds for what he did to her abandoning her with two kids to raise. And she does try to kill him, of course she can't. So she asks everybody to leave so she can interrogate him. This scene reminded me a bit of the fourth act duet of Amneris and Radames in Aida, because Norma says he can have his freedom if he vows to NEVER see Adalgisa again. I was almost thinking he would say "Non posso" like Radames, so odd.

But in his own words he refuses her offers of freedom saying he'd rather die than succumb to her wishes. She, of course is furious and there is an insane exchange at this point! She calls back her peeps and says that there is a priestess there who has dishonored her vow and shall burn in the pyre to pay for her sins. I thought that was rather bitchy but fair to the almost mad mind of Norma and then she surprises me saying that the priestess is herself.

After that the tenor sees what he once loved in her and he dies saying "I love you". It is so romantic and sad, all their exchanges from now on are tender and sad. They die burned alive (that didn't happen on stage though) and the end. 

A huuge roar came from the audience and everybody was clapping most fervently! When Sondra came on it felt like thunders were falling on the audience, it was quite lovely! 

After the opera was done down I went to the stage door. I was so excited to meet Sondra, she's one of my favorite singers and one of my big role models. I could feel my heart beating so fast in my throat. She was the last one to come out and she looked radiant. When I saw her I stopped breathing for a second, I couldn't actually believe it! She was SUPER DUPER NICE! She shook my hand and said "Hi, I'm Sondra! But you probably know that, right?". And then I told her I had come from Brazil to see her and that I was a huge fan of her work and that her "Never Louder Than Lovely" saved my life! She was so thrilled she started talking about the never louder than lovely rule but then asking me if she had applied that to her performance today. 

It was incredible, I had my picture taken with her and I kept hopping up and down with excitement while she laughed and "I don't bite you know!". She was the sweetest! She's even putting me and my mum at the backstage list for Monday's performance, by then I was over the moon!

I went walking but feeling light and free as a bird, life is good and opera is awesome, peace everybody! 

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