Friday, March 14, 2014

Here and Back Again in NYC - Day 6 - Opening Night of Werther at the Met and Met Museum

I’m going describe now one of the coolest days of my life!
It all started quite smoothly but I knew that by the end of the day I would be freaking out. So after me and mum grabbed some breakfast we went to the Met to pick up my tickets for Werther and I took this opportunity to snap a pic with my favorite tenor.

This day we went to one of my favorite places in NYC, the other Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I make sure that every time I come to the city I go to this museum and I was particularly pumped about going because I was (am actually) reading the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. I know what you might think, these books about the Kanes and Percy Jackson are for children/teenagers but, even if they are, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass! I absolutely LOVE the way this guy writes, I read all the Percy Jackson books and the Heroes of Olympus in lighting speed. Plus I love everything about mythology, any kind, but specially Greek and then my second favorite is Egyptian, so there you go. Some of you might be confused, the books I’m reading tell the story of two siblings who find out they are descendant from not only one but two pharaoh blood lines. Being a descendant they can do Egyptian magic but being a double descendant makes them very powerful and also apt to host spirits of Gods like Isis and Horus. Pretty cool I must confess. Most importantly they live in our present so, yes, they do have a battle at the Temple of Dendur at the Met Museum.

As I was saying I was pretty pumped to go to the Met Museum and of course started out at the Egyptian part. I probably have already said this but they make you make a very though decision just as you arrive in that museum. Would you like to start in the Greek/Roman part of the Egyptian one? Well, we hanged around Egypt for a while as I ate up everything I could and took pictures of the mummies and patiently waited for something to move (sad to report nothing did move though…).

We had a museum quality lunch in which we ate over priced salads and then moved upstairs where they had the cool musical instruments and the paintings. This second floor is just bliss, especially the French Paintings bit, such exquisitely beautiful works of art. I’m what you would call very traditional when it comes to paintings, so I mostly like very realistic paintings as opposed to dots and shapeless things. But one of my favorite painters is George Serraut that introduced such revolutionary ways of painting back in his day (information I have acquired thanks to a musical called Sunday in the Park with George).

We left the Museum around 5:30, more like they kicked us out because they were closing. We went back to the hotel and for the first time in forever I actually had time to dress up for the opera. Because I was wearing my day clothes back in Rusalka and it just wasn’t classy. I decided to wear shoes and 2 thick stockings because it was opening night and I had been wearing boots all day, worst decision ever. I wore a very pretty black dress but I should have brought the boots in a bag or something. The moment I was out in the street on my way to the Met I regretted the shoes. They got wetish and so very very cold, when I finally made it to the Met I was almost crying out of sheer joy of being warm but then I remembered what I was there for and became even happier.

I met Melanie and we chatted for a little while before the opera began. We spotted Danielle DeNiese and Placido Domingo in the rich person’s dinner thing. So exciting! I had never seen Placido before in the flesh and he’s like the coolest person in opera today apart from being the very first opera singer I ever heard actually sing. My dad had his CD when I was little and I just loved it!

Werther time! I was beyond excited, this would be the first time of me seeing Jonas Kaufmann and I just adore him! Plus the first time I saw Lisette Oropesa who is so incredible and it was opening night of one of the most anticipated operas of the season, so yeah, pretty fucking awesome. I was sitting in the Family Circle premium so I got amazing sound and OK view, couldn’t see facial expressions, which was really a bum, but what can you do?

Patrick was super pumped about this
The overture starts and we see a family (Charlotte’s) at Christmas when suddenly the tallest woman faints and one of the small children exclaims “Mama!”. This I thought was so incredible. During the overture we could see when the mother died, after she was taken away they came back all in black carrying a coffin. There was a statue of a woman weeping covering her face in the garden that represented the mother in whose feet all her children laid flowers. This is quite interesting and useful because in a superficial level you kind of understand why the father is rehearsing Christmas Carols in July. And in a deeper level you can see the mother, she’s not a ghost, the promise Charlotte makes to her becomes more tangible and alive.

The scenery was so lovely! It was simple yet relevant. I love stagings like this that act as a vessel for the performer as opposed to upstaging them. The floor was made out of crooked floor boards that give the whole first scene a nice “twist”. We are brought to a sunny July afternoon when the widowed Baliff is trying to rehearse Christmas carols with his young children but all the youngsters want to do is play. I have to give a standing ovation to those kids, they were simply perfect. Of course this is the Met and perfection is the ultimate goal but not only did they sing the part with most clear diction, dynamic and beautiful color but they also acted so well. I do like to observe everyone on stage when I watch something like this, because during the not so interesting conversation Baliff is having with his two friends the kids are on fire.

Seriously, when Jonas first appeared some people actually clapped. I thought they only did stuff like that for Placido Domingo or someone as equally monumental. Not that Jonas isn’t great but I didn’t think that the clapping was so necessary. I probably have said this before but Werther is one of those operas that I know most of by heart so as Jonas melted my heart with his amazing rendition of “Oh Nature” I didn’t know if I was gap faced or if I mouthed the words. Now some people like to say that he darkens his voice and that he must sound small live. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, his voice is scarily dark but from what I could capture it was all natural and it was monstrous! It was BIG! I didn’t think it was that big, so I was really in the clouds when he finished the aria, unfortunately the people didn’t clap. Go figure.

As soon as Werther sees Charlotte is like he’s been shot by the cupid. They are both kind of shy and adorable around each other at first which is so endearing! I must confess I hadn’t seen Sophie Koch in many things but I was blown away by how amazing she sounds live! Lush, velvety, big and full of emotion she was a perfect Charlotte from start to finish.

To add to the mix Lisette Oropesa’s voice sounded just as big and lovely as the two protagonists. I found that in this production, apart of all the wonderful things I will describe later, they had an amazing balance of voices that sounded absolutely gorgeous together. Everyone had quite full voices which melted into each other's and that helped tremendously in emerging oneself into the piece.

Lisette Oropesa and David Bizic
Charlotte serves a very real chocolate cake to her siblings and her and Werther are off to the ball. The ball part must have been one of my favorite parts. I know what you are thinking, what ball part? What happened was, during the big introduction of the garden scene after the party they actually made a silent party scene and it was SO romantic! The floor boards uncrooked themselves and projections helped build the idea of an indoors location. There were some couples that started dancing together and so did Werther and Charlotte and seriously, it was so freaking damn romantic! The music helped immensely setting the romantic mood but Jonas and Sophie were absolutely in the same page and had incredible chemistry.

We go to the garden scene that is one of my favorite scenes and it was just bliss from start to finish. The orchestra sounded exquisite and the couple on stage seriously stole my heart. It’s so great to watch people who have already done the work together before because the more they do it the more intimate they become and let me tell you, that duet was downright romantic and melancholic and all things Massenet! Charlotte’s father calls her out just in time to ruin the almost kiss they would be sharing, I hate that part. End of act one.

We only had a 2 minute pause until act 2 began. Curtain goes up on act two and we still have the same mold of the set but some props have been put up to make us believe we are in a different location. I thought one thing that was absolutely fascinating was during that duet from those two ‘comic relief’ guys there were some ladies setting up a table. And I seriously could not tear my eyes from them, they did such a meticulous job, the table looked absolutely gorgeous by the end. But on to the story, it’s Sunday and it’s apparently the Vicar’s wedding anniversary so he’s having a lunch with his friends.

Everyone is pretty much sunshine and happiness and here comes Werther as gloomy as can be because his beloved married someone else because of a stupid promise (Yeah, the scenes at the beginning did not change my mind as to how stupid I thought that promise was). Charlotte looks very miserable as well with her marriage.

I’m not a really big fan of the second act, I don’t really like it that Albert (that’s Charlotte’s husband) approaches Werther and sings an aria about how he kinda knows the guy is into his wife. Although the Serbian baritone David Bizic (sorry, I am not able to write his name right) was absolutely fantastic, just like the rest of the principal cast his voice soared through the Met with much ease and beauty. Even though I’m not a fan of this act my favorite part has to be Sophie’s aria and Lisette did such a marvelous job. She was so happy and bubbly and what a VOICE! At the end of the aria she just turned around and walked away sustaining a gorgeous diminuendo A, I felt the itching urge of clapping and screaming.

Well Werther and Charlotte have another aching duet sequence in which he tells her he loves her and wants to run away and be with her. And she’s like “I’m married, I can’t, that ship has sailed Werther”. They keep that for a while and then Charlotte tells Werther to leave and to only come back on Christmas day and that’s the best for them both. Werther is of course distraught and Sophie comes on to him like “Come on dance with me Mousier Werther” and he’s like “My live is over, I’m leaving forever” and Sophie is rather upset about that. Maybe she has a crush on him, WHO WOULDN’T? You’d have to be crazy to send away a guy like Jonas K, right Charlotte? Ok, I’m getting too emotional. Ends act 2 intermission time!

I spent my intermission with my great opera friends Melanie and Mike. We all could barely describe what we just saw, we were all so impressed by the whole thing. I love spending my intermissions like this, chatting with friends about the real deal of opera. What normally happens in Brazil during my intermissions is that I spend them alone tweeting about what just happened. But being with these people makes me so incredibly happy. The gong went off and on we go for acts 3 and 4.

Three very happy opera heads
Curtain up and we see Charlotte’s living room with the traditional piano, books, and gun box. As I’ve said before, the production is very pretty but it really does not stand out. Then Sophie Koch totally rips our hearts out with the troubles of Charlotte. Because Werther left but they still correspond, he sends her letters all the time, love filled letters that would melt any heart! In his last letter he tells her that if he doesn’t come back for Christmas that she pray for his soul. Meaning he was gonna kill himself. So she’s pretty desperate.

Enters Sophie all cotton candy and happiness. She notices her sister is distressed and then Koch sings one of my favorite arias “Va! Laisse couler mes larmes”. It was so gorgeous and the ease with which Koch travels through her registers is really amazing. That ease allows her to give herself completely to the performance and really bare her soul in one of the most heartfelt musical moments of the entire piece. My teacher used to say that this aria is two pages complete and utter FEELING. I wish I could sing it, but elas, I can’t haha

After that Sophie leaves and just as Charlotte is getting to the edge of desperation that Werther theme plays and double doors open. He’s looking worst than ever and having homicidal thoughts. Sometimes Charlotte’s lack of compassion towards him irritates me and I really would like to see a production in which she is warmer to him. I know it’s impossible to change what’s being said but what they actually do is entirely up to the stage director, she could be saying “NO” in a less cold way. I know this is a German tale, but still, I’m Brazilian, we want heat and physical contact for Christ sakes, isn’t this a love story or something?

Anyways, they talk and as Werther starts getting into that suicidal vibe again Charlotte asks him to read her a poem he’d been translating and here we go. “Pourquoi me réveiller” was out of this world. No wonder there’s a video on YouTube of Jonas singing this entitled “The best tenor of the world”. It is just so unbelievable how his voice is so absolutely different from what you would expect from a tenor singing this kind of repertoire and still, he sounds like something out of the heavens.

Something quite funny happened to me during this aria actually. Because it was such a heartfelt moment and I started leaning forward and suddenly I feel a hand grip my from behind and it proceed to put me back on my normal sitting position. I have to say I was kind of mortified when that happened and felt really bad that I was blocking the guy’s view. But after the opera the first thing I did was turn around and apologize expecting the guy to be a total jerk but he was actually really cool about it and said that happened all the time.

Anyways, this aria got a very generous ovation. Then there’s that flame that starts building up as Werther sees that Charlotte does indeed have feelings for him and, for lack of better word, kinda attacks her. I thought it was pretty hot, them both in the divan kissing, then dropping to the floor while passionately gabbing each other. If I was the lady playing Charlotte I would give a big shout out to that stage director “THANK YOU MAN!”, I mean, it’s Jonas Kaufmann!

But of course she has that whole guilt and vow bull and runs away locking a door on her way out and one of the most heart breaking things in the opera is Werther reaching out for the locked door and begging her to open it then slowly sliding his back on the door crying. BANG, my heart was torn to pieces! He leaves and Albert comes back home to find it messed up, he calls Charlotte. They receive a message from Werther asking for Albert to lend his guns for he is going on a long journey. Albert sends them off to him and Charlotte finally realizes that the plan is actually suicide. She rushes through the snowy streets to Werther’s house.

What was pretty cool about this production was that there was no pause whatsoever between acts 3 and 4. The scenery is taken away as Charlotte puts on her boots and then you see a large square far in the back of the stage. At first I thought it was a projection but it was actually Werther’s room with Werther on the inside. As it approaches you can see the scene of Werther getting the guns unfold. He takes one of the guns and points to his head and for a moment there you go like “Holy moly he’s gonna do it!” but he lowers the gun looking quite desperate. The music starts building up and then out of the blue BAM, he shoots himself in the stomach area. And let me tell you live in HD people, it’s sudden and really loud and everyone is gonna get startled when it happens. Specially because a perfectly synchronized projection of his blood spilling on the wall happens and you are like “Holy shit that was brutal”. I’m so not complaining about it though, I thought it was brilliant but it is not subtle.

Charlotte arrives moments later to find him nearly dead on the floor and I couldn’t believe I wasn’t crying yet (it’s mostly because the guy behind me doing that thing kind of unsettled me a bit). Now Charlotte is beyond desperate but Werther is already in another dimension, he knows he’s gonna die so all he wants is to cherish his last moments with the woman he loves. OH MY GWAD THE FEELS! He puts him on the bed and tucks him in and of course gives him all he ever wanted, a kiss which is so romantic! For a moment they are there in each other’s arms, he stands and she comes to stand behind him as they embrace and oublion tout.

This is when I started crying, they are there forgetting about everything when suddenly there’s an orchestral bang and you can hear the children go “Noel, Noel, Noel” and Lisette starts singing the most gorgeous melody and Werther comes back to his senses feeling his wound and falls on the floor. This isn’t even heart breaking, this is heart dilacerating! Jonas gave one hell of a performance, absolutely genius performance. I was expecting something quite exceptional coming from him but he exceeded my expectations by a long shot! At the end I was helplessly crying like a retard and many people around me where also weeping. That’s why people go to the opera, right? To cry their eyes out!

Curtain call was insane, the audience was crazy! I think even the singers were a little bit taken by surprise due to such a loud ovation. Jonas only had to give one tiny step down stage that I felt like that Metropolitan Opera would fall from the screaming and applause. It was SO FUCKING AWESOME to be a part of that! These curtain call pic were taken by my friend Felipe Cunha, thanks man!

the principal cast plus maestro

Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch

Jonas getting flowers, close up on Lisette's face, da best!
Well from having tweeted Lisette I found out they would be going to a cast party after the opera and would be leaving quite late. But I had attached to me a very big Jonas fan whose only opportunity to actually talk to him was today so we were not leaving. What we did was, we went to that Starbucks just across from Lincoln Center and grabbed some coffee and there we stayed until they closed up (around midnight) and kicked us out. Then we went to the stage door that was not deserted (I was expecting it to be deserted). There were two guys there and OF COURSE the crazy white haired bag old lady named Linda. She was chatting (the way we all know so well how she ‘chats’) with the two guys who seemed so nice but we didn’t want to talk to them afraid that the crazy lady would talk to us. One thing you do NOT want to be associated with at stage doors are people like her, you just don’t. She went away for some mysterious reason and we took this opportunity to approach the boys and them about these ‘stage door beggars’. The guys were beyond nice, they were both from Russia, one was a singer and the other was a pianist and they were both still students just like me and Mike. We hit it off SO well. They told us that Placido Domingo had come out the stage door just a while before we arrived and they got to chat with him! Of course I was very jealous but I was about to meet Jonas Kaufmann so I wasn’t THAT upset!

At about 1:15 in the morning Jonas came out with some other people that turned out to be his agent and publicist. I don’t know why, but I never am the first person to go up and talk to the singer, I always let my friends chat to the person first. I don’t really know why but in doing so I end up talking to the people that are accompanying the singer and this time I had the absolute pleasure of talking to his agent. The guy is so cool, he’s from NYC and he speaks many languages and when he learned I was from Brazil he immediately started to talk in Portuguese like a native. Now Portuguese is a very difficult language as Renée Fleming herself has already pointed out, the most difficult language for her, and she sings in Czech and Russian and Elvish for Christ sakes! Plus, he was really nice.

But on to Jonas, I have to admit I was very star stuck when I met him, I think I’ve never been so star struck in my whole life. He’s very tall and very handsome and when he smiles I feel like fainting, he’s a presence, and no, I’m not overreacting! He was SO cool, he talked to all of us and even told me that he was dying to do something here in Brazil. He’s a very simple guy and was extremely humbled by all the things we told him. When I told him he was my favorite male singer of all times he looked me straight in the eye and said “Really? Oh my, thank you so much, it’s such an honor”. I mean, how can you not adore a man like that? He signed all my cds and took this lovely, lovely picture with me which I will cherish forever.

Right after he left Lisette came out and I just turned to her and said “I know you told me not to wait in the cold, sorry!”. And she was soooooo cool. It just like the whole Joyce thing all over again, she looked at me with a big smile and said “Isabela?” and we hugged and it was awesome! We talked a great deal more with her and her husband who was also really cool. And I totally love it how we can just talk about the production and the music and everything with the performers and it’s totally normal, they are extremely humble and so opened to what you have to say. I love it when I feel I got to have an exchange with the singer and tell her how I really felt when I heard her sing and that was definitely what I felt about meeting Lisette.

I was happy as can be after that. Sophie Koch came out but since I don’t really know her work I didn’t think it would be very sincere to go up to her and start up a conversation and ask for a picture. I did congratulate her and tell her she had done so wonderfully that night but Mike did most of the talking and I acted as more of a photographer.

After that we decided to grab something to eat, so off we went to some diner place, me, Mike and our new found Russian friends. We stayed in that diner eating not so good junk food and talking about opera until 3:30 in the morning! It was a lot of fun and you people know me, I love making new friends, especially if they are opera fans and even more if they are fellow musicians. So we really had a blast that night.  

I took about a week to write all this, I hope you guys liked it and I promise I won’t take that long ever again to post. Peace to you all!


  1. Wow, brilliant! Thanks for the wonderful reminiscence of this great evening! I was so happy to have met you all!

  2. Fantastic write up. Opera needs more patrons like you! Rowna Sutin