Sunday, September 29, 2013

(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to a Night at the Opera)

Dimanche, 29 septembre.

There's a particularly great moment in Pretty Woman, just before Julia Roberts' character sees her very first opera. Richard Gere's character leans over and tells her: "People's reaction to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul." (So no pressure for your first opera or anything, right?!)

Of course, Julia Roberts' character goes on to be absolutely enthralled by the performance and falls in love with opera. And after seeing my first-ever opera on Friday (Orfeo et Eurydice by Christoph Willibald Gluck), I think I have to agree with her! I. LOVE. OPERA.


So, how did this opera business come about? Well, ever since our very first visit to Place de la Comédie in August, Molly and I have been talking about going to the opera. (Although, I'll be honest -- our plan was hatched a little bit more by the prospect of dressing up and wandering around the inside of the Opéra Comédie than by a desire to actually sit down and watch an opera.) We looked up the schedule, found out how to get tickets, and settled on Orfeo et Eurydice -- the first opera of the season. We ended up bringing along another of our friends and before the show, the three of us got dressed up and made dinner together! Want to know the best part? With a voucher courtesy of our Pass Culture (a really affordable discount card available to university students in Montpellier), the opera ticket only cost FIVE EUROS ... as much as we spent buying food for dinner!

You've seen my pictures of Place de la Comédie, so I'm sure you'd recognize the Opéra Comédie by now. It's a beautiful building and is always lit up at night, so people are always taking pictures of it. But little do those tourists know that the inside is even more amazing! As you walk in, you have to present your ticket and are ushered through a red velvet curtain into an atrium that just takes your breath away. Molly and I both took some pictures, but they just won't do it justice.

One we got inside the opera hall itself, the views got even better. We were towards the back of the top tier, but we were right in the very center, so the views of the opera hall were absolutely amazing. The view of the stage itself, however, was a little trickier! I had to lean to the side and sit on the edge of my seat to really be able to see what was going on.

If we were to go again, I'd love to be a row or two more forward (so there'd be fewer heads in the way), but despite my fear of heights, I absolutely loved being up high. It made the whole experience feel so much grander and more magical  ... and it also let us get closer to the beautiful chandelier!

Orfeo ed Eurydice is an Italian opera, but there was a screen at the top of the stage that projected a French translation of the words, so it was never hard to follow along with what was being sung ... which is good, because the plot of the opera differed a LOT from that of the original story! As in, Orpheus succeeded in resurrecting Eurydice. As in, they ended up together. As in, it was not a tragedy. But I guess when you're a famous German composer, you can take some liberties with your source material? Either way, the story was enthralling, the singers were amazing, and I was absolutely mesmerized.

We weren't allowed to take photography during the performance, but I tried to take a couple during curtain call to capture a sense of what it was like! The set was pretty simple, but amazing -- giant mirrored walls that could take on a transparent or reflective quality, depending on the lighting. The result was unsettling (especially from far away), as you were never really sure at least if you were seeing a reflection or someone moving behind the glass.

You can see that amazing set in motion if you click here -- the video is an interview with the woman who played Orpheus, but keep watching and you can see some really neat clips from the opera. (And yes, I said the woman who played Orpheus. Gluck originally wrote the role for a castrata; since it's much too high for normal male singers to perform, the role is often played by a woman! Weird, huh?)

And now, to end with a quote as obnoxiously cultured as this post has been...
"An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house." -- Maria Callas.