This is one of those stories that will mean diddley-squat (sp?) to any of you who aren’t opera fans – but it does contain a newsworthy confession from me, so keep reading.
I blog quite frequently about the High Definition simulcasts which are broadcast from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House to movie theaters all over the country – and now all over the world. The first season was splendid and essentially went off without a single hitch. The second season, at least at our theater in Racine, had a few bumps along the way – with some performances where the sync between the picture and sound was seriously askew and a couple of other simulcasts which were cancelled altogether for technical reasons. This third season, until now, has been better.
That is, until Puccini’s La Rondine.
The live simulcast occurred on Saturday afternoon, January 10th, but dozens of theaters across the country had trouble with the signal. . .and Racine’s Renaissance was one of them. There was picture- but no sound- and eventually the simulcast was cancelled and refunds given both for tickets and concessions purchased. It was a bit maddening because we were hit by a very nasty snowstorm that day, and only people traveling by dogsled had an easy time getting around. So those of us nutty enough to fight our way through all of that snow, wind, and bitter cold felt the kind of acute frustration from which things like “road page” and “going postal” are known to spring. But that’s the way it was- and at least it was frustration shared with opera fans all over the country.
10 days later (tonight) the repeat of La Rondine was scheduled and those of us attending it in Racine were especially grateful for the repeat opportunity. (The first season, repeats did not occur at all with a couple of the operas, and those that were repeated followed no particular pattern or set schedule and were often done with almost no advance warning- so two of the repeats went by without me even knowing about them.) Last year the repeats were always the next day – and this year they are ten days later.)
I had to miss act one and almost all of act two because I was on Uncle Duty, babysitting Lorelai (I rather quickly discarded the notion of leaving her in the loving care of our two golden retrievers; somehow I think that would not have been looked upon kindly, especially so I could run off and see an opera) but racing over to the theater as soon as she was safely on her way home. I got to the theater in time to see the last two minutes of act two, and it appeared to be all systems go- beautifully crisp and vibrant picture (judge for yourself from the photo I snapped of the screen) and glorious sound. And as we got to act three, I was settling into my seat, enjoying the gorgeous music from this seldom heard rarity – and even had the pleasure of hearing the one line I sang in this opera when I was at the Lyric back in 1985. And then . . .
I fell asleep.
This happens to me at the Lyric, as Marshall can tell you- and on rare occasion even at these simulcasts- but this was almost-snoring-sleep, which is pretty unusual for me. I think my mistake was that on a night when I had been up 16 hours (having signed on at the station) I opted for one of the especially comfortable seats way way down front. . . and when the music hit a boring patch (of which there are some in this opera) I was out like a light.
What awoke me was the abrupt interruption in the opera about twenty minutes in, when the screen suddenly went blank and a coming attraction started playing – and loudly, too. Then the screen went blank again- the speakers went silent – – – and there we sat, the fifty or so opera fans, in disbelief . . . and those of us who had tried to attend the live simulcast definitely felt like we had been twice-jilted. But we were an amazingly cheerful group (or at least everyone else was) as we waited and hoped and waited and hoped. We sat there for perhaps ten or twelve minutes (I walked to the front desk twice just to try and get some information and to make sure that the powers-that-be were aware of the problem) and then suddenly the screen came alive – – – and it was bass Samuel Ramey, taking his bow – with the closing credits rolling on the right side of the screen. So we missed the last part of the opera and as we walked out of there, it was really hard for me to keep from shaking my fist at the heavens. And although the manager was out in the lobby, apologizing and handing out free passes for people to return and see another movie, I decided to just stew in the juices of my frustration and walked out of there. I think we call that cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face – – – but what the heck, it’s my nose . . . and it’s still wrinkled up in disgust over this spate of rotten luck. There are certainly worse things that can befall us, and this may seem incredibly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things – but maybe it’s also a sign of these troubled times in which we live that these kind of disappointments sting a little more. On the other hand, these troubled times are also a good reminder that there are far more important concerns before us right now than missing the last twelve minutes of La Rondine.
Nevertheless, pardon me while I pout.
pictured above: Soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Roberto Alagna, the lead singers in La Rondine – who happen to be husband and wife in real life.