Figaro, Bloggers, and the Vancouver Opera [Guest Post]

I was in Whistler this past weekend so I sent my good friend, Peter Andersen in my place to The Marriage of Figaro at the Vancouver Opera. Here’s his guest post & photos (a first for my site) of the event:

What’s the recipe for a Blogger Night at the Opera? A table of laptops, black coffee and a Twitter photo booth at the ready. Mix in eager blogger participants (myself, Tris Hussey, Gus Fosarolli and Kelsey Dundon) and you get the clicking of keys on laptops before the show and – even more frantically – during the intermission.

Thanks to Ling Chan and John Biehler, my wife Marilyn and I were able to attend this Blogger Night At the Opera, which turned out to be a very enjoyable experience for both of us. Sitting at the table in the lobby pre-show for the opening night of The Marriage of Figaro at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre felt a little like “bloggers on parade”, but it was very social as well. Plenty of friendly people dropping by to see what we were up to, with lots of questions about both the blogging world and that thing called the iPad that I happened to be working with (thx for the insight, Tris :p).

Having no opera experience whatsoever, I had no idea what I was in for. I did the usual Wikipedia lookup beforehand, and at least understood that I was going to see a comedic opera by Mozart. After we were settled in at the table, Terry Harper (Director of Production) came around and introduced himself before taking us on our backstage tour. It was a treat to be able to go behind the curtain and see the sets up close. An amazing amount of detail is visible everywhere, from props to backdrops. We learned a few interesting bits as well, like the fact that the complete set – costumes and all – was rented from Alberta. We also learned sticky floors are preferred by the actors, and are achieved with a mop and mixture of Coca-Cola and water.


Backstage

So for those of you that are opera-unaware like me, there are a few things to know. First, don’t worry about not knowing the language the opera is performed in. Thanks to “surtitles“, which are displayed above the stage, an English interpretation lets you follow what’s going on. Second, while being up close to the performers is a treat, if you sit very close (as we were fortunate enough to do) the surtitles end up being miles above your head. It’s critical that you get very skilled very quickly at looking up, looking back at the stage, looking up, looking back at the stage. I’m sure this is secretly done to amuse the performers as they play ’spot the newbies’ when looking out at us.

While I normally would prefer sitting up close like this during a live concert, I would recommend sitting further back in this case. I think for those of us that haven’t been to an opera before, or haven’t been much, sitting back far enough to see both the entire stage and the surtitles at once without taking your eyes completely off the performance would be beneficial. Fight the urge to buy the best, and give the close seats to those that know the language or the opera well and can take it in seamlessly.

I was told The Marriage Of Figaro is a great “first opera” and I for one am glad I was initiated by it. It was very enjoyable from start to finish. The story was well written and well accompanied, but the best entertainment came from the performers themselves. All of the players were very skilled vocally, as expected, but they also seemed right at home doing physical comedy. It was a great combination overall, and the 3+ hour length went by surprisingly quickly. It was also great to see the Vancouver area so well represented, with many of the cast members hailing from the Lower Mainland (including the Count, Countess and Marcellina). I also noticed that the packed house was full of all ages – good to see the variety and the interest for opera being so high.

The night ended with an after-party behind the stage where we got to mix & mingle with the cast & crew. It gave us another opportunity to show our appreciation for a great night. Thanks again to Ling and John for this opportunity, and I’m sure that another opera is in my future. Madama Butterfly…let’s see… a Japanese tragedy by Puccini, performed in Italian with English surtitles. Sounds perfect.

Thanks to Peter for filling in and the guest post of his experience at the Opera. Also check out my previous post about my first time at the Opera – John

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