04 February 2008

the best in this kind are but shadows

No, I did not enjoy the Super Bowl. Thanks for asking. But now that the game's final five minutes, which I couldn't even stand to watch, snatched the perfect season from the Pats, they are once again underdogs, so in a couple of days I fully expect to hear the haters saying, "You know, it sure is a shame they didn't get a perfect season," and maybe they'll even start to talk about how sick they are of the Manning family and its tendency to hog all the titles.

Anyway. Since I've been lecturing opera houses on marketing, I thought I'd share my latest notion, which came to me while reading the Wellsung entry about what the Met was doing the day they were born. So there you have it, the perfect stocking stuffer for the opera lover in your life: a CD copy of whatever the Met was doing the day of his or her birth, in simple but elegant packaging. Or the deluxe set: the entire season for your birth year. You see where this is going.

So I looked myself up. It turns out the Met was dark that night. Um, OK. I didn't say my idea was fully thought-through. For instance, I guess summer births are out of luck.

I did check San Francisco Opera, and they made up for the Met by presenting two operas that day! The first was a student matinee of Pagliacci -- yes, a student matinee, in Italian, back before surtitles, and starring Jon Vickers as Canio, Dolores Mari as Nedda, Lawrence Winters as Tonio, Cesare Curzi as Beppe, and Theodor Uppman (Billy Budd!) as Silvio. No "family versions" translated into English of The Magic Flute or L'Elisir d'Amore for that crowd, and I kind of feel the student audiences have just kicked sand in my face.

The evening performance really interested me, though. It was the second performance of the American premiere run of Die Frau ohne Schatten. My mother, who can still recall decades later the excruciating boredom of having to sit through Norma at the Old Met as a little girl and who has mostly avoided full-length operas ever since, has always told me that she and my father went to the American premiere of Die Frau at the invitation of some friends. After about two acts they had had enough and left. Since she clearly was not at the second performance, being otherwise occupied contracting and dilating and suchlike, she must have attended the actual first performance, when she was eight months pregnant. I'm amazed she made it as far as the intermission under the circumstances, and Mom, I'm sorry if I kicked you in the stomach for leaving early. Maybe that's where I got my whole "I do not leave before the end" thing. Who knows what reaches you under those circumstances? I don't even want to think about what intrauterine influence the plot and music of Die Frau ohne Schatten had on my fragile little psyche. But at least I can now tell everyone I was at the US premiere, though the people I was with refused to stay to the end.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Do you remember how heavily cut it was?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Well, if CERTAIN PEOPLE had stayed to the end, the way my little womb-self wanted, maybe I would remember. As it is, I'm left wondering if the shadow ever showed up or what. . . .

Lisa Hirsch said...

I hope they didn't cut that part. Have you gotten to see FROSCH post-partum?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I was going to make a joke about how I was cut myself, shortly thereafter, but decided it was probably better not to get too frisky.

I never have seen FROSCH live since my official emergence. I've seen it on DVD -- I think it was the Solti, and I have the Sawallisch awaiting, and I've heard several CD versions. I understand it was pretty spectacular at Chicago Lyric recently -- the exact words from a friend of mine who went were, "I have seen Frau in Chicago. Yes, you may touch me." Gee, think it will show up here soon?

Patty said...

I'm sure you'll be thrilled to know the Met did Tosca the day I was born. For the 349th time, I believe. (I'm assuming that's what the number is?)

Tosca...................Maria Callas
Cavaradossi.............Giuseppe Campora
Scarpia.................George London
Sacristan...............Fernando Corena
Spoletta................Alessio De Paolis
Angelotti...............Clifford Harvuot
Sciarrone...............George Cehanovsky
Shepherd................George Keith
Jailer..................Louis Sgarro

Conductor...............Dimitri Mitropoulos

San Francisco ignored by birthday.

Lisa Hirsch said...

FROSCH was cut from Rosenberg's first season - wah.

Both the Met and SFO were dark the day I was born. My opera geekitude was not foretold.

Civic Center said...

Were you like one of those little fish in the opera jumping out of the frying pan because you were "unborn," screaming, "Mama, let me out into this world"? I'm sure this really explains everything. And I've seen the opera live twice at the San Francisco Opera, once with Karl Bohm conducting and Birgit Nilsson singing, and another time with Gwyneth Jones during that period when her voice was like a frigging laserbeam rather than a monster wobble. And yes, you can touch me.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

That is a pretty sweet Tosca! Yes, even today, I would pony up for that one. By the way, I saw your kind mention on your blog, and I tried to leave a comment there but I couldn't, but -- I really can't take credit for the birthday opera thing. The glory goes to the clever lads at Wellsung.

Lisa, I didn't realize that FROSCH had been dropped -- that's a shame. I did know that plans for Les Troyens were scrapped, which might be even sadder. I've been reading Cairn's Berlioz biography, and I realized the other day that one reason it's taking me so long to finish it is that it's just so painful -- I'm at the first production of Troyens, and he's ill and exhausted, and I know what's coming up. I would love to hear it live, but I guess like FROSCH that's going to have to wait.

Mike, I'm sure I was like one of the little fish screaming, but I don't think I was asking to be let out into the world. I'm told my first complete sentence was Go Away. Maybe that's what explains everything. I will bask in the reflected glory of your FROSCH experiences -- I'm certainly getting quite a collection of one-degree hearings of that work.

Patty said...

Hmm ... is there a problem (again) at my site, or are you just not signed up? (You have to register, and the way WordPress works you have to register for every site you want to join, which is a bit of a pain, but there you go.)

Anyway, it's isn't a bad Tosca to be connected to, eh? (I just was hoping for something new and unusual. Not likely, I know, but still ....) And of course, being who I am, I do wonder what message is being sent me when I'm linked to Tosca. :-)

Wellsung gets credit from you ... you you get credit from me. So there you go. ;-)

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Hey Patty,
Well, I thought I was registering, but maybe I was trying too quickly -- this week has been unexpectedly busy, so I'll try again this weekend. Anyway, thanks for the mention, and I look forward to checking out your reviews of the season, and I just wanted to make sure the Wellsung boys got appropriate credit from everyone.
I did like the looks of that Tosca. Have you ever read Barbara Pym? There's a very funny scene in The Sweet Dove Died in which a man who goes to the opera for society reasons accompanies the main character, a woman who is completely absorbed in Tosca, and he sits back sort of coldly wondering if maybe it would be higher-class of her to love Mozart that way instead of Puccini. As I said, very funny, and I always have that somewhere in the back of my mind when I hear Tosca. But I do love that opera.

Henry Holland said...

And I've seen the opera live twice at the San Francisco Opera, once with Karl Bohm conducting and Birgit Nilsson singing

Damn you. I think it was Rysanek, King and Berry too. Damn you.

and another time with Gwyneth Jones during that period when her voice was like a frigging laserbeam rather than a monster wobble.

I was at that run. Dame Gwyneth unleashed a high B that had people leaning back in their seats (I was in the 10th row or so), it was like a wave of sound threatened to flatten them. Great production too, Anja Silja as a really evil Die Amme, I think.

Los Angeles Opera needs to drag out their David Hockney FROSCH production again.