Courtesy of the Met’s rush tickets program, we score tickets for the first tier, Row B. We have had some great seats, but before today I didn’t even realize they ever offered first tier seats. If you can put a price on it (which they do) these seats would otherwise cost $350 dollars.
I’m exhilarated. Five hours of Wagner with a great view and a great balance of sound. I feel up for an adventure.
Before the opera, despite a 25 degree temperature, we grab the B line to the north end of Central Park first to see a guy named Flacco. If you don’t know, Flacco is a Eurasian Eagle Owl who escaped the Central Park Zoo recently. The zoo was going to re-capture him but he is thriving in the park and locals and activists convinced the zoo to just go ahead and let him reduce the rat population a little and maybe, just maybe, hook up with Geraldine the Great Horned Owl
I thought it would be a good two hour trek through the thicket and brambles area of the park in the cold to find him. We begin upward at the most Northern end, up the tall hill with the P.O.W. Flag at the top. 30 seconds later I say, “oh, there he is.” large and puffed up, even from a distance he reminds of Totoro, the mythical creature from the Miyazaki films.
I encounter owls all thru the weekend, including at the Shakespeare Book Company and the Morton Williams Super Market.
Tonights opera, from our fine perch, is not inspired by an owl, but another exotic bird, the swan. Lohengrin is the Swan Knight.
A hyperealistic image of the moon centers the curtain before the opera and I’m nervous with anticipation like I’m performing. The chandeliers are pulled up, the lights dim, and when the curtain rises there is another moon behind it seen through the opening of a cave into the night sky inviting me and my imagination to be privy to secret rituals of a time long past. It is a beautiful transition.
It is a complicated staging with video projections and on-stage costume changes. They definitely went for something and when it works it’s stunning and immersive, but when it didn’t work it was mildly distracting.
I always find it funny to hear criticisms at the Met. Especially “boos,” at the end when the stage directors came out. Those are some really high standards and expectations. Were they upset with the staging? Was a vocal line underwhelming at some point? Is the french horn a little to human in its imperfections?
Anyone in todays audience for their first time at The Metropolitan Opera would have been stunned by the awesomeness of opera in this space. I was. The audacity to produce such big sound, create a world on the stage, to see Nezet conduct the precision of the Met Orchestra, to hear 150 singer fill that hall. Then to hear singers the caliber of Pioter command the stage and push there voices above it all.
I enjoyed hearing the woman behind me who had been to the dress rehearsal say she doesn’t like to voice any criticisms out loud lest she spoil someone else’s enjoyment. I have criticisms too sometimes, but what a luxury to be so spoiled to pick at something so awesome. What a rare privelage it is to hear Wagner, to walk into The Met at 1:45 in the afternoon and not leave until 7:30 that night. I am conflicted because it is rude and impolite, but bravo at the same time for art to strike such passion.
To swoop back to Flacco the owl. Do I hear wedding bells in his future? There is much speculation whether he will mate or not.
The wedding march we all know, the famous wedding march, is from the beginning of the third act of Lohengrin.
So What’s Lohengrin all About?
Ortrud convinces her lover Telramund to accuse Elsa of murdering her brother. The truth will be decided by combat in the trust that god will strengthen him who tells the truth. Elsa needs a champion and that is when Lohengrin arrives riding on a white swan. All is great until Lohengrin like Orfeo tells Elsa the only condition for his love is she never ask his real name.
Notes on the Production:
Composer……………………. Richard Wagner
Conductor…………………… Yannick Nezet-Seguin
Lohengrin……………………..…… Piotr Beczala
Elsa Von Brabant…………..……. Tamara Wilson
Ortrud……………………………..… Christine Goerke
Friedrich von Telramund…..… Evgeny Nikitin
The King’s Herald………………… Brian Mulligan
King Heinrich……………………… Gunther Goissbock