The Marschallin of All Mondays, Part 1

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It only *just* occurred to me that I have a feature on this blog called “Marschallin Mondays” and we saw the Marschallin on a Monday.

This is long, and written over several days, and it’s only Part 1. Enjoy!

I don’t really even know where to begin.

Oh goodness.  As I said in my previous post, we were smart to do the front-of-the-house tour in the morning, because I was still so very beside myself when we came back for Rosenkavalier in the evening.  We took many photos out front in our fine duds – my red shirt matches both my cielo’s heels *and* the Rosenkavalier red, ahem. Of course I had to take the photo above too!  Then we went inside and waited for the ticket line to open.

My heart was pounding, waiting. We sat next to two nice women who chat

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No really. It’s today.

ted with us. On our left was a former opera singer (“now I play the ukele”) who was also at the Met for the first time. On my right was an elder who has been coming forever.  We talked about our excitement and I kept checking the tickets in my hand – yes, yes, we’re really here, I have the tickets, it is today – and the clock on the wall (nobody stop the clock, not today!). Finally it was time, and we got in line and moved through quickly.

Even being in line was exciting because sitting on the stand next to our ticket scanner was the little chime they play to let you know intermission is over – which I’ve heard so many times at the end of the Opera Quiz on radio broadcasts. That made me smile.

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That’s my aura of excitement.

Finally we were in, and (with more photos of course) made our way up to the Family Circle.  Coming into the house, we could hear the orchestra warming up, and looking up into the gold glowing ceiling my heart warmed.  Seeing the ceiling, the iconic sputnik chandeliers, the curtained stage, and hearing the orchestra made it clear: We are really here, in this space, with this music, about to experience something I trusted would be extraordinary, because it already was.

We found our seats, my legs bouncing with anticipation. I loved hearing the orchestra warm up, especially the horns practicing their runs and leaps.  (Being a former horn player myself, I’m partial.)  They sounded glorious.  We were waaaay up, and I was pleased how clearly we could hear the music from there.

I must have posted about the warm up then, and then put my phone away (charging on a extra battery to be sure I could update y’all at intermission. 🙂  ) so I could just be present.  Again, more smelling salts to help, and some rose tincture to open my heart up for the whole experience.  I tapped my cielo’s knee.  “So when those chandeliers start to go up” —

And then the chandeliers started to go up!  And the lights started to dim! And I started to cry again! I tapped her knee more. “It’s starting, It’s starting!” And I took her hand and the orchestra tuned, and the conductor came in, and we all clapped, and away we went!

I mean, what can I even say? I loved it. I loved every minute of it.

I’m sitting here remembering, and sighing to myself.  You don’t expect me to be objective, do you?

The orchestra sounded amazing up there, so clear, I heard layers of sound and detail I never had before.  There was a crispness and shimmer to the lushness of sound, a clarity. And they were definitely on fire, horns (of course) ringing, strings rich. Winds well defined (at one point I took the binoculars to watch the bassoonist, so there you go).  In the opening chords of the Trio the strings sounded so full of gorgeous depth, like a choir, like an organ, underneath Renee’s voice, I had never heard that before, as many times as I’ve listened to the Trio (which is…a lot). Blog friend Stray commented on the solo violin at the end of Act 1, and yes, it was so gorgeous and longing.

There were times when the voices didn’t *quite* reach us. That was across the board so I think was a matter of our seats, and not the singers. But then, there were also moments when the voices carried like waves – Renee’s “Du bist mein Bub, du bist mein Schatz” in the opening scene, Erin Morley’s exquisite floating high notes when presented with the Rose, she and Elina’s duet later in that act, and the Trio, which just washed over me  – those moments in particular stay in my mind (and heart).

What can I say? I keep trying to figure out how to organize my thoughts, but they won’t, so just…well, from here on out this will get much less linear, haha.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Erin Morley:  A discovery for me, for sure. I’d not heard/seen her that I’m aware of, but she impressed me.  Great stage presence, and there was a dignity to her Sophie, especially as the opera progressed. Loved her voice, and as I wrote at the 2nd intermission (and above), those high notes in the Presentation of the Rose that are supposed to stun you? They did! I whispered “oh my God” when she effortlessly flung the first one up to us, and again with the second.  Even flung doesn’t seem like the right word, but how many times can I say float? Maybe spun – like silk she spun those notes up to us. I’m a fan now.

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Elina Garanca: There were questions in some quarters whether Elina would be into this role or not.  I felt she definitely was.  She was fascinating to watch, how she shifted (as a 17 year old boy/young man) from ardent in the opening of Act 1 to confused, somewhat petulant by the end of that act. Act 2 full of dignity. Act 3 – well! Playing her role as Mariandel well, then that confusion when the Marschallin shows up, and back to ardent again by the end.  My cielo kept commenting how very much like a young man she was in how she embodied the role. She was impressed. Her voice was lush, I thought.  And so handsome.

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Günther Groissböck: It won’t surprise anyone that my primary reaction to Ochs is, “when are you leaving?” Even though his character is a catalyst for immense anguished beauty (of which he is not a part), he refuses to get out of the way (until the end). Especially when the character is played as a buffoon, I am just waiting – get out already!  (Which, I think, is part of the point of his character). However, in this production, he feels much more violent than in others I’ve seen.  Part of it is production choices but I think also how Groissböck portrayed him, something about his physical embodiment of the role and also how he almost spit the consonants.  He and his minions are dressed as military which adds a layer of commentary about the violence of patriarchy (and how the military enforces patriarchy).  I still wanted him to leave, but this time more because he was scary, conniving, threatening.  The “humor” after he’s stabbed (“it’s just a flesh wound”) in Act 2 I thought was a little over the top considering how up to this point his character was more threatening than clownish, but still.  When he has his minions carrying on with guns (for example, defending his “right” to Sophie), and in Act 1, leering as they also pursue Mariandel – well I thought it was an effective move and gave me a lot to think about.

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~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sigh. I know I haven’t said much about her yet.  I feel like I’m holding her close, if I put words to it all then somehow how she is filling me up right now will evaporate.  It’s over a week now and as I think about the experience, hearing her, witnessing her — yes, I get tears. Still.

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First Act entrance. Also: toes! *faints*

So I am going to give her a post all of her own, with more thoughts about the production itself because for me they are related.

But what you should know is: I cried when the chandeliers rose before the overture.  I cried again at the end of Act 1, that longing solo violin as the Marschallin sends the silver Rose to Octavian and walks across the vast room and out the door.  I cried during the Trio all the way to end and into the curtain call.  All of it, more beautiful than I ever even imagined.

I hollered for the trio of women, Renée in particular of course, during the curtain call – not quite the Xena cry certain quarters had recommended so I’d be heard on the internet broadcast, but again, it was hard enough to stay in my body anyway.

And when it was all done, our hands aching from applause, eyes still rimmed with tears, we made our way, slowly, dazedly, down the elevators, out the front doors, and turned to look back at the lit-up building. It was nearly midnight. We took more pictures, and I held my cielo and cried again, in sheer joy for the whole glorious day.

We did not want to leave.

Alleinig, wer’s erlebt,
der glaubt daran und weiss nicht wie…

(only those who experience it believe it,
and do not know how…)

Stay tuned for Part 2.
Production photos by Ken Howard, via Facebook.

Make Us Glad

Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Psalm 90:15

My cielo says this verse from Psalm 90 is a demand to the Divine:  You have to give us joy. For every day we suffer You have to give us that many days of joy, too.

She reminded me of this verse as we wandered through Central Park on Monday afternoon, coming from our self-guided tour of the Met and me still rather overwhelmed and breathless.  I think I said, “I can’t believe I can’t stop crying.”

Make us glad. Make us joyful, it could also read.

You see, I’ve not really been ok since last June. Since Orlando. Since Orlando and so many days in June and July in the streets, and so many days since then, protesting police murders, protesting trump in our city, protesting protesting protesting, sometimes in the face of police but always knowing the threat of the police could be around the corner, because it’s Denver. Because I know in my body what they are capable of.

I have not been ok, and it has felt like a daily grieving ever since, watching the truth of who we are as a country be laid utterly bleeding and bare, so much harm being done, what has been hidden being unleashed anew, with fury, against people I love. Such a moment of opportunity, to change things for the better, once and for all, but will we seize it? Do we even know how? Do I?

Will we survive this? Do we deserve to?

I’ve cried every day, pretty much, since June.  Even if not wet tears down my face, I’ve carried an aching, weeping heart, pretty much every day.

Perhaps that it not what you were expecting to read, to start off with, about our trip to NYC, to the Met, to my favorite opera with my favorite soprano.  That context is important though.  Important to know that before the NYC trip, I was in DC last week, in front of the White House accompanying children protesting for their immigrant parents, came home, celebrated Easter, then headed right for heart of joy.

Make us glad, for all the days we have suffered.

A blog friend across the ocean, who shares this particular love of white-shirt-opera, and I have had an on-going conversation for months now about the importance of beauty and joy as an act of resistance in times like these.  For me, it’s this: I have to remind my heart, my spirit, that I can feel something else besides despair, besides sadness.  Not instead of, mind you.  In addition to.  There is a reason we love life, and it’s the beauty of it all. Whatever makes us swoon.  Whatever we find in music, in white shirts, in baby goats, in beautiful fangirling stories, in holding hands with one’s beloved, in herbs and flowers burrowing and unfurling their way outwards towards the sun.  Art. Moonrises. Mountain streams. Blue sky. Pure Irish butter. The laughter of friends.  Whatever it is for you that reminds you why it is a gift to be alive, which fills you with awe (which really is the whole reason we are here, at all).

That’s resistance. In the middle of a system that wants us to despair, to know nothing but fear, to believe we are nothing but machines to be discarded when we break (and the system wants us to break, we are cheaper to replace than to repair), to believe this anguish is all there is — to nourish joy and beauty in the face of that, I believe, is an act of resistance.

So this first post is about that. About swooning over a place I have dreamed of going to pretty much my whole life. About wandering through Central Park afterwards, meandering towards the Oak Room for a photo op, eyes still burning with tears and all my face muscles sore from grinning.

I can’t believe I can’t stop crying.

And I’m so grateful I can feel joy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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I’ve known about the Met for pretty much my whole life.  Several years ago (after seeing the 2010 Rosenkavalier, in fact), I wrote about my upbringing in a classical music household and how the Met was a part of that: radio and the occasional TV broadcasts, and when I was 9 a trip to Dallas to see the Met on tour, back in the day when they did that.

It’s been a lifelong dream to go the Met and see an opera. It’s really the only reason I’ve ever wanted to go to NYC, really.  But it always seemed out of reach (activist pastors don’t make a lot, turns out).  But then this happened, and I thought, “It’s Renee’s last go at this, and a new production, and MY GOD THAT PHOTO, and I have birthday money, and damn: If we can get tickets, we are going, somehow!” And we did!

And we did!  Leading up to the trip my excitement grew and grew. If you’ve been reading here long at all, you’ve probably noticed, ha!

So!  We arrived late Sunday night. We had already decided we would get up and after breakfast head over to Lincoln Center to do the self-guided tour of the front of the Met house and take our time in the gift shop.  This was ridiculously smart of us, because I was able to just be in all my feelings about just being there and enjoy it and not feel rushed to find our seats and still be overwhelmed when the show actually started (which would be overwhelming enough as it is, I was sure).

We walked from Times Square (our hotel was just off here) up Broadway to Lincoln Center.  My tears started when we got to the SW corner of Lincoln Center, and we saw this sign:

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Siiiiiiiiiiigh.

As we walked up towards the central square, the tears started for real. I can’t believe we’re here, we’re really here, we’re really HERE.

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Are my feet on the ground?

Several photos in front, of course, and then we went in. Oh, there is the chandelier. There is the staircase, and all the red, the red…Breathe, just breathe.  I did indeed need smelling salts to get myself back into my body, I was so excited.  We went up to the grand tier level, and I could hear music. No way, are they rehearsing?

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There’s an opera going on in there.

I could tell immediately: Wagner, and then a few more bars: Flying Dutchman. I stood there for a while, yes, crying, listening. Over at the Revlon Bar is a screen where you can see what’s happening on stage so we took a peek there, and then I listened more.  Finally we went to see what else there was to see.

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And then…

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I may or may not be wiping my eyes.

Ohhhh.  Who all could I find?

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Some of the headshots were too high up to get good photos of them, Kathleen Battle being one. And I know I missed some, I’m looking at them now thinking “How could I have missed Nina Stemme?”  But those walls all by themselves were overwhelming. Again, so much excitement my mind kept going blank. I should look for…who again? (but no, not any tenors, haha!).

There’s also a little exhibit down there about the 50th anniversary of the “new” Met. My favorite part was about the productions they did, with original costume sketches by Marc Chagall for Magic Flute, a letter from Benjamin Britten, and a large brilliant photo of Leontyne Price as Cleopatra.

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By then we needed a bathroom break. We promptly ran into this:

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Larger than life. Swooooon.

Basically, if it had Renee and/or Rosenkavalier on it, I was getting my picture taken with it.  That’s how gleeful I was. We spent (well, especially me) a while in the gift shop, perusing. It was all I could to not buy every Rosenkavalier DVD they had, but all of Renee’s CDs they had I already own! So, I was pleased to find a live Met recording of Tosca with Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli, from ’62 I believe, which is supposed to be fantastic (how could it not be?). Choosing Price, whose Tosca meant so much to me growing up, felt right.

From there, back outside for a few more photos and selfies in front of the Met, and then the aforementioned stroll through Central Park, still wiping away tears. Eventually we found lunch, caught a breather in the hotel (where I re-read the end of Act 1 in the libretto), and dressed for the evening to come.  I made sure to pack tissues.

So much joy. And more to come!

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Oh. And a t-shirt. I still can’t stop smiling.  Not pictured:  Giant (and delicious) bowl of pasta carbonara. Carbo-loading for the evening to come.

Ja Ja

Back at the hotel now, eating a slice of pizza and basking. Basking.

Oh the Trio. It breaks my heart and remakes it and breaks it again.

What a day. What a production. What a set of performances. What and orchestra.

Once we’re back home and I’m not writing on my phone I will have much more to say. I’m speechless as it is.

As we left, we took a few photos outside with the Met lit up. And I just wept.

Art heals.

2nd Intermission

Well, I’m now an Erin Morley fan. Those high notes in the Presentation of the Rose floated up here like….I don’t even know what. Took my breath away.  Goodness.

Ochs is scary. Effective, I think, especially surrounded by weaponry and his lackeys being soldiers.

Gathering my strength for the Trio!

First Intermission

Well. I’m crying. Again.

I do have thoughts about the production, amazingly. In midst of all the swooning. Impressions: Renée has my heart (no surprise, really); Ochs is frightening rather than a clown; and Elina Garanca learned a few tricks from Barbara Bonney, ahem.

The massiveness of the staging is effective, I think. And from the Family Circle the orchestra sounds amazing, I’m hearing details I have not before.

But mostly, I’m swooning. Swooning.

Catching Our Breath

Back at the hotel to freshen up and change for the big night. Somehow we’ve managed to take in all three of my top fangirl loves all in one day:

Renée and Rosenkavalier:

Carol, the two iconic spots conveniently on our walk back, here’s one. Oh and TODAY IS THE DAY THEY MEET THERE.

And completely unexpectedly: inside the Plaza hotel was a perfumerie that sells the scent Grace Kelly wore, so we got to smell that too.

There aren’t words.

Grateful

Honestly I can’t stop crying. I did indeed have to use my smelling salts when we went inside, no joke. I’m just happy. Have more pictures but trying to save battery, but we did spend a long time at this wall: