You can’t really convince me this isn’t running through the Marschallin’s head at some point, unless (headcanons run wild….)
Ever. Ever. Ever.
(all these but 1 via here).
Dedicated to all valkyries, great and small.
In case you didn’t know, I work at a goat farm once a week. It’s amazing. Here’s a story for you.
Snowdrop and I met in January of 2016, not that long after she was born. She was a January baby – a surprise pregnancy after one of the bucks got loose. January, when it’s cold (see the snow?) and still working towards sunlight, is not when you want babies to be born. And, their farm mama L was out of town, too!
Snowdrop and her brother were born in the evening, and the next morning I was at the farm to do chores for L. L told me to make sure to check on the babies, so that was the first thing I did. Both kids (no names yet) were still not standing up and nursing, they were working so hard to stay warm (even in their little coats!). Usually they are on their feet and nursing in less than an hour, so this was worrisome.
I called L to let her know, and she told me to milk their mama and bottle feed them about every half an hour while I was there, until they could stand on their own and nurse. So I did, and after a few times I helped them stand up and find their mama’s udder until finally they were strong enough to stand and eat on their own.
The thing at L’s farm is, the goats name themselves. So, while all this feeding and helping-to-stand-up was going on, I was chatting with this lovely girl, asking if she new what her name was yet. Finally she told me: Snowdrop, for the first sign of spring.
(Snowdrops, so the story goes, are left blooming behind Brigid’s cloak when she walks across the earth on Imbolc.)
Snowdrop, well that totally made sense of course.
Being up there every week, I would check on Snowdrop to see how she was doing. She was growing great! And part of the job with the babies is to snuggle on them so they get used to humans. My favorite part of farmhanding, if we’re honest.
Well, as with most stories it seems, there is sadness. Snowdrop’s mama died suddenly of bloat several weeks after she was born. Goats are communal animals so they notice when someone is missing, especially a family member. A couple of weeks later, L said to me that she thought Snowdrop was not ok, and would I spend some time with her since we seemed to have a nice connection.
So, first I watched her for a bit. By then more babies had been born, but Snowdrop did not hang out with them. Her brother seemed fine, was hanging around with the other boys playing, but Snowdrop kept to herself.
I picked her up and carried her to a spot where we could sit for a while, and I just held her in my lap. She already loved being held by me, so she tucked her head into the crook of my elbow and hung out for a while, and then talked to me.
She missed her mama. She was lonely. She was a little too old for the babies, and the boys all played by themselves. She loved her grandma but she was still sad.
I snuggled her and scratched her chin and kissed her head, and told her it was normal to feel what she felt. When I told L later what I had learned, she asked me to spend extra time with Snowdrop for a while, just so she would have some special attention.
So I did.
I would come to the farm and call her and we would go sit in that spot. For several months we did this, actually. For a few weeks, I brought her rose anointing oil, for grief and healing heartache, and let her smell it and put a drop on her little nose. I would hold her and she would tell me how she was doing. Then…I started telling her how *I* was doing.
The funny thing is, you see, along that stretch of months I was going through some hard internal stuff too, working with some childhood grief, facing it. So I would tell her I knew how it felt to be a lonely kid and feel like you don’t fit in. I cried a little, and she would snuggle up under my chin. She’d cry a little, and I’d snuggle into her neck. We’d sit there with our achy hearts, appreciating the color of the sky or the moonrise or just being quiet together.
I think we healed each other.
Eventually Snowdrop (and I) began to feel better, but I would still come see her at some point during my farmhanding “shift” and hold her in my lap. Even as she got bigger, she still would sit in my lap and chew her cud for a bit and grin for a picture.
When Snowdrop was big enough, in the early summer I think, it was time to put a collar on her. L thought maybe she could wear her mama’s collar, for the symbolic connection, so I put it in my pocket and found her and we sat and talked about it for a while. I showed her her mama’s name (Beatrix) written in Sharpie and let her smell it and asked her what she thought. She didn’t have to if she didn’t want to, I told her. But she thought she would be ok with it, so we said a little prayer and I put it on her and she’s been wearing it ever since.
She’s a big girl now, a year and a half old, but she’ll still sit in my lap, even though she hangs off both sides, and chew her cud and rub her head on my chin. She knows when I arrive; sometimes even before I call her she’ll come out and look for me and give me a grin. Sometimes she likes to play a game of staying juuuuuuust out of my reach until she’s ready for me to pick her up, and sometimes she comes up into my arms right away. And sometimes she doesn’t want to at all and that’s cool too, because even goats get to have agency.
L says I’m her human. And that she has rarely seen a friendship like the one we have.
Snowdrop still pretty much keeps to herself, or just hangs out with her grandma. But apparently, she has a special place in her heart for me, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s my special girl. I’ve told L that if Snowdrop ever has babies of her own I’m coming to live at the farm to be sure I’m there when she delivers.
She is still a great healer of achy hearts (because my heart aches, constantly, anymore, but she keeps me soft and open and tender).
It’s true love.
How can you not love those ears? And that smile? Oh my heart.
One last photo for good measure, taken just a couple of weeks ago.
AKA: The HD Edition
So just to be clear:
cut off at the top there, it says:
horns practicing their swooning-intervals”
So please note the all caps, then, is BEFORE THE CURTAIN EVEN RISES. In fact it was during the “opening credits” where they show some of the bits of the opera with the names of the singers and such, and there, larger than life, were Octavian and the Marschallin kissing on the couch and I thought, I may not survive this.
I said to my beloved afterwards, when I was still mostly speechless but we had wandered a few blocks looking for a coffee, somehow being at the Met in April made the HD experience even better. And also, the HD experience made being at the Met in April *also* even better. I was still having trouble stringing words together so I had trouble explaining, and I still do kind of, but I think what I mean is:
1) We were THERE, in the house, and it made watching it on screen feel so much more real, to know how it feels in house, how the space is, the depth of it. Plus just the lovely giddiness of “we’ve been there, we’ve been there!” and during audience shots from the stage we could point out our seats (generally, wayyyy up there) to our friends.
2) Seeing the “close-up” version actually confirmed a lot of what I thought I was seeing from up in the Family Circle. Plus we missed a few things – mostly what would have been hard to pick up from there, but 1 in particular so obvious I wondered if they’d added since – Sophie tears off her “Presentation” gown and throws it at her father’s feet towards the end of Act 2. A really powerful move I can’t believe we both missed! The close-up did make the moment where Ochs loses is toupee funnier — because yesterday he didn’t lose it, quite, it dangled off the back, and Elina kind of looked at and giggled, then squashed it back on his head, then it came off in her hands a moment later, and she looked at it and shrugged and stuffed it in her bosom. I was glad to see *that* close up. She handled it brilliantly and hilariously.
3) But for making our April experience better…maybe better is not the right word. May enhancing in affirmation that yes, yes this was incredible, and beautiful, and that my eyes and ears were not deceiving me about what I saw and heard and the meaning I was making from all of it. Not that I really thought they were, deceiving me that is, but…well, like I said, this part is hard to put into words. Something about the historic-ness of the whole run, the love the singers clearly have for it, how astounding it was, with a new production that I find so thought-provoking, and Renée‘s last run of it (and Elina’s too! and she’s so good!)…and I just felt/feel overwhelmed that we got to see it in-house too.
So again, to be clear. I started tearing up hearing the horns warm up that theme that comes in the overture, then again after the Marschallin says “Ich hab’ dich lieb” in the opening of Act 1 and so powerfully with “Heut’ oder morgen” at the end of that act (and other times too but those come to mind first). Oh hold on, it’s this one:
Anyway yes. I started tearing up there. Then the “oh my god I’m gonna die in all caps” moment and then (no tears) Peter Gelb yadda yadda and then the overture started.
I cried the moment the curtain went up until Ochs showed up. Basically. I was awash in emotion – to get to see this AGAIN and know that it would be good because I already knew it would be good and to see them so up close and oh my god this is the last time for both of them, the last time, and I got to see them. I got to see her. I got to see her TWICE. And how is she, how are they getting through this without falling apart? And oh god how Octavian *looks* at her, and she looks back, and can this just…can we just stop the clocks and not ever end this?
Oh and also kissing, and hands, and longing looks, and…
…and the singing, and the acting, and the orchestra…
I felt like everyone, yesterday, brought everything they had to this moment. Not in the sense of over-acting or over-singing, but of bringing their whole hearts, their whole best for this, the last of the run and the last for the two. (I didn’t *not* feel that on 4/17 but I definitely did yesterday). There were a few moments when I wondered, particularly for Renée, if they were feeling their own emotion – there were a few times where there was just a bit of an extra pause with a phrase, a breath, a look – at the end of Act 1, and the end of Act 3 (where in both cases the text is certainly not helping with the letting go of things).
At the end of Act 1, the way it’s staged, the Marschallin puts on her coat and hat at the back of the stage, then walks to the front and looks, as if in a mirror perhaps, or out a window? All while the solo violin is doing its heartbreaking lonely thing. Yesterday…she walked to the front, and looked…and it seemed just a little longer than 4/17, and it felt like we were all holding our breath (I was, and then tears started again), and the moment stretched for an age, impossibly, as she kept looking out, kept looking out, and to me it felt like time had actually suspended itself somehow, and I thought: “Does she actually want to leave?”
And then she turned, and walked away from us, out three great sets of doors, and I wanted to stand up and holler: “NO! Please don’t go!”
But I settled for crying instead. And smelling salts.
All throughout I felt such a depth to Elina’s Octavian, this young person trying to figure things out. Her portrayal was very moving to me, especially at the end of Act 1 and Act 3 where you can see Octavian is hurting, confused, and in Act 3 really does not want to hurt Sophie or the Marschallin (which perhaps, make him not like all men). So much heart there. I picked up some of that on 4/17 but even more so yesterday. A fully enfleshed character that I want to think more about (and usually my only thought about Octavian is, why don’t you choose the Marschallin?).
I’ll finish up this post by saying the Marschallin’s entrance in Act 3 to the end was just…I stopped breathing. I think everyone on stage was feeling the moment, and I certainly was, and I was just in awe. Everything seemed to be charged, like I could feel it in my skin, and it was all I could do to hold on.
I thought I would cry during the Trio, but I was just too in awe I think? It was so powerful, so beautiful, so heartwrenching on so many levels, that I’m sure my mouth was just agape. I was definitely on the edge of my seat. As soon as the last note sounded, though, and the audience started to roar, I began to sob.
I wept, from joy and the overwhelming heart-rending beauty of it and the “oh my god we SAW this, in the house, oh my god,” from that moment all the way through the curtain call (oh Renée) until the broadcast ended I was still sitting there, spent, sniffling, my beloved smiling down at me as she stood to gather her things.
That much beauty makes me so happy to be alive, in this moment,
and to have witnessed this TWICE.
And that I got to share that experience with my beloved is so wonderful.
And that y’all have shared it with me too, a gift.
Make us glad, make us glad, make us glad.
~ ~ ~
I will say more, including more thoughts about the production itself (I really really hope they release this on DVD because I want to watch it over and over for all the details! Well and obviously Renée but also! It’s a production that makes me THINK, and I love that), but I wanted to get this first wave of emotion-laden thoughts out for you.
Three weeks plus now since we came home and – sigh – it’s been full. Full of being the FierceRev, in the streets and organizing meetings and courtrooms and preaching seminars and podcasting and sermon-writing and celebrations and…well whew. And still feeling very protective of this experience in a way, as I shared in my last post. But I tell you.
Three weeks and I’m not over it, and I don’t ever want to be over it, to be honest, and if you ask me about it I will still cry.
In all that these three weeks have brought, more than once a day, more than twice a day, I have closed my eyes and brought myself to the Family Circle, as the overture plays and my knees are shaking and the curtain rises on an inner wall of the Marschallin’s palace, a ginormous double door in the center and Octavian, all moony-eyed, wanders out and lights a cigarette and I squeeze my cielo’s hand any moment any moment any moment and the door is ajar and then finally finally the Marschallin steps through the door and leans on the frame and the birds are calling and away we go and I can barely be contained and all I have to do is close my eyes and remember and I am there, I am there and in my being the musical line soars and so do I…
Wie du bist
Wie du bist
Wie du bist….
If ever an opera swooned along with you, it would be this one…
~ ~ ~
I’ve actually been working on this post over the span of these three-plus weeks. I keep waiting for my thoughts to coalesce in some sort of whole, but they won’t. Perhaps they aren’t meant to. So, here we are, logical order of whatever be damned, haha.
So, I have a developing theory about Rosenkavalier, and I’ve come to it by watching and listening to Renée sing the end of Act 1 monologue/duet repeatedly. In particular: I bought the DVD of the Baden-Baden Rosenkavalier and watched it while I was on retreat a month ago (you can see part of that scene here). What I noticed then, after the levee and the Marschallin dismisses Ochs with impatience, is that her change of mood is not first about “the passing of time,” but about Ochs, and how he’s going to make a profit off of marrying Sophie. It’s what she “talks” about first. And she remembers how she too was forced into the same kind of marriage, when she was just a girl “fresh from the convent” (like Sophie). “Where is she now?” The pondering about time comes after she wonders what has happened to that little Resi, that young woman (girl?) sold off for profit.
What I mean is, I knew that is in the text, but I didn’t get the meaning of it until I watched Renée embody it.
Listening to the Met radio broadcast this past Saturday on a lovely drive to hike in the wilderness, Mary Jo Heath interviewed Renée about Rosenkavalier and the Marschallin. Through the static as we went around mountain curves we heard her talk about this as her favorite role, how she’s grown in her understanding of it, and the end of Act 1 as her favorite part of the opera.
“You can tell,” I said when the interview was over, “you can tell it’s her favorite part, she pays such close attention to the text, to what is happening around and inside this character.”
And yes, we all know I go all mooney-eyed-Octavian over her but it’s also this: Renée loves this role, and it shows, and I love watching her/listening to her work her way through it. This was no less the case this night at the Met.
What more can we ask of a singer, than to love the role? Obviously to sing well, as well as one can in the moment, but also: to love the role. To love the text, to love what the music is teaching us, to love the inner life of the character (and there is so much inner life to the Marschallin).
So because Renée is so thoughtful about this character, I am too. I love her commitment to the role. What a gift to be able to witness her, in house, as she navigated this role she loves, with such attention to the text and its details.
She taught me to pay attention.
So I did. I watched in the Baden-Baden production how she’s weary from the beginning of that Act 1 monologue, she orders everyone out, Ochs out finally and she’s so over it all. She has not yet begun pondering about “the passing of time,” precisely, she is wondering what has happened to her. And she doesn’t like it. It’s in her face but even moreso it’s how she uses the consonants. Like they cause her pain (the album is on Spotify if you want to listen. You can see it in the 2010 Met production too, though I think the 2009 Baden Baden is even wearier. Interesting the difference a production can make).
Da geht er hin, der aufgeblasene schlechte Kerl…
There he goes, that bloated, worthless guy….
Same at the Met. Even though I could not see her facial expressions well from where we sat, her verbal ones were crystal clear, diction and color. There’s anguish there.
So I saw this in the DVD and began thinking about it, reading the libretto, listening again to sections, reading and listening to interviews (and emailing Anik German questions, deepest of thanks!). What is the Marschallin saying? What is Octavian saying (to her and to Sophie both). And brought with me to the Met this idea that I was noodling around with:
Rosenkavalier is not, even as Renée (and literally everyone) says it is (sorry! I’m so sorry! Can we have tea and talk about it?), about simply “the passage of time” and “growing old” and giving way to young love. The passing of time, and the Marschallin’s concern with it, comes in a context, and that context is patriarchy and misogyny and militarism. (Which surprises me since it’s written by two men but well, there you go).
I think about things like:
- The Marschallin asks Octavian not to be “like all men are.” All men…like the Field Marshall? Like Ochs? What does she mean, that all men (aka the patriarchy) are violent, grasping, in anything for their own gain? Octavian doesn’t get it (“I don’t know how all men are”), although I wonder if he does eventually.
- In the beginning of Act 1, she seems afraid of the Field Marshall, when they think he’s coming, and not just because he’s going to catch them, I don’t think. He does not seem to share the room, since the Marschallin thinks her footmen can keep him out. She says she is forced into marriage, and it’s an unhappy one (unhappy for her).
- “It’s the way of the world” reads more to me (from watching/listening to Renée but also the music and other clues in the libretto) as resignation, not acceptance. Otherwise, why would she keep asking Octavian “Don’t be like all men are?” (back to that again). She tells him he will leave her for a younger, prettier woman…because that’s what “all men” do because that’s what patriarchy does to women.
- Her last line in the Trio then strikes me interesting, given the above, “he will be happy, as men understand happiness.” Don’t be like all men…
- What power does the Marschallin have? What agency? To take lovers, yes, but structurally? Does she feel trapped in this marriage she was forced into? Is that why she wonders what happened to little Resi? Is that why she can say “where is she now” while also saying “I am always the same” (as Anik says, she still identifies as the same person). What *did* happen to little Resi anyway? (I can see all of this monologue as a way of saying, “what has patriarchy made of me?”).
- “Why does [God] let me watch it, why is it this way” has a different timbre in this reading of it. Again, it’s not “aging” per se. It’s becoming “Die alte Frau” in the context of a patriarchal culture that only values young women as objects to be sold (or bought).
- On the matter of agency, does she have the power to get Sophie free of Ochs herself? Perhaps not directly. But does she suspect that by sending Octavian, whom she loves for some reason, perhaps because he has the potential to *not* be like all men, that might save Sophie from Resi’s fate? Of course in the end the Marschallin still has to come in and resolve everything, but it’s curious to think about.
- But also this: the presence of militarism. These men have power and it’s backed up by weapons and military. I think in more traditional productions this is not really highlighted (it’s very much present in this one). But the Field Marshall, well obviously he’s military. Faninal makes his money in dealing weapons – and a whole lotta money at that, given his fancy house (houses?) and that he’s able to
marrysell his daughter into nobility (for all that Ochs is “noble” but still). Here’s still from Act 2, Sophie being manhandled by Ochs while his military buddies look on.
One last thought about all this which is: that famous line of the Marschallin’s about stopping all the clocks. Why doesn’t anyone ever point out that Ochs says 3 times, “it’s all going like clockwork.” Twice in Act 2 and once in Act 3.
1. Geht all’s so wie am Schnurl! (umlaut on the u in Schnurl).
2. Geht all’s rech am Schnurl so wie z’Haus.
3. …dass in Wien all’s so wie am Schnurl geht.
All three times Ochs is gloating that he’s about to get what he wants: 1. Sophie and a big wad of cash. 2. Mariandel and well… 3. Let off by the police commission (in which case he’s saying he assumes all in Vienna goes like clockwork). “Like clockwork” means he assumes everything is structured and moves so that he gets what he wants – money, power, prestige, sex, presumed innocence.
Stop all the clocks.
Well, these are the thoughts that have been rambling around in my head since the end of March, stirred even more by the Met show, and I come back to what provoked them, which was Renée.
Basically (I’m still rambling here) there’s no way on earth I wasn’t going to love her. Right? I did. Her own passion at the beginning of Act 1, gradually shifting over the act til you’re left hearbroken as she leaves for church, alone, at the end. (I cried. Did I mention I cried?) Then her dignified anguish at the end of Act 3. In the 2010 production you see that some (OK I cried then too) but even more so now.
I love the action there, by the way, the coming together then bursting apart like that coinciding with the music, I find it very powerful. Even from the Family Circle it was effective, it felt like a punch in the chest making everything even more…just…I mean who really has words for the Trio?…and then the way the Marschallin walks off, ugh, my heart already, my heart!
So since we’re on that subject, here are some production related thoughts, too.
- Act 1 doesn’t start with Octavian and the Marschallin in bed. This was fascinating to me (a little disappointing? haha), that we seem them most intimate in a hallway *outside* the Marschallin’s bedroom. You never see them in bed together, actually, except for once when Octavian is trying (I think at the end of the Act) and the Marschallin has to push him off (again…don’t be like all men…I keep coming back to that). They share the chocolate and that is sweet but after that…the Marschallin keeps him more and more at bay, even before the levee. Ochs gets in her bed, though! Gross! And the end of Act 3 has Sophie lead Octavian to the bed (what? yes!), and there stay there…all the way to the end…
- Her bedroom? Is ENORMOUS. The hallways through the door really do seem to go on forever. It dwarfs her, especially at the end when she’s all alone. That longing, singing solo violin as she walks through the huge space really spoke to me of her loneliness, and perhaps resignation (when she sees herself as old, she is still the Field Marshall’s wife).
- In all three acts the space is laid out the same way, the angled back walls coming to an angle at the back of the stage (so, making an isosceles triangle with the wide side being the front of the stage, like this). All have a door on the left side that opens out into hallways – many, as in the Marschallin’s case, or one large one in Act 2, or a small one in Act 3. To me this highlighted some of the class differences – from vast to small.
- Interestingly too, the Act 1 space feels so huge, but Act 2, Faninal’s palace, feels small, even thought it has to be laid out exactly the same. Tricks of the eye (also that flooring really is hard on the head to look at for a whole act!). But again, Faninal is trying to be so over-the-top grand (check the giant Greco-Roman war paintings on the walls!), but cannot match the Marschallin.
- Now, Carsen is clearly drawing parallels by making the stagings of Act 1 and 3 so similar. Same layout including where the furniture is, and ALL THE RED, and the giant Carsen bed, and big paintings on the walls. Additionally, both acts open with the outside hallway (the wall pulled up to reveal the room eventually) with a center door (Act 3 has other doors, for other rooms in the brothel.
- And it is CLEARLY a brothel. In the previous production it felt like, I dunno, a dusty room somewhere? But here it’s clearly a brothel. And the act starts off with Ochs’s military buddies and son going in and out of the rooms. The Landlord is a drag queen which I thought was perfect, really. During the “tricks” played on Ochs the paintings suddenly become…what do you call those boxes in walls where there are dancers? And um they were naked. I was astounded the Met would have that (not that *I* minded, necessarily, they just tend to be more…stuffy).
- So, why? Highlighting the similarities (layout etc.) and the brothel-ness of the brothel made me think: is there anything really that different about what is happening in the brothel than what Ochs is trying to do in Act 1 (and 2)? (Pretty sure the answer is no). So I thought the Act 3 stuff was effective in that way.
- As I have said, the military was quite present including giant guns under which Sophie and Octavian sing a love duet. So at the end of Act 3 (spoiler) the back walls fade away and a squad of military starts marching forward (including the Field Marshall?) into battle (and die) — I guess some found that out of no where but it didn’t actually feel that way to me…I mean…well…it’s all going like clockwork, right?
- A fascinating little detail to me: The Marschallin wears this robe after she and Octavian “come in” from the hall, through the levee until she changes. Now, when Octavian changes (the call girls dress him actually) in Act 3 to become Mariandel, she wears that robe, and a wig that from the back that looks like the Marschallin’s. The call girls stand around Octavian so you can’t see him, and then step back and his back is to the audience, and I thought, “what?! they changed him into the Marschallin? that’s just mean!”). A really interesting choice that I’m still thinking about, couple with how Octavian kind of mimics some of the Marschallin’s words from Act 1.
All right so…I’m going to stop here! For now that is. Tomorrow we will go see the Met HD broadcast (BECAUSE OF COURSE WE ARE, that was on my calendar before we even knew we were going to the Met) and I know I will have more to say then! (Like, I have another whole set of things to say about Octavian and how Elina Garanca actually made me believe Octavian is a 17 year old BOY).
But you can be sure. There will be swooning. And crying. And more of same.
Smelling salts already packed.
Again, production photos by Ken Howard, via Facebook.
Anyone else listening to the audio stream? At the moment they are playing the opening night broadcast from 50 years ago. Leontyne Price just spoke, now Zeffirelli, and I feel just a tiny bit giddy.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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.
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 as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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:
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.
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?
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.
Ohhhh. Who all could I find?
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.
By then we needed a bathroom break. We promptly ran into this:
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!
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.
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!