I went to the amazing *free* Metropolitan Opera Opening Night of the 2007-2008 Season in Times Square last night. It was scheduled to start at 6:30 but luckily started the second I got there about ten minutes or so late. They blocked off the entire Broadway half of Times Square and set out many seats and we watched on the big screen facing south of Manhattan. They hung giant speakers from cranes on either side of the roped off area and the sound was incredible. There was virtually no traffic noise at all (the right side of the street on the other side of the island was not blocked off...), no honking, no loud radios or engines or anything at all. I think everyone was just so into it, and those passing who didn't really know what it was all about just shut up to kind of take it in and figure it out. People came and went freely, which was nice actually. It contributed to the very relaxing and easy atmosphere. (I know! Easy and relaxing on the streets of Times Square!?) The back half was not very full at all when I got there, but then -oddly- almost completely filled up for the great mad scene in the Third Act. It's like everyone knew that this was the moment.
The opera was absolutely riveting. And I'm not just saying that. I'm sort of an 'Idea-of-Opera' lover I've sadly realized after watching this performance. I say that because I always always watch it on tv, but inevitably end up getting bored after a couple of hours and flip the channel. Maybe that's because of the commercials or because I always catch it in the middle... in any case, this performance completely surprised me and I can now say that I am a bona fide Opera lover. At one point I thought my eyes were going to bug out of my head, I was so riveted and glued to my seat. I had not planned to stay through the whole thing because it ended after ten and I had not eaten since lunch... but I just couldn't get up, I wanted to see the whole thing. I can't gush any more about it, it was simply amazing.
The Mad Scene, Act III
In between the Acts, in the almost half an hour Intermissions, there were interviews and backstage glimpses. The first intermission Mary Jo Heath talked briefly with Director Mary Zimmerman and surprisingly Mara Blumenfeld, the costume designer (sorry Mara! I got such odd photos of you!) The interview was brief but she talked about her thought process behind the production and their decision to move the time period to the Victorian era. The idea was that as Lucia goes mad, or is already mad and gets increasingly so, in their view, that the Victorian time period would be a great backdrop to emphasize this story in that respect.
The palette Mara chose was one of blacks, dark greys, gunmetals, dark greens, and only one hit of red in the 'villian,' Enrico's costume. Of course Lucia's wedding gown in the final act was a bright white which popped dramatically against the cast's black ensemble. There were alot of irridescent taffetas used, in almost everybody's costume, especially the ensemble cast. Brocades were used as well, though they too were very shiny. The production on the whole was very dark and moody with lots of bare trees in the backgrounds to add eeriness- it was almost like a ghost story.
Maestro James Levine in action, and taking a final bow with the leading lady. Don't you just love him! I always have, I think he's adorable. Not to mention a genius, of course.
I was very happy to see that after the first bow, the production team came up and joined the line, including Mara Blumenfeld, to take curtain calls. Afterwards everyone took a final bow on the balcony of Lincoln Center, where an audience was watching outside on a large screen.