I wasn’t going to post again today (I’m saving my post about the rest of today for tomorrow morning when I’m awake before the sun), but then I left the Wiener Staatsoper after an hour of Un Ballo in Maschera, and I have something to say.
Life is too short for bad opera. Life is really, really too short to wait two hours to buy a standing room ticket to a bad opera. And life is especially too short to wait two hours to buy a standing room ticket to a bad opera when the place you’ve chosen seems to be the only one without working subtitles.
I refuse to applaud if I feel it wasn’t merited. Neil Shicoff was struggling like a madman through his opening aria as King Gustavo, pushing and waggling his head around. It was just not good singing. And people were shouting “Bravo!” when he finished. Why? Was there anything about that performance worth bravo-ing? Because I heard nothing. In fact, I heard no singing that merited “Bravo”s and only one or two moments in the first hour than even merited applause.
The soprano was boring–give me Sondra Radvanovsky, give me Patricia Racette. The Ulrica was not bad vocally, but made no impression on me dramatically; she’s only in the one scene, and when she came out for her bow at the end of the act, I was like, who is that? She’s the only mezzo in the piece and I had just watched her sing for half an hour. I was underwhelmed by the baritone (though wouldn’t have minded hearing his “Eri tu,” if only for crossword purposes), and the soprano singing Oscar could barely be heard over the orchestra and the other singers, despite the Staatsoper’s amazing acoustics. The chorus was wooden and not always together, the conductor was all over the place, and the scenery looked like an expensive high school production. It didn’t help that my subtitles didn’t work, but honestly, I didn’t care what they were saying.
I am so over this. From now on, I will only applaud if something is good, I will only give a standing ovation when something is transcendent, and I will probably never shout “Bravo” because I’d feel like an idiot. I will feel no qualms about walking out of an opera if I don’t feel it’s worth sitting through the rest of it.
There were three American students standing behind me: one who had been studying in Seville, her brother and another friend. They had never been to the opera before. What a depressing first experience.
On the way back to the pension I bought some chocolate. It didn’t help. Bad opera is bad opera. If I had remembered to bring Angry Bird on this trip, he would be angry about it.
On the other hand, now I’m really pumped for my audition tomorrow. Bring it on!
P.S. It wasn’t an entirely wasted experience. I did manage to have a conversation IN GERMAN with the woman standing behind me in line to get into the theater. Ausgezeichnet!