3.23.2012

Going to the Opera

Last night was the long-awaited trip to the Lyric Opera of Chicago with my parents, to see Verdi's Aida. Aida is running until March 25, so we got in just in time. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times...

Valet parking helped ease concerns since what seems like half of Wacker drive is yet again closed for construction.

We weren't able to get a reservation at The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room, but we did get a walk-in seat at the Florian Opera Bistro. The menu was pleasant if short, and the food was mediocre at best--hard meat doused in sauce is an Anthony Bourdain classic red flag for crap kitchen work. The waiter seemed to take an inordinately long time inputting our order into his hand-held device.

the confusing Egyptian-themed intermission screen
Once the house lights dimmed, a gentleman stepped up with a microphone. Oh-oh, was heard sporadically around me. Radames this evening would be a last-minute replacement with a debuting artist. Oops? Is it too late to get our money back?

First, I'll discuss the good things about last night's performance...

It was my first time at the LOC so I was completely besotted with the lovely Prairie Deco design. Learn more about the 1929-built Civic Opera House's history in the Wiki entry. I can't believe there isn't a building history section on the LOC's website.

There was a wonderful, wonderful variety of ages, walks of life, and states of dress--and un-dress in some cases--represented in the audience. I didn't spot any Lauboutins, but several "trampoline" heels were in sight.

Hui He as Aida was lovely and had an amazing strength of voice and body language. Equally talented was Quinn Kelsey as Amonasro with a deep tone and amazing vocalization. I believe they shared a great chemistry on stage which made their characters believable.

The graceful dancers were a visual delight. I really cannot say enough about both the male and female (especially delicate) dancers. I wasn't aware this opera featured ballet, and it added up to an amazing visual experience.

The screens featuring several scenes interplayed wonderfully with props and columns to add depth and character to the location.

Now for the not so good things about last night's performance...

We gave the opera a try even though the lead was replaced with a newbie. We were patient and restrained through the first several arias. But then it became painfully evident that the lead was completely unable to project above the sound column emanating out of the orchestra pit. This is partially fault of casting, and partially fault of the conductor.

The wardrobe wasn't stellar. What on earth were the bubble-like rounded helmet-like protrusions on people's heads? The traditional, perhaps cliched, pleated Egyptian headdress was painfully absent.

Why are only black actors used for lifting chaises? Why are Ethiopians portrayed in an odd, Avatar-like blue?

In regards to the scenery, what on earth was that first screen about? An archaeological site buried in sand with a central collage of Egyptian cliche images (papyrus, two phoenixes?, anthropomorphic statues, columns, and sand). There was an image at the top left resembling the sphinx but its headdress was more reminiscent of a Native American Indian than Egyptian. We were perplexed.

The house curtain is medieval in style and decor, and yet the house architectural detail is deco. 

Also, I was not expecting to get out of there past eleven at night during a work weekday. I have to be in the office at 7 am each day!

Taking everything, and I mean everything, in consideration, we thoroughly enjoyed our evening and each other's company. We laughed and conversed in depth during the bumper-to-bumper commute downtown during rush hour, we conversed and enjoyed each others' company at dinner, and we criticized the lead and wardrobe until we were blue in the face on the drive home.

It was a different experience than our typical outing or weekday night. We would definitely go back to the LOC, but perhaps, next time, we'll take a closer look at the casting and do an in-depth scan of reviews.