It is time for us all
To decide who we are
Do we fight for the right
To a night at the opera now?
I’ve been very #blessed (yep, I just did that) this summer when it comes to having opportunities happen to me. This is not a summer where I can go to places on vacation or spend a lot of money. I’ve been doing a lot of armchair travel either via books, radio dramas, or TV shows. But one really cool thing I’ve been able to do this summer is attend a lot of concerts at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts…..almost all of them for free. Some of the tickets I’ve won (ie The National Symphony Orchestra performing the score to a screening of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey AND Josh Groban!) and one set I actually bought (Josh Groban again!)
But the more awesome way was how I got to attend the opera this summer!
I’d never been to the opera before. I’d seen movies that featured the opera in it but it wasn’t something I’d ever experienced myself. It was too expensive. I thought it might be boring. I thought it’d be confusing with the foreign language. And it seemed like something you’d do if you older and more well off. Opera goers have the stereotype of being stuffy and over cultured. At least to me. It was just something I never thought I’d see myself attending. I mean this is what I thought of when I saw the opera:
However one day I just happened to see this tweet that had been retweeted by the main Wolf Trap twitter feed:
And I thought, well I love Wolf Trap, I’ve never been to the opera before, and free tickets? Sure why not? This was just luck that I happen to catch this tweet because I had only JUST started following the main Wolf Trap account and so I didn’t normally go to look at their tweets. It was just excellent timing.
After attending the information session with Wolf Trap Opera (lots of information on their website!), we were told that the reason why they were doing this was that they wanted to reach out to people who had never been to the opera and learn why. Basically a lot of people had the same preconceptions I had and they wanted to change that. All we had to was answer a few surveys and we were going to be given free tickets to two operas of our choice. I was stoked! This was an opportunity I never thought I was going to have and now I’d get to do it for free? Awesome!
The first opera I saw was Handel’s Giulio Cesare. It is the story of Julius Cesar and Cleopatra. It’s sung in Italian. You can read a synopsis of the opera here.
This one was done at The Barns at Wolf Trap which is a more intimate location seating less than 400 people. The buildings are actual barns from the 18th century and have excellent acoustics.
We didn’t know what to expect and was very glad we went to the pre talk beforehand. This was great because we were told how the story differed from what one normally would have expected from a historical story (ie. everyone wore modern costumes) and we were given samples of what the singers would sound like. This was good because the male lead was a countertenor and if you’ve never heard one before it is quite a shock.
The opera itself was fabulous. Sets were well done, costumes were great, the singing excellent. I never once felt bored or lost. The only thing that was a bit of an issue was our seats were in the very back and therefore seeing the subtitles was a bit difficult but it’s really a minor quibble. We walked out that night feeling extremely cultured. I felt like this is what it was like for all those people back in history when they went to the opera house. I feel like I just experienced something totally new and it was excellent.
Since we were sitting in the back, this is the best pic we could get.
I don’t have actual footage of the opera but here’s a video about what the opera was about made the company
The second opera I attended was Bizet’s Carmen, held at the main Filene Center at Wolf Trap.
You can read a synopsis of the opera here. It was sung in French.
There was a huge difference for us in seeing this opera over our first one. While Giulio Cesare felt very intimate, this one being in the larger venue felt more open. Our seats this time was in the balcony on the very far left side. And they were excellent. We could see everything (aside from the chorus in the back but that was ok).
With the dancing, costumes, and video screens (one of my favorite parts), it felt more like watching a Broadway show vs the “Shakespeare theater” feeling. I absolutely loved it. The video screens changed throughout the course of the show, sometimes very subtle which made up for the fact that there were no walls/sets. Also the music was done by the National Symphony Orchestra. The performances were all so very excellent.
You may recognize the music even though you haven’t seen the opera before. It’s become part of pop culture.
A really cool thing Wolf Trap Opera did during the Carmen performance was heavily integrate the use of technology. There was seating on part of the lawn where you could use your electronic device to read the supertitles. Also a cast member used Google glasses on stage to get a different glimpse of what was going on during the performance. I can’t watch this video without getting motion sickness but it’s a really cool perspective of what’s going on during the show.
So yeah! Going to opera is awesome. I highly recommend it if you get the chance to go where you live. And if you happen to be in the DC area, you totally should come out to Wolf Trap to see the opera there. It’s not as expensive as seeing it at like Kennedy Center but the performance is just as great. You don’t have to get all fancy and dress up (unless you want to of course). Also it’s at Wolf Trap which is always excellent whether at the Barns or the Filene Center (picnic on the lawn!). If you ever see an opportunity like this, I highly recommend jumping on it.
There’s still one more opera performance left this season at Wolf Trap: Le pauvre matelot and Les mamelles de Tirésias. Two French operas. You should jump on that. Just saying. http://www.wolftrap.org/Home/Find_Performances_and_Events/Performance/14Opera/Le_pauvre_Matelot_Les_mamelles.aspx
I’m so glad I did this. Part of my trying new things this year. SO WORTH IT!
Thank you again Wolf Trap Opera for this awesome opportunity!