Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm at the opera!

UTAH OPERA's Marriage of Figaro: 3 stars (out of 5)

I never would have imagined myself going to the opera. I love the theater, I love concerts, I love movies. But the opera seemed a little out there. Then I met a real-life opera singer at one of my game-night outings. He seemed like a normal-enough person and much cooler than his head shot seemed to imply. Soon after, I heard an advertisement on NPR about the local opera company putting on "The Marriage of Figaro." So I asked my roommate Amanda if she fancied a try at the opera. This is her year of trying new things, so she readily agreed. We bought nose-bleed tickets for 15 bucks; we weren't willing to drop $50+ on an event that, frankly, might suck.
We got all dressed up (with somewhere to go!) and arrived at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City on a blustery Sunday afternoon. We climbed about 3 flights of stairs and found our seats. After squeezing our knees and elbows in to the tightly packed seats, we looked around the audience and read through the program. I was absolutely tickled to recognize a couple from contra dancing. (See this guy in the blue shirt? He was there with his girlfriend.)
In any case, the program explained that in the first act, Figaro and his fiancee are talking about the upcoming wedding. Then, the Count appears and wants the fiancee (Susanna) for his own. There's a older woman who wants to marry Figaro and thinks she can bribe him into marriage by holding the money he owes her as enticement. There's a flirtatious page boy (played by a girl) who chases after the Countess. Then there are about 3 or 4 other characters introduced, and things start to look confusing. That's when I put the program aside and waited for the show to start.
It began with Mozart's familiar opening strains that I remember playing in band one year. The musicianship was excellent, flawless. The curtains raised on a pretty stage with a bed in the middle of the room and cherub figures painted on the walls. We meet Figaro and Susanna, and the story begins.
The opera itself is a comedy. It's not one of these tragic shows where everyone dies of TB, poor and alone. Other stereotypes of the opera are there: love affairs, people jumping to conclusions, bizarre coincidences, scheming, jealousy, deception.
I won't be able to clearly tell the story, so I won't. That was part of the learning curve for me: so many characters and subplots confused me. The singing itself was like the musicianship: flawless. It seemed any one of the performers on stage could have played the lead parts. There was no talking at all: this was straight opera singing. It was also in Italian. There were surtitles above the stage. This was a bit of a drag, because it took away from my enjoyment of the pure singing. I had to look away to comprehend what I was hearing. There was a disconnect there. When I concentrated on the signing alone, I got more pleasure out of it. i didn't understand what was happening, but oh well.
There were 2 intermissions; the show itself lasted about 3 hours. It was a tad uncomfortable on two levels: sitting down for so long in a small, cramped space, and having a cough that nearly tickled my throat so bad I wanted to grab the water out of the hands of the girl sitting next to me (*not* my roommate). Instead, I frantically grabbed a cough drop and prayed it would still the tickle. After an uncomfortable 2 or 3 minutes, it did.
So, would I do it again? Yes, I think so. "Figaro," confusing as it was, was a good place to start, operatically. It had some laughs, beautiful sets and costumes, amazing performances, and was overall well-done. Next time, I hope not to have a cough.

Even better than the opera was dinner at the Melting Pot afterward. Amanda and I walked over from the theater after reserving a table online during one of the opera's intermissions (yay, iPhone!). We went "whole hog" and splurged on the Fondue Feast. First came the 4-cheese fondue with bread, apples, and raw veggies. Next were the salads. After a nice pause while we digested came the meat: steak, chicken, shrimp, pork. Oh, yes, there were also mushroom ravioli-type things. Finally, we got to choose our dessert. In what kind of chocolate fondue would we like to dip our strawberries, bananas, Oreo- and graham-cracker-rolled marshmallows, pound cake, brownies, and cheesecake? We chose simply: milk chocolate. Other options were white, dark, espresso, cinnamon, turtle, and more I cannot recall. My favorite of the sweets to dip? The Oreo-rolled marshmallow. Wow. Sugar coma time. But worth it. In the end, opera and the Melting Pot were a great pairing.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Contra dancing in SLC

I finally got a group of friends to come dancing with me.
Back row: Katie, Brian, Danielle, Allison, Amanda.
Front row: Daphne, James

Danielle balancing right and left in a long line.

Danielle, Allison, Amanda. Didn't realize the "girls" were so out there.

More long lines. Look closely. You might find yourself. You are not Ted Kaczynski.