A night at the opera

November 01, 2005|by FEDORA COPLEY

BALTIMORE - Going to the opera.

Words like "grand" and "lavish" come to mind. As I stepped into the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, this is just what I thought of.

My father and I attended the opening night of the Baltimore Opera Company's production of "La Traviata," a classic opera written 150 years ago by Giuseppe Verdi.

As we entered the crowded lobby, hordes of well-dressed people mingled and chatted in a huge lobby.

On the floor was red carpet. Women wore brooches, fur collars and jewelry. Many men wore tuxedos. "Grand" fit the whole picture so well.


With all the black-clothed people around me and the subtle colors on the walls, I couldn't help but feel conspicuous wearing a bright green jacket and newsboy cap.

Curtain rises

We arrived as a chime sounded for people to take their seats. We joined the crowd surging up a wide staircase and down a bland hallway. We finally came to the huge theater. This, as well, was packed with people, and it was immense. My dad and I had tickets for the "nosebleed" seats, high up in the balcony.

The theater's decor was simple, with grand bronze-colored mini-pillars along the wall, and composers' names framed in rusty hues.

As the lights faded into darkness, the stage was illuminated in eerie blue light. A large structural steel frame lay on the floor, then began to tilt slowly up. After several seconds, I saw that the frame supported a giant mirror, which reflected a painted cloth on the floor. From our vantage, in the balcony, we saw actors on the stage (standing on the floor cloth) and reflected in the mirror (where the floor cloth became the backdrop). The effect was a rich scene, with heavily patterned backdrops - a curtain, a country house, a field of flowers, and so on.

Living for pleasure

The story of "La Traviata," which means "The Lost Ones," takes place in Paris. Alfredo, the male lead, loves Violetta, a party girl who lives for pleasure. Of course, Alfredo's love is true. And of course, Violetta's wild ways get her into trouble.

The first scene was an elegant party scene and was hard to follow with so many people on stage at a time, and such colorful costumes and props begging to be noticed by my flitting eyes. The opera is in Italian, but English subtitles appear above the stage telling the audience what the characters are singing. It's hard to pay attention to everything - the action, the words and the singing.

Especially late at night - the opera began at 8:15 and lasted about three hours.

The plot was, ironically, rather like a TV soap opera - tangled love affairs, misunderstandings and silly, easily influenced girls.

All dialogue is sung, and the lines were often repeated several times for dramatic effect. But the plot was slow to evolve, and occasionally boring.

During one of the short intermissions, dad and I walked around the building and got some water from the bar - a very crowded place. Many people were stretching their legs and walking around some, many with drinks from the bar. The mood was relaxed but still formal.

It was fun being able to see the orchestra in their little room underneath the front edge of the stage. The music was very classical and traditional and sometimes repetitive. I admit sometimes I found myself leaning against dad's shoulder and closing my eyes. It was late, after all.

After the final, dramatic scene, all the characters came out and bowed, all in splendid costumes. The applause really was thunderous.

Even though the music wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it was fun to go to the opera and feel classic and grand with the fancy people of Baltimore.

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