Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Simon Boccanegra, Giuseppe Verdi
Ariadne Auf Naxos
, Richard Strauss
, Georges Bizet
La Fille du Regiment, Gaetano Donizetti

Arrival in New York was welcoming. I travelled from JFK on the A-line and sitting next to me was a young guy who wasn't shy about his criminal self and his time in prison. He was talking to a girl who he knew perhaps as part of his gang, but could equally have met her one station before I boarded. If it wasn't for her, I might very well have been the target of his story and I dreaded to think how I was going to share my reason for being. "No, I've never been to prison. I've heard alot about it, though tonight I think I might see if I can get a ticket to the opera.

Tonight, Wednesday, 10th February, is presumably my last night in New York but the snow continues to fall and the accumulation of its delicate white effect is monstrously disrupting the city. My only request at this stage is that I get out on a flight tomorrow. Every other part of my journey has gone to plan so I am relying now on good luck to get to Los Angeles by tomorrow evening. All schools here and some businesses were shut down but the opera goes ahead. Tonight I am going to see La Fille du Regiment and it completes my plan to see four operas here at the Metropolitan Opera. Since I am staying within a three minute walk to the Lincoln Center (I wonder if some performers have to walk further to get to the stage from the labyrinthine backstage quarters), It is not far I have to go for the fix. I walked over there last Friday night, the day of arrival, and picked up a Standing Room ticket for 10USD (face value 17.50USD) as easily as ever it could be, and saw a "sold out" performance of Carmen. That was not part of my original plan so deciding to see Carmen last night as intended, I actually will have attended the opera five times here. Adding to that an unscheduled stop and a complimentary ticket to see Sleeping Beauty by the NYC Ballet on Sunday afternoon and I can call the Lincoln Center my living room for the week.

When I was last here in New York, I learned that the Metropolitan Opera offer 150 Orchestra seats (Stalls equivalent) for 20USD, sold as rush tickets two hours prior to all performances from Monday to Thursday only. Each person is allowed to purchase no more than two tickets each so it is an extraoI was planning to see three of the operas in this manner but as it turned out I only ended up with one rush ticket for La Fille du Regiment on my last night.

Abruptly departing, at this point the Operachaser has to ready himself to head over for the final night's performance.
It is now just after 3pm and I am awaiting news for my flight out to Los Angeles tonight. I have to return to the check-in counter in a couple hours. I'm optimistic. So, while waiting, what better to do than complete this story of the New York Four. "


Since I arrived at my hotel in the early afternoon on Friday 5th February, rather exhausted from an early morning start in Paris, I decided to have a nap and, to my surprise, I didn't stir for almost three hours. After a swim, I got ready and left to see if I could get a ticket to see
Carmen. As I've mentioned, I got a standing room position in the Family Circle, the uppermost level of the house but, with binoculars in hand, I was able to get a more than adequate view of the performance. I was off to a great start for the week and this night out was an insurance measure just in case I couldn't get a ticket on the Tuesday night. As it turned out, I was struck with a degree of difficulty on the Tuesday night, 9th February. I arrived at 3.30pm to stand in line for a ticket but at 4.30pm I decided to give up as it was crazy to believe I had a chance of getting one of the 150 tickets on offer at 6pm. I had a swim and returned to the theatre at about 7.30pm and watched the winterclad crowd file into the foyer, working hard amongst the rest of the competition. Finally, I managed to secure a 102.50USD Dress Circle seat for 40USD which was double


New York has certainly turned on its charm. I arrived on schedule last Friday 5th February, and though the temperature has virtually lingered below zero, the skies have been as clear and blue as you could wish for. Today, however, there is no blue. A snow blizzard has settled on the city and overnight the city has taken on the appearance of a new place far from where I was just yesterday. It gives me as chance to return to my blog.

To update where last I was, on my last night in Paris I saw WERTHER by Jules Massenet at Opera Bastille. Again I had no ticket and again it was going to be a strategic exercise in procuring one. There was a young Dutchman, (with a group of Dutch opera-lovers), trying to sell a 172EUR ticket for as much as 150EUR. I could not see any scalpers in site so as much as I was pleased to see that no profit was being made by persons with no interest in attending, I was minus a ticket. There were tickets to be had and I hesitated on a couple of occasions hoping to get the most favourable seat. With less than 10 minutes before the start of the performance, I offered the Dutchman 80EUR for the ticket and said thank you very much. I was treated to a premium seat in what would be the equivalent of the dress circle and had a good chat to the couple adjacent to me.

As each part of the story unfolds the music and voices unobtrusively create the drama but then suddenly there are stunningly beautiful waves of melodious perfection. The story of the opera progresses erratically. In an instant Werther has fallen for Charlotte, the eldest daughter of a widowed magistrate and though she is engaged to another, Albert, Werther cannot let go. He takes no interest in Charlotte's sister who is offered to him and still after Charlotte's marriage to Albert, Werther persists in declaring his love. His mental anguish escalates when Charlotte refuses him one minute and then upon his own suicide tells us how much in love she was with him. Werther's death is one of the slowest in opera. He shoots himself just poorly enough to have his Charlotte embrace him for longer than would ever have happened. Tragedy! Jonas Kaufmann sang the role of Werther and Sophie Koch the role of Charlotte. Just last September I saw Jonas Kaufmann perform in Don Carlos at Covent Garden. After that stellar performace, I asked him to sign my programme and had my photo taken with him.

During the interval as I stepped outside for some air, (I have recently discovered the benefits of the occasional cigarette though I have to stop this), I was approached by a young guy for a cigarette and as it turns out he is a young conductor and artistic director for a newly formed group of Baroque musicians, the Ensemble Pygmalion. He mentioned that they would be performing their first opera in Paris at the end of the year. I somehow don't think I will be there.

As for New York, there is much to tell...

Thursday, February 4, 2010


The year is well on its way and I haven't officially posted my plans for opera in 2010. Here I go!

To make things a tad novel and increase the degree of difficulty (I am turning opera into a sport), at the end of 2009 I decided to set myself a project for 2010. The challenge is to see 52 operas in 52 weeks. This does not permit me to see the same opera twice unless it is performed by a different company. I intend to travel widely to meet the numbers and have put together a loose schedule which I will add to the blog. If I lived in Paris (CDG) for a year I could see 20 operas alone staged by the Opera National de Paris. Then there are those performed at the Theatre Comique, the Theatre du Chatelet and the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. Add to that a trip to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon, I wouldn't need to leave France!

I have thus far seen two operas. The first was LA BOHEME at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. I was in London for two days for work and being on 2nd January I managed to get off to a good start. I was totally jetlagged but it was a superb performance. It was also perhaps my most uncomfortable night yet at the opera. Covent Garden is not so generous with their seating and without an armrest and seated beside a huge fellow to one side, I was squeezed to the point I almost told him to sit where he paid.

The second for the year was LA SONNAMBULA, composed by Vincenzo Bellini at Opera Bastille, Paris. It was only last night, 3rd February, and it as was the first time I had ever seen this opera. I have listened to the music many times and love its melodious strength and astral dynamism. The performance was impressive with Natalie Dessay in the role of Amina and Javier Camerena as Elvino. The short story is that of a young woman who is about to be married but her fiance finds her with another man. As it turns out, she just happens to be a sleepwalker (the title of the opera) and when this is finally sorted out after a couple of hours her extremely jealous fiance is able to forgive her and they get married after all. Imagine being caught in anothers bed and coming up with that one! I took a few photographs during the evening which I will share with you.

At this point then, you find me in Paris. I only got here yesterday morning after a 12h30m flight from Bangkok (BKK). I was there for a wee 36hours and sadly I was not able to take in an opera. I have discovered that there is an opera company there, Bangkok Opera, and they are doing THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO in June. Who knows, I might be able to get there. The sojourn, hot and humid, did not go to waste. I trekked across the city to buy a student card (I should have asked for the press card as well!) which I have not had for years and also went to see the Thailand Cultural Centre where the Bangkok Opera presumably perform.

I am currently on three weeks long service leave and the first week was spent with my great friend Joe who lives in Beijing (PEK). We had planned to spend a week in Cambodia and we both totally enjoyed the break there. We spent four nights in Phnom Penh (PNH) and three nights in Siem Reap (REP)...alot of drama and noise but it wasn't opera. It seems there is no opera house there and no company. Culturally, however, Angkor Wat did cut it.

I am rather foot sore at the moment. I am staying very near the Metro Filles du Calvaire, a short walk to Republique. I walked all the way from there to the Arc de Triomphe then down the Champs Elysee to Concorde. From there I took rue de Rivoli to Les Halles where I stopped for a swim and later walked from there back to my hotel, the Hotel Beaumarchais...more petit than beau.

Shortly, I will prepare to head out to take an en plein air seat at a nearby cafe for a pre-performance drink. Tonight I am going to see WERTHER by Jules Massenet. Like last night I do not have a ticket but expect I'll get one even though it is sold out. Last night I bargained the price for a 40EUR ticket to 50EUR from a scalper. It was worth it but only the second time I have ever had to pay more than the ticket face value. The other time was in surprise there.

Tomorrow morning I leave early for the airport for a flight to New York (JFK) where I will be staying six nights. There, I have a chance to see four operas including a performance of SIMON BOCCANEGRA with Placido Domingo and LA FILLE DU REGIMENT with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The intention is to get value for money there.