Sunday, September 09, 2007

Yes, But OPERA Still Isn't For All

I love the arts, but they can be expensive. For those in the know, there are plenty of resources out there to get cheap tickets, from butts-in-seats middlemen to theater-endorsed lotteries and/or rush tickets, not to mention old standards like TKTS (and TDF). There are also now individuals, like Roundabout's HipTix!, that play to the under-represented 18-35 demographic by using social-networking parties and discount offers to appear, appropriately, hip. Go a little younger, and you'll get the teen program, High Five!, which succeeded at least in getting me interested in the arts.

Democratically speaking, there hasn't really been anything to get people out to the opera, not en masse, that is, which is why I'm excited about New York City Opera's widening of their OPERA-FOR-ALL programming. In the interests of full disclosure, I was invited to attend their opening festivities this weekend, which kicked off with La Boheme and Don Giovanni, the latter of which I attended on Saturday, and commented on here. How pleased I was, then, to find that the audience was littered with both shy, jean-wearing first-timers and well-to-do socialites, opera-glasses in tow. Of course, this was just two days of $25 tickets, after which fans could look forward to spending upwards of $100 for decent seats, or $16 for the fourth-ring rafters (which, to be fair, would still be cheaper than gallery seats to see Patti LuPone in Gypsy). Instead, you can get exposed (for better or worse) to opera throughout the entire festival, with approximately fifty seats in the front orchestra going on sale each Monday to whoever gets them first (phone/online, too).

Now, I didn't like Don Giovanni, but the truth is that opera isn't really for everyone. It's an accumulated taste, one that runs on protracted exposition and often archaically rustic melodies to make its points. Even involving people like Hal Prince and Susan Stroman can't spark life on the stage when there's a complicated aria that requires stillness, and what you often get are overbearing sets that diminish the acting, and orchestras that drown out most of the men. Subtlety doesn't translate over the overwhelming space of New York City Opera, which leaves only the booming passages of Italian poetry (with the occasionally illuminating supertitle) to loko forward to. For some, this is their cup of tea. For me, I longed only to see Daniel Mobbs's Leporello up close, to hear Julianna Di Giacomo's indomitable Donna Elvira without the noise of squeaking sets around me, and after the first intermission, to get out of there. (Which would've been a mistake, as the second act was much more varied.)

But whether I liked the opera or not is beside the point: there will be $25 dollar tickets available this Monday for the Toni Morrison-inspired Margaret Garner (not to mention La Boheme and Don Giovanni), which rightfully puts the taste-making decision back in your court. I don't ever worry about theater, but that's because I'm hyper-exposed to it. Isn't it about time more companies started going out of their way to keep a healthy part of this population indoctrinated?

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