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Hmm. So many nice things to say about today - but ...

I spent three and a half hours tonight watching an amateur (in the worst way) opera company's production of Carmen. Things got off to a bad start when the curtain raised on a set that was supertitled as "A Plaza in Seville" but was clearly Baja Mexico, complete with palm trees and a string of chiles hanging off the wall. And the costumes - there was absolutely not the least bit of attention to historical accuracy, the men had too much blush on (as did the women), and the "nice" female lead just looked like crap with her hair in a french braid. And who thought a two foot wide belt was a good fashion option? Did that say "gypsy?" And during the coastal-set "Carmen's Friends Strip a Boat" scene, some dude came out wearing a striped shirt and tights, and I said, "Look, Jason! It's a mime with a gun!"

And SO many things went wrong. The supertitles died in every act. (I wound up translating for my friend. "He loves her. She loves him." If only Micaela could have opened her mouth all the way so her French was understandable ...) The Matador guy (Escamillo) actually cleared his throat during his big solo (and was so big I figured the bulls would have finished him off long ago). (His costume was wretched, too; I wondered if he was fresh off shift as a waiter at Zinzanni, whereas shadowdaddy hypothesized he was actually a magician who performed in the stands at the ring.) People grabbed the scenery and used it to balance themselves. And at one point, I swear Carmen's two gal pals were staring into the pit in response to a particularly bad bit of violin noise.

I should say that most of the singing was just fine (else we would have left), and the flamenco dancing during the bar scene was lovely, but, GUYS! GUYS! A few more rehearsals, PLEASE! And is there any excuse for all of the off-key playing I heard coming from the orchestra pit!?!

Many people I knew were in this show (which is why we went), but we hurried out afterwards lest we be obliged to find something nice to say to them. My friend rehearsed her comments to our mutual aquaintances ("You should fix the supertitles, and you might want to practice your curtain call again"), but really, it's a good thing they're only running for two more shows.

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
conformer
Oct. 15th, 2005 08:07 am (UTC)

Ah, community theatre. The best of the bottom of the barrel.

Support the arts!

=]'
itsjustaname
Oct. 15th, 2005 10:45 am (UTC)
Oh fear God. I feel for you I really do, but not as much as I feel for your friend. If there's one thing worse that seeing truly awful; amateur theatre, it's seeing truly awful amateur theatre and having to talk and be nice to some of the people involved aferwards!
webcowgirl
Oct. 15th, 2005 06:52 pm (UTC)
Run! Run for the exits!
Heh heh heh! Jason said we'd have to go see some real opera in London to get the taste out of our mouths.

So ... what are your plans looking like for Christmas, anyway? Is Edward Scissorhands a possibility?
itsjustaname
Oct. 16th, 2005 11:41 am (UTC)
Re: Run! Run for the exits!
I'd be definitely interested in seeing Scissorhands. I'm in London over Christmas and New Year as far as I'm aware (fingers crossed, touch wood etc that everything doesn't go horribly wrong in the meanwhilst).
blueskitten
Oct. 15th, 2005 04:38 pm (UTC)
I have not gone to see this one. I must admit, I'm not planning to. After hearing a bit about the half-assed job the company was doing (from the mouths of insiders and outsiders), I am inclined to pass. Sometimes it's handy being poor, as it gives me a good excuse.
webcowgirl
Oct. 15th, 2005 06:13 pm (UTC)
Jason says it was the longest 3 1/2 hours of his life, and while I won't say it was that bad it will for me henceforth be a standard of badness against which other bad shows are judged.

It was nice seeing Bernie, though!
koaloha
Oct. 15th, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC)
yay. i like this post.

write more about all the shows you go to.
webcowgirl
Oct. 16th, 2005 12:04 am (UTC)
Pushmepullyu!
Because I am so excited that you commented to one of my posts I went back and tagged a bunch of other shows I've written about. Filter on "theater" or "ballet" and you'll hear my snarks and praise.

I usually have a lot to say about the shows I see. If you display interest (since almost no one else does), I'll write about them more.
koaloha
Oct. 16th, 2005 12:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Pushmepullyu!
thanks, i will look at them when i have some time
(Anonymous)
Oct. 28th, 2005 05:51 am (UTC)
re: the worst opera EVAH
You know, the opera company intended to present an opportunity for amateur Northwest singers (who have good voices but would never get the chance to sing in Seattle - so self-conscious that they always have to import singers from elsewhere) to have a chance to stage an opera, sing with some experienced singers, and stage a difficult program on a threadbare budget. They actually carried the program off, the singing was good, the singers were thrilled and the prices were modest. Give them a break you pretentious jerk.
webcowgirl
Oct. 28th, 2005 06:28 am (UTC)
Re: the worst opera EVAH
I know it hurts to call a spade a spade, but what I said was the truth, and you must have come looking for the truth if you made it to my blog. I left it public because I'm willing to stand behind my opinion; why won't you stand behind yours with your name?

And really, performances aren't done to "thrill" the performers, they're supposed to be done to thrill the audience. Either you should do it right or not do it at all, but to do it half-assed is really inexcusable. Better to have spent more time on rehearsal (especially the orchestra and the supertitles) and zero dollars on sets and costumes, as the performance would have been far better if it had been in tune and comprehensible to non-French speakers. I'm unsure how this opinion qualifies as "pretentious;" you must be upset to find me critical and "correct."
(Anonymous)
Feb. 23rd, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC)
Your review of Lyric Opera Northwest's Carmen in October 2005.
Unlike the other Anonymous post, I will stand behind my comment with my name. I'm Tom and I don't know who you are, but from your picture you look like a 12 year old and clearly from the way you express yourself, you are completely inadequate to judge any art form.

I am not a blogger but do surf the net frequently and am an opera aficionado. Knowing the opera business very well, I know the truth hurts but even when it needs to be told that some singers/ productions just do not have the "chops," it is told in more tactful ways. Do you have any IDEA how much work goes into singing, let alone mounting a production? It takes a strong spirit, enduring physicality and a lot of brains.

You should REALLY try to avoid such blanketed phrases like "the worst opera evah." And, while you're at it, why don't you spell correctly? No one would listen to what Anthony Tommassini or Bernard Holland had to say if they said "Last night at the Met suuuucked." Do you know who they are?

Speaking of major opera companies -- You (your alias is "webcowgirl" I believe) responded to "itsjustaname's" comment that "we'd have to go see some real opera in London to get the taste out of our mouths." This statement is so unfathomably ignorant. Which opera company in London are you referring to? The Royal Opera? I'm assuming you live in Seattle. Are you implying that someone would have to travel across seas to see "good opera?" You seem to be blithely unaware of the elite opera companies that litter the United States (Houston, Chicago, New York) and even more unaware of the prominent regional companies the country boasts.

Oh, and while you're at it, might you define what you mean by "good opera?" From this statement, compounded with your response to the Anonymous post ("Either you should do it right or not do it at all, but to do it half-assed is really inexcusable") you seem like the type of person who automatically assumes that major companies, like a "Seattle Opera" or the "Met," always do it right. However, as you may not know, these companies are frequently, as are regional and what "conformer" calls "community theatre" companies, victims of inadequate productions and bad reviews. For instance, the Fall Run of Cavalleria rusticana/ Pagliacci at the Met was not well-received. Do you remember their new production of Trovatore in 1999/ 2000? New York City Opera's modern production of Carmen in the late 90s was panned. Likewise, Seattle Opera's Carmen in recent seasons, while it may have been what you call "historically accurate," featured dramatic mezzo Stephanie Blythe in the title role, inarguably physically inappropriate.

I am not writing this comment to argue, but am probably coming from the same place that the other Anonymous blogger came from - a frustration with the way you express yourself, an expression which has the slight potential for coming across as an opinion from a far more-educated audience member. This is America after all and you are free to use whatever language you like. However, comments like "the "nice" female lead just looked like crap" and "The Matador guy (Escamillo) actually cleared his throat during his big solo" are inappropriate.

By the way, what IS so bad about a singer clearing his or her throat during a performance? Obviously, from this comment, it is made clear that you are not a singer and have perhaps been to very few operas. Singers clear their throats all the time. Have you seen Raina Kabaivanska's Butterfly from the Arena di Verona? She actually COUGHS before the flower duet. Imagine...

Lastly, your tone here in your comment to the Anonymous blogger: "I left it public because I'm willing to stand behind my opinion; why won't you stand behind yours with your name?" is accusatory and argumentative. Do you think this individual a coward for not writing his name? Most would. However, upon further insight you would be made aware of the fact that the "Leave a comment" option only allows for bloggers to post their feedback, or for those with websites. I have neither a blog nor a website so I only have the option of commenting as Anonymous. Perhaps, though, the other Anonymous blogger just didn't think of putting his name.
webcowgirl
Feb. 24th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
Re: Your review of Lyric Opera Northwest's Carmen in October 2005.
You know, I write in a formal style for the reviews I put in publication. This is written in my speaking voice and reflects the environment in which I grew up. I take it you have nothing to say about my many other reviews? I post them here for fun and for the benefit of my friends, so if I see something I enjoy they can have the opportunity to catch it. I do actually work to have good spelling, and if you miss the irony in "evah" - well, there's not much to say about that.

The problem with "Anonymous" is that he doesn't give me the ability to respond to him since he doesn't have a registered account. He still hasn't come back to respond to what I said, and I can't confront him as I don't have an email account where I can reach him. We'll see if I hear back from you. (Be advised if you get too rude I'll just change the responses to "LJ account only," but I will always keep this post public as, as near as I can tell, it's about the only review of this show available anywhere.)

I don't see how criticizing me in general (which is what most of your comment is, I can only assume you were involved with the production based on the amount of time you must have spent writing it) really addresses what I had to say about how bad this opera was. I've seen probably 15 other operas in the meantime (most of them in England, where I now live), and I must say that this production of Carmen rates at the bottom of the list of all of the operas I've ever seen, not to mention every theatrical production in the last three years. My husband and I use it a touchpoint for how bad a given show is. He's never forgiven me for making him go see this turkey. Thank God we've seen ROH's Carmen and wiped the taste out of our mouth - the out-of-key orchestra, horrible supertitles, and general unprofessionalism and lack of musicality have been difficult to beat. And a singer clearing their voice in the middle of a sustained note? There is just no excuse for that.

FYI I do sing and was involved in the Gilbert and Sullivan society in Seattle. However, I have NEVER heard someone clear their throat during a sustained note in a solo in the 25 years since I first saw Magic Flute.

A turkey is a turkey, and this show could have been served up nicely as Thanksgiving dinner. I rarely leave a show wishing I could get those hours of my life back, but in this case I did. Best of luck to you in seeing an improved version of this at some point in the future.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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