Lobby of the Winspear Opera House – taken during the opening festivities three years ago.
The interior of the Winspear, taken when it first opened.
Ever since we stumbled into the unexpected awesomeness that was Turandot at the Death Star – I have been jonesin’ for some more opera. I managed to take in a couple of Met Simulcasts at local movie theaters – which was extra cool – but there is no substitute for the real thing.
Despite our poverty at the moment, I splurged and bought tickets to the Dallas Opera’s production of Carmen at the Winspear. Wanting to enjoy the show with the minimum of folderol I chose the Sunday matinee. The tickets have been magneted on the refrigerator for months… finally, today was the day. I was psyched.
I have always loved the music of Carmen – I have had an album of the orchesteral suite on my own personal heavy rotation for thirty years. It is a treat to hear the familiar melodies on their home turf, so to speak.
The only problem I have with Carmen is one of those stubborn stray childhood memories. Implanted like an intractable splinter is the remembrance of a particular episode of Gilligan’s Island… where the castaways produce a homegrown play of their own device. It is a musical version of Hamlet, set to well known opera themes – in particular a couple of the more famous melodies from Carmen.
The combination of the serious genius of Shakespeare and the classic musical stylings of Bizet mixed with the silly sitcom technique caused a rift in the time-space continuum and a permanent spot of damage in my young brain. The corruption persists to this day. Unfortunately, I can’t listen to The Toreador Song without hearing the Skipper singing, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be….”
And then, Gilligan singing “To be or not to be,” to the tune of Habanera… Oh, man, I wish I had never heard that….
But, other than that, I love the music.
And hearing it live was especially special. So much of the music we hear today (all of it, really) is electronically amplified. Even live music is miked and boomed out over speakers. To hear the complexity and delicacy of the orchestra and the voices within the exquisite acoustics of a place like the Winspear with no intermediary between the instruments and performers and your eardrums is a pure treat… something to be treasured and remembered, experienced whenever possible.
Now, because I am poor, we could only afford nosebleed seats – way up in the top, only three rows down from the ceiling (though, since I bought them on the first day, they were in the center). It wasn’t bad at all. The sound was still perfect and, although we couldn’t make out the emotion in the faces of the performers, the staring-down-on the relatively narrow staging gave the production a three-dimensional look that staring straight through the proscenium from a floor seat doesn’t boast.
As we went to the elevator before the performance the attending woman said, “Sixth Floor – Now at the intermission, go down to the fifth floor if you want to buy something. That’s actually a great place because there is a balcony outside.” So that’s what we did. I really enjoyed the few minutes out on the balcony, looking down onto the familiar reflecting pool and across the arts district… you could even see past the highways on to Fair Park – a beautiful view. The massive aluminum grid of the sunscreen was only a few feet over our heads.
The opera is not a quick thing – it takes up the whole day (though for me, the actual performance goes by all too quickly). But it is an experience that I have come to treasure – a special form of entertainment. The history of it, the people watching at the performance, and especially the industry and expertise of everyone associated with the show makes is so worth the effort and expense.
Now I have to look ahead… what to see next? Maybe Death and the Powers? It looks like it will be simulcast all over the world, maybe you can join me?