“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I went mostly for the experience of an odd event (seeing an opera in an enormous Texas Football dome) but it was a transformative event. Now I’m an opera fan.
In the past year I managed to see Carmen at the Winspear and a handful of other simulcasts. Now it was time for another evening at the massive home of the Cowboys (now called AT&T stadium). The Dallas Opera was showing The Barber of Seville.
Candy wasn’t able to go, so I was on my own. I took some time off and left work early – wanting to get to the Mid-Cities before the Friday rush hour traffic choked the transport system. As I worked my way through the freeway system (the stadium is over 35 miles from where I work/live) I thought about how I have worked to get away from a car-oriented lifestyle. I think I drive about a third of the miles that I used to. It’s a bit of a shock when I’m forced to fight my way across the city like that – though so many people do it all day, every day.
I arrived extra early, found some food, and sat in the parking lot (it was a warm, beautiful day) and finished a long Kindle book I’ve been fighting through for a while. That was actually sort of nice.
Because I was one of the first people in I had my choice of seats. I ended up right in the middle, right beside the little patio where they were doing the filming of the introductions and stuff. The showing didn’t seem to get as much attention as last year – and the crowd looked like it might have been a little smaller. Still, it was a few thousands – a lot of people for an opera.
First they showed a Bugs Bunny Cartoon – The Rabbit of Seville, of course.
Then the opera started.
It’s a surprisingly good place to see something like that. Of course, the acoustics are horrible. There isn’t much you can do about the cavernous echo in a vast chamber like that. They did the best – the floor was lined with an array of massive speakers pointed outward. Still, it sounded like a second orchestra was hammering away slightly out of tune and far away. But your ears get used to it and it wasn’t half bad.
The High Definition Screen in Cowboy’s Stadium is famous around the world and to see it live… it is even more impressive than that. The whole setup is disconcerting to look at – the mind simply can’t comprehend an indoor space that large. It’s a shock to see a tiny ant-like person walking across an open area – and your mind realizes exactly what you are looking at. When you tip your head slightly up the screen completely fills your field of view with its ten million plus LED-lit pixels.
It’s not the size of the thing that impresses – it’s the quality. It brightness, sharpness, and overall quality of image is better than the best HDTV you will see anywhere else. They did a great job of filming. You can see details never visible in the opera house except in the most expensive of seats. That’s usually a good thing – except when you get to see how hard the performers work and how much they sweat.
The opera itself was a hoot. It was the first comic opera I had seen and that took a little getting used to. It emphasizes the fact that for many places at many times Opera was an entertainment for everybody. The Barber of Seville is sort of an Adam Sandler movie with great music. A lot of pratfalls, mugging, crude jokes, and corny romance. And a happy ending, of course.
I enjoyed how they put in a sort of conflict in the second act. Evil Bartolo shows Rosina her letter that she wrote to “Lindoro” and convinces her Lindoro is only using her on orders from Count Almaviva. She believes him and is sad. But when Lindoro arrives and she lights into him all he has to do is reveal that he really is Almaviva and all is fine. The conflict is solved so easily and quickly that it is almost a satire – saying that in the world of Figaro no sadness is allowed to exist for more than a quick aria or two.
The music, of course, is a masterpiece. The overture justifies its fame, and Figaro’s opening number, Largo al factotum is a hoot.
The time went by fast, and everybody was happy in the end. Next door to the stadium is the Ranger’s Ballpark and the baseball game ended (the home team won 1-0 on a walkoff in the eleventh inning) at about the same time – so the traffic getting out was tough… but it was still all smiles. I had tried to park in such a way that I could get out easier, but that didn’t work – it was truly a futile precaution.
In 1914 the American Telephone and Telegraph company commissioned Evelyn Beatrice Longman to create a sculpture named The Genius of Electricity for their new headquarters at 195 Broadway in New York City. The final design was a massive winged nude male figure clutching lightning bolts in one hand and a coil of high-voltage cable wound around his body held in the other.The sculpture was completed in 1916 and hoisted to a pyramid constructed on the top of the building.
It was twenty four feet in height and was cast in bronze and covered with gold leaf. It weighed over sixteen tons. The statue towered over lower Manhattan until 1984. During the 1930’s the name of the statue was changed to The Spirit of Communications – although most people knew it by its nickname, Golden Boy. In 1984 AT&T moved up the island into the famous postmodern building designed by Philip Johnson. There was no perch on the roof, but the massive lobby contained the statue with no problem.
I visited New York about this time and remember seeking out the AT&T building as I walked the streets. Its architecture was still new and exciting. I remember the building, but I don’t think I actually entered the lobby. Now, I wish I had – I wonder if I would have remembered a huge naked gold statue standing there.
The next decades were turbulent times for the telecommunications industry and for Golden Boy. The AT&T building was sold and became the Sony Building. Golden Boy went across the Hudson and for years was displayed at two different locations in New Jersey. AT&T, of course, was carved up by the Federal Government – broken down into the baby bells.
One of these, Southwestern Bell, grew until in 2005 it swallowed its parent and became the new AT&T. Soon, the headquarters ended up in downtown Dallas, in the Whitacre Tower. Finally, in 2009, Golden Boy followed suit and was installed in the lobby of the building.
I stumbled across this history… I don’t know where. I have a book that lists notable Dallas sculptures but it was published prior to Golden Boy’s cross-country journey. Once I learned he was there, I had to go see him.
After I took at look at some melting ice (a sculptural form far more fleeting than bronze and gold leaf); I took a ride on a streetcar, then hoofed it across downtown to the AT&T headquarters.
I looked a little scruffy with my cheap jacket and bag of camera stuff – but garnered no more than a glance from the guard at the huge round desk at the entrance as I circled around taking pictures. The statue dominates the lobby – there is even a really nice curved couch behind the sculpture where you can sit down, relax and stare up at his golden ass. Yes, by the way, he is completely nude and, more or less, anatomically correct.
I had arrived near the end of the day and the lobby was dotted with serious-looking men in expensive suits shuffling on their tailored overcoats for the cold trip home at the end of the workday. The lobby is lined with cellular stores that open outward onto the street. These were full of folks looking for Christmas presents – for themselves or others.
It’s a modern, clean space – the almost-century old statue looks great but maybe a little out of place. Maybe he should be up on top of the building after all. He could spend his days staring across the street to the roof of the Magnolia Hotel down at that other Dallas iconic rooftop sculpture – the Pegasus.
The statue on his perch at 195 Broadway. Photo by Lee Sandstead.
There is another famous statue in the distance. Photograph from Lee Sandstread