Friday, April 6, 2012

An Afternoon at the Opera

When living in New York and constantly surrounded by people, I believe it's especially crucial to carve out time to do things reserved just for you. It might be going to a museum once a month or spending time in the morning doing a crossword at a neighborhood coffee shop. 

For me, that thing was always opera. I've tried taking family and close friends with me, but when I resented having to chit chat during intermission, or looking over to see my opera date falling asleep, I decided it was best to keep it to myself, since I love it so much I can't bear to be with anyone who loves it less.

I was thrilled, not only to have the time to squeeze one in this last trip, but to see one that rarely gets performed in the west. The piece was Khovanshchina, the unfinished masterpiece of Modest Mussorgsky, best known for Pictures at an Exhibition.

If I only get to go to the opera once this year, this was the one to see. Six acts and nearly five hours long, full of the usual Russian themes of political protest and bitter relationships, this was exactly what I was in the mood for to satisfy my opera fix. A melodramatic ending of the hundred plus chorus locking themselves in a church and setting it on fire was the icing on the cake. This piece was completed and revised in different versions by several composers, including Shostokovich, Ravel, Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. This was the Shostokovich version, who was not known for cheerful themes.

When I lived in Brooklyn, tickets in the nosebleed section of the Met were so affordable, they were a few dollars more than going to see a movie. They're still reasonable now, given that any performance is going to be the best in the world, at the most exquisite opera house. I even saw a few operas in Europe during several months of travel, and nothing was quite like the Met.

Correction, nothing is quite like the Met.

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