A visit to the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House is always a great joy... special, no... more than special, and for me... if it’s Puccini, well then, it just can’t be beat. So, Saturday
I had the great good pleasure to attend the San Francisco Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly, and what a joy it was.
Now for me, a music illiterate to “revue,” either Puccini or these world class performers would be pretention to the max. What I can review is the overall experience. The excitement began after I had parked in the Performing Arts Parking Garage, (only $15.00 for the entire evening) and joined the river of people clad in evening cloths, all headed in the same direction. After all, this is San Francisco and people do DRESS for special occasions.
And for me, just walking into the opera house is a thrill. The opulence of a time gone by... the richness of the architecture, the baroque gold mirrors, the velvet settees; even a visit to the ladies room is a grand experience... more marble, more gilt mirrors.
But, on to the performance... and what a performance. When Patricia Racette began “Un Bel Di,” I was very glad I had brought six hankies, and when she finished, well... the audience was on it’s feet. Ms. Racette, Giacomo would have been pleased.
Now, being an old phart, I tend to have a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the new movement towards “minimalism,” in set design. However, in both the first scene and the last, the sparse stage was used to superb effect. When Cio-Cio San’s family arrived, a dozen or so ladies in kimono’s, each carrying a parasol, it was straight out of Hokqusai’s “Umbrella’s on a Bridge. And in the last scene, Cio-Cio San’s pure white kimono slowly becomes saturated with blood, all done with projection; not only was it visually spectacular, but anyone who wasn’t stabbed in the heart emotionally very well may have been dead. The effect was staggering.
Whether you are a big fan of opera or not, viewing a performance in the San Francisco Opera House, our opera house, is an experience that everyone should experience. This grand ol’ other era lady can’t help but stir emotion, and yes she is “our opera house.” The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House was the first community owned opera house in the United States, built with the revenue from bonds floated in the 1930. All other opera houses at the time were privately owned. But our San Francisco Opera house belongs to us... “We The People.”
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