Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cultural Showmanship Between the Stacks

Everyone seems to be thrilled with this warmer weather, so much so that on my walk, everyone I saw smiled at me.

Not one or two, but everyone.

It's like the good cop/bad cope routine; give us some really cold weather and then it only has to be 55 and we're grinning like idiots.

I grinned back all the way to Hebrew cemetery to say hello to Henrietta and make sure the colorful rock I'd left on her gravestone was still there (affirmative) and then across the street to Shockoe cemetery to do the same for the six pebbles I'd put on Dr. Norton's memorial.

My work there through, I strolled back in time to catch some afternoon opera.

The main library was celebrating the 40th anniversary of their Gellman concert series with Capital Opera doing Mozart's "The Impresario," a one-act comedic opera.

Coincidentally, the opera had premiered February 7, 1786, so it was more of a duel occasion.

The diversity of the crowd was impressive, with everyone from a babe in arms who watched intently to middle schoolers to hand-holding couples to guys with gray ponytails.

Hardly surprising given free opera on a Saturday afternoon, but not just the opera crowd you see at CenterStage.

I don't know about anyone else, but I continue to be impressed with how much more opera for the people this town has seen since Capital Opera was formed here.

The five actor cast was as talented with the acting as the singing and their names gave clues to their roles: Mr. Scruple, the impresario, Mr. Bluff, his assistant and an aspiring singer, Madame Goldentrill, a former big name opera diva, Miss Silverpeel, a young up and coming talent, and Mr. Angle, who had the 25,000 crowns to finance it all.

The "orchestra" consisted of a pianist with page-turner, who got things started by playing the overture.

One thing that appealed to many in the crowd was that there was lots of dialog and it was in English, although the four songs were in German.

"You won't have any trouble figuring out what they're singing about," we were told and it was true.

And the dialog was laugh-out-loud funny, with lines like, "Opera's a ridiculous Italian disease that won't last."

The story of an impresario trying to retire and move to a farm to escape the headaches of the opera business played out with all the other characters doing everything they could to ensure that he continued to stage productions they could work on.

Because, of course, it was all about them.

After cat-fighting between the competing divas and the over-the-top histrionics of the man with the money constantly sniffing his hanky and chortling hilariously, they settled on an ideal solution.

Mr. Scruples would retire and the rest of them would stage the opera. He got his chickens and cows and they all got to sing in the spotlight.

As one of the characters put it, opera loses the skirmish but eventually wins the battle, especially true when you take it out of the great halls and into the neighborhoods.

Probably just another reason people are smiling around here.

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