Posted by: jkirkby8712 | November 23, 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011 –Bill’s night at the Opera.

I noticed that today’s media was reporting that the tragic nursing home fire in Sydney at the end of last week, has claimed it’s 7th victim this morning.  Two people who died during the fire on Friday morning have not yet been formally identified.  Another 29 residents remain in various hospitals across Sydney. A nurse at the facility, Roger Dean, is charged with four counts of murder. The fire broke out at the aged care facility on Hambledon Road, Quakers Hill, about 5am on Friday. Strike Force Westall, led by the Homicide Squad with assistance from the Property Crime Squad and North West Metropolitan Region, was formed to investigate the incident.  As indicated, a man has been charged with four counts of murder and remains before the court.

As the title suggests, I had a night at the Opera this evening, and quite a long night, it was indeed, when combined with the train travel, etc, added some hours to the venture. Well, after 6 decades or more of enjoying music, and going to many different genres of concerts, etc, this was my first ever visit to the opera. Performed at the State Theatre in the Arts Centre, and viewing from a rather nice aisle seat up in the Balcony [when I go to these things alone, I don’t mind or bother about purchasing the most expensive seats, and this in fact suited me just fine], I was there to see the opera written by Giuseppe Verdi – ‘La traviata’ –  an opera in three acts based on the play ‘La dame aux camelias’ written by Alexandre Dumas in 1852. Set in 1890’s Paris, La Traviata has become  for many fans, the ultimate romantic opera, and I’m rather glad in retrospect, that I chose it as my first experience of that medium.
Apparently the first performance of the opera took place at the Teatro La Fenice, in Venice, on the 6 March 1853, and this production was first performed here in Australia at the Sydney Opera House on the 19 August 1994 [took a while to get to Australia!!]. Now one thing I have learnt from tonight’s show  – I might need to brush up on my Italian for future operas!  This production was sung in Italian, as is generally the case, but at least we did have English sub-titles flashed  up above our heads over the stage. Quite well done, although admittedly, quite often, I would barely glance at that, concentrating on merely enjoying the music and singing, and watching the action on the stage – having thoroughly read the Synopsis, prior to each Act [there were two intervals], I was fairly familiar with the storyline, and what was going on. In basic terms, the story deals with a wealthy young man who falls in love with a modern day equivalent of a prostitute [in French circles, referred to as a well to do courtesan], they move in together, but eventually, she is persuaded by his father and family to give him up for the sake of the family’s ‘reputation’.  In the bend after much drama and heart ache, they are reunited in love, but all late, as she is close to dying from tuberculosis. A very short précis of a tragic story of love and loss. More detail in a moment.

A highlight of the production which particularly impressed me were the period costumes, the atmospheric sets and the stage lighting – loved the affect in the Autumn scene of the very occasional leaves fallen from the tops of the unseen trees on the stage! But, while I have no clothing expertise, anything interested in that aspect would have been enthralled with the period costumes, beautifully done.  The main performers tonight were the Russian soprano Elvira Fatykhova making her Melbourne debut as Violetta Valery; Aldo de Toro as her man, Alfredo Germont; his father, Giorgio Germont played in wonderful contrast to the younger cast by Michael Lewis; while the unobtrusive role of Violetti’s caring and concerned  maid, Annina, was performed by Teresa La Rocca. The orchestra was Orchestra Victoria, and in addition to the other main roles, we had magnificent singing from the Opera Australia Chorus team. I have to agree with one writer who noted that the real power of this opera lies with Verdi’s grand choruses and the intimate arias and duets, and of course with those who were performing them.

Let’s have a look at each Act to get a better picture of the storyline.

ACT I – Spring

Violetta has been to a sanatorium to treat her tuberculosis. On her return to health she throws a party to mark her re-emergence in the demi-monde under the protection of Baron Duphol. Her guests have just completed a long lunch and the Baron is reading the last pages of a novel by Dumas to Violetta as Flora, a rival courtesan, enters with her protector the Marquis. Alfredo is introduced to Violetta by the decadent Gaston. Alfredo has begged Gaston to introduce him to Violetta. He has long been enthralled by her and has enquired after Violetta every day of her illness. Violetta insists that everyone sits together and drinks a toast to the occasion. Alfredo is prevailed upon to sing a drinking song from Provence. As the guests leave to dance in the ballroom, Violetta feels faint and is momentarily left alone. Alfredo re-enters and confesses his love for her. She asks him to return the following day. After her guests leave and she is alone Violetta begins to consider the conflicting feelings of love and hedonism that are pulling her in opposite directions.

ACT II – Autumn

Scene I

Violetta and Alfredo have been living together for three months in a house in the country. When Alfredo discovers that Violetta is selling her belongings to pay for their expenses he is conscience-stricken and leaves to visit his father, to raise some money. His father however has decided to call on Violetta to persuade her to give up Alfredo. Alfredo’s sister hopes to be married soon, and his relationship with Violetta jeopardises the family’s honour. Violetta realises that as a ‘fallen woman’ she would destroy Alfredo’s family and consents to leave him. She decides to leave instantly and writes a message to Alfredo, breaking off their affair. When Alfredo receives the message he is distraught and, despite his father’s attempts to console him, rushes off to wreak revenge on Violetta.

Scene ii

A party is being held in Flora’s house. Alfredo enters to join the gambling party. When Violetta enters on the arm of the Baron she freezes with tension. Alfredo begins to insult the Baron and the two rivals meet over cards, and Alfredo, unlucky in love, cannot lose a hand. The game is interrupted by dinner. Violetta begs Alfredo to leave before Duphol seeks revenge. Alfredo insists she comes with him and, in desperation, she says she loves the Baron. Alfredo publicly humiliates Violetta and throws money at her as payment for her services. Alfredo’s father reproves him for such behaviour.

ACT III – Winter

It is early morning and Violetta is sleeping. The doctor has given her only a few hours to live. Violetta rereads a letter from Alfredo’s father, telling her that the Baron was wounded in the duel with Alfredo and that Alfredo may have left the country. But Alfredo has been told by his father of Violetta’s sacrifice and he returns — only to be confronted by the dying Violetta. He humours her by telling her that they should plan a new life away from Paris. Alfredo’s father has followed him and enters, followed by the doctor. Violetta suddenly feels revived, ready to start a new life with Alfredo — but this is only the symptoms of the last moments of her disease and she falls dead.

Now for many reasons, opera is not the most favoured of classical music mediums, and perhaps the fact that the theatre was not full is a clear indication of that – in fact I was a little surprised at just how many vacant seats there were up in the balcony area at least, think it was much more populated down in the stalls. The State Theatre is a beautiful theatre, perfect for such a production – came here with the girls and Shirley last year to see ‘The Nutcracker’ [my first ballet], and I also saw the Production Company’s presentation of ‘The King and I’ here in 2010.  I did notice that between Acts, there was quite a deal of noise involved in changing the sets on the stage [behind the massive thick curtains of course].

And did I enjoy La Traviata?  Certainly yes, for all the reasons indicated above, and over the past couple of years, it can be ascertained from the variety of concert genres I have been to, that I can and do enjoy a range of musical styles and entertainments.  There are just a couple of factors that could put a dampener on such outings. One is that I usually go alone. Generally, I don’t mind very much, although there are occasions such as tonight, when some company would have been welcomed, although I can’t really think of anybody at this point whom I could feel comfortable about imposing a night at the opera upon!!!  A clear minority favour that medium. My other concern is physical, and this applies these days to any event I attend, be it sporting, music, or whatever – the restriction of being confined to a precise seat, and basically being unable to move for long periods of time, is proving to be quite difficult [and at times painful] for this ‘old’ concert patron!! I guess it’s a kind of arthritis, but whatever the complaint, it is dammed annoying  –  there are many events that I would like to go next year, and with the concession prices now applicable to me, the attraction is even greater. But do I want to expend that money, time and travel requirements, to be constantly uncomfortable during performances? That is a decision that needs to be reached between now and the new year. Hopefully the development over coming months of a more physical exercise regime may help overcome those ‘leg’ problems to some degree, but at the present time, it does add a slightly disappointing to many of my ‘outings’!!

Tonight also, was a long trip home. I’d driven to the outer Melbourne suburb of Watergardens [about 20 minutes from Sunbury] and parked the car at the train station there, knowing that tonight’s performance would finish ‘after’ the last train to Sunbury – caught a suburban electric train in. That was okay, but at the end of the night, I missed a couple of trains coming out this way – ended up on a rather slow 11.17pm train which did a circuit of the city underground loop before heading north west to Watergardens, and my vehicle. So it was after midnight when I got to the car [which admittedly I was glad to see, having been a little concerned about leaving my car in a suburban railway car-park until late at night!!], ands it was close to 12.30 am by the time I reached home. Two consecutive nights home after midnight!! Glad I didn’t have to work either of the following days!  I found a beautiful bowl of homemade soup, which Susie had apparently being experimenting with, and had left for me.  Susie does very little cooking, but on the odd occasion that she gets around to it, the result is generally very tasty.  Despite the ingredients probably not being the idea sustenance for a diabetic, I enjoyed that post midnight dish, nevertheless!!

That was Bill’s night at the ‘opera’!!



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