Tuesday, February 21, 2006

After a satisfying burger for breakfast...

There's nothing better than a juicy homemade burger with mayo, mustard, lettuce, and tomato, at 9:20 in the morning. I was craving it since yesterday, but when time ran out as I was getting ready to go out last night to see Puccini's Madame Butterfly at Opera Bastille with my former French teacher, I had to put the craving on hold. And the soonest available time was after dropping Maylin off at school and walking Leo in the wind and rain -- 9:05 am. This is quite a change from my usual breakfast of either nothing or a banana and orange juice.

Last night, I was a little bit late arriving at the opera house and had to scramble around to find my way around my totally new surroundings. The Opera Bastille is very modern in its architecture and decor, and very bad in its signage -- at least, from this petite person's point of view. First, one usher told me to go to the fourth floor. Another told me the second floor. And yet another voted for the fourth, so I decided to go with the majority. I found the fourth floor (only because another elevator occupant announced it for me -- there was no signage outside the elevator to make me believe that it was, indeed, the fourth floor). I got out and had no clue where to go from there. There was a large curving hall ahead of me and some double doors to the right. I took the doors, went along a narrow corridor, and came upon the first door on the right. I looked at my ticket. I needed "porte 10." But after asking another patron, I found it was "porte 12." I didn't see any signs anywhere so I don't know how she figured that out. She pointed to the door to the main hallway and told me to go around. I'm frantic at this moment because it's about 3 minutes before curtain. Egads! I head out the designated door, hang a right, and look for door 10. I'm starting to panic because I don't see any signs on any of the 10-foot high black metallic doors. I run to a staff member stationed at a little booth nearby and ask for door 10. She points to a door and says, "look at the signs," in a very patronizing manner. I finally see the signs, but they're about 4 feet above my head on the wall next to the door. I'd have to back up about 8 feet to see them properly. I don't get it. The French are not tall people. Some of the shortest men I've ever seen are French.

I make it to my seat with a minute to spare. Phew! The orchestra sounded divine, playing the overture. The stage was set in a very modern, minimal manner, with a blank, simply lit background, and a raised floor of what looked like wheat fields (wheat fields in Japan?) with a dark, pebbled path winding through them. Most of the action was to take place on a smallish rectangle of wood floor. To match the minimal set, there were modern, minimal costumes and minimal, robotic, choreographed movements for the singers, which I thought sometimes worked but were other times just plain ridiculous.

To my delight, it was a musically flawless evening to my critical ears. I couldn't complain about a thing -- well, there was a moment when the chorus had to hum really softly but it just came out really flat, which I thought was really obvious because the orchestra was playing the same notes -- in tune, so the disparity was a bit jarring. But I certainly couldn't complain about the soloists! They blew me away! Especially Cio-Cio San, otherwise known as Butterfly. That evening, the title role was sung by Liping Zhang, this wee little thing with the most gorgeous, most resonant, and most effortless singing I had ever heard. I don't know I thing about her, but I'm going to start doing some research. So young and talented! Pinkerton, Butterfly's husband who abandons her, was sung by the powerful, barrel-chested, and not to mention, big-bellied, Marco Berti. Lovely singing -- and what an amazing dynamic range. He had a huge crescendo at one point that climaxed so loud that it made my ears ring. How did he do that?

Beautiful and dramatic music sung beautifully and dramatically. Not much more I can ask for.

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