I just had an absolutely terrific time at the Houston Opera. Joyce DiDonato was awesome (as expected) and there were a few other pleasant surprises about this performance of Maria Stuarda which can wait until tomorrow.
But a few little points first.
1. Past experience with Texas led me to believe that the whole state is dusty, windswept and grim. Flying into Houston is different. The landscape is weirdly flat, as much of this part of the country tends to be, but it’s green. One sees this bright level green expanse of trees, which, just as the green is fading into blue-green and blue, is punctuated with three clusters of skyscrapers. Otherwise the horizon is unbroken. It’s rather sci-fi. All it needs is a few huge glass domes in the background (or over the skyscrapers) and it would look like the cover of an Ursula LeGuin novel from the late 60s.
2. Ushers at the Houston Opera? They are nice. One of them struck up a conversation with me after she saw me scribbling notes during the intermission. She asked whether I was going to stay for Don Carlos, scheduled for tomorrow, and I expressed my utterly sincere wish that I could, given how much I love this opera. She asked me why I was taking notes; I explained that I am an amateur (extremely amateur) opera critic. During the curtain calls for Maria Stuarda I felt something slide down between my back and my seat and land with a thunk. It was an extra copy of the program, given to me by that nice usher, but with the ‘Don Carlos’ cover rather than the ‘Mary Stuart’ cover. I really wish I could stay another day or two to see Don Carlos but between students and department stuff I have to go home tomorrow so as to be at work on Monday morning.
3. The notes? They were taken ONLY during intermission and for about ten to fifteen minutes at the bar at my hotel after the opera. No scribbling during the performance, I promise.
4. You know how given my contact lenses and the grit situation in Texas I threatened to saran-wrap the top half of my head? I was not fucking kidding about that. This place, despite trees, is Grit Central.
5. The Houston Opera, like many opera houses, raises money by selling stuff. I resisted the “Mary Stuart!” t-shirt, even though part of me suspects that the idea of Mary Stuart on a t-shirt probably should not be passed up lightly (my excuse: no lady sizes). But I could not resist the pile of DVDs and CDs that they had for sale in their shop. They seem to have collected a whole bunch of fairly random things, some of which are on the edge of being out of print. Including that 06 CD of Zauberflöte with DR that obviously I have already, one of Adrienne Pieczonka’s recital CDs (dude next to me took the last one or I would have bought it – thought about starting brawl, but I am only 5’3″ and 130lbs and would have lost, despite having a killer left hook) and also this for way cheaper than Amazon and this for about the same, but it was new and it’s basically a donation to the Houston Opera so what the hell.