Verdi Surprise

I was supposed to be in Budapest this weekend, but we had an abrupt change of plans, so we ended up going to the opera instead. (What else you going to do on a Sunday night, right?) We saw Il Trovatore at the state opera. Good points: small opera house. I like small opera houses. You think you’re up in the Family Circle, but in terms of stage distance, you’re in the Grand Tier. The sound is more intimate, and in this case I was hearing individual members of the chorus, which was interesting. Bad points: rather unimaginative production, moving at times into awkward (at various points in the story large groups of people – soldiers, gypsies – have to funnel through small apertures, and it gets a bit awkward. Also, the chorus was doing this weird hand-waving thing during that famous anvil chorus, or whatever it is. And the guy singing the part of the Count de Luna had the most annoying voice – vibrato that was an entire step if it was anything, and a few weird little clicks and odd things in it too. But the tenor (Manrico) was pretty ok, and indeed at time seemed to be pulling things along by sheer force of will. And the woman singing Leonora had a voice that was nice, most of the time, although it took some arm-twisting on her part to make it hit the top notes. And I kept getting distracted by the supertitles. They were in both Czech and English, one on top of the other, and I kept trying to figure out what corresponded to what. I remember noticing the construction that means “the more [noun verbs], the more [different noun different verbs]” in English, and it seems that vocatives often end in an ‘o’ but I did have an opera to watch, after all.

And I just discovered that they’re doing Rusalka on the 26th, which I would have liked to hear, but we already had tickets for a different concert. I feel like I have not engineered this vacation with the sort of satisfactory precision that I have done with vacations past. On the other hand, we did have some fun in the pretty much empty museum of Czech baroque art the other day, and along with their beer, the Czechs make some top-notch potato chips. Also: this Christmas market thing, with glühwein and sweets and children – and a few adults – gleefully devouring fried dough products as big as their faces: I approve. We should have these at home. (It’s a bit like the State Fair, but there’s hot wine and it’s winter and you can have fun figuring out what the signs say: I know the words now for potato, hot wine, almonds and tea.)

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