Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ian goes to the Opera

I recently attended an Opera Ireland concert performance of I Capuleti e I Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini. It takes its story not from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, but from the same Italian sources that he mined for his play. So it has some elements in common (lovers from opposing sides, some of the character names, the somewhat improbable ending) while having many differences. For one thing, this story seems more political in tone – the Montecchi and Capuleti are not fighting some kind of familial feud but are leading families on opposite sides of the Guelph-Ghibbeline conflict that divided mediaeval Italy. Romeo here is also a general in the Ghibbeline army, and not some scaldy young lad like in Shakespeare's play.

Musically this is all much more like what I think of opera as sounding like than either the Ligeti or Wagner operas I saw last year. Particularly in the instrumental bits we get loads of rococo flourishes and the like. I liked the sung bits more, as they give more space for that kind of over the top emotionalism one associates with the form. Overall, though, this was musically not so much to my taste; I am beginning to think that only Wagner really does opera properly.

It was still enjoyable enough musically, and, as with the Rheingold, the acting was rather impressive (with Eric Martin-Bonnet as Capellio (Giulietta's father and the local head of the Guelphs) being my particular favourite). But I will not be back, for one simple reason. There was a plague of talkers in the audience, and having to put up with their yap did rather limit my enjoyment of the performance.

Maybe this is what you get from sitting in the cheaper seats. By this I do not just mean being among the lower orders but more the particular layout of the Gaiety theatre. The cheaper seats in the parterre are towards the back, partly underneath the dress circle. I could imagine this might make the more munterish members of the audience think that they are somehow back at home watching the performance on television and so it is alright for them to chatter away to each other. But whatever the reason, I am not exposing myself to this kind of behaviour again.

An inuit panda production

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