The performance of The Cherry Orchard at the Classic Stage Company was different than any other performance that we had seen throughout this semester, and it was by far my favorite. As soon as I walked in, I was surprised to see how the room was set up; there weren’t too many seats, the stage was in the center and was surrounded by a sheer cloth, and the sections of seats on each side of the stage were facing each other. The two aspects that I loved most about this performance were how close we were to the stage and also how the actors interacted with the audience members.
In contrast to the other performances that we had gone to, we were actually close enough to the actors to see their facial expressions. Facial expressions often convey emotions more effectively than speech; therefore, being seated close to the actors allowed me to more fully understand the emotional state of each character and what he or she was going through. This made the play more clear and enjoyable. I also enjoyed how the play was altered in order to get members of the audience involved. Prior to this play, the closest that we had gotten to audience interaction was when one of the dancers of the performance I Don’t Believe in Outer Space attempted to get the audience members to scream out “hello.” But that was nothing compared to The Cherry Orchard. In this play, one of the actresses handed a member of the audience her cucumber, and later on, she even danced with another audience member. Interacting with the audience keeps them interested. I wasn’t just seeing everything that I had already read about come to life. On the contrary, I was seeing everything that I had already read, plus more. This kept me wanting to stay alert so that I wouldn’t miss any additions that made the performance different from what Chekov had written.
I enjoyed this play immensely, and once it had ended, it finally hit me that The Cherry Orchard had been the last performance for the class. I realized that although attending all these events may have been burdensome or inconvenient at times, I would miss them; I would miss everyone in the class sharing the same experiences together. I really appreciate being given this opportunity, and I hope that everything that I had gained an appreciation for will stick with me.
On that Saturday night in November, I remember staring at the clock impatiently as I held my ticket in my hands and waited for my father to return home from the synagogue. After he came home and recited Havdallah, a Jewish prayer that marks the symbolic end of the Sabbath, I was finally able to begin my way to 92nd street Y. However, as much as I tried to get there on time, I had arrived around ten minutes late and was told to watch the performance in the waiting area until the end of the first piece. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed listening to and watching the string quartet much more in the waiting area than in the auditorium. In the waiting area, I was able to see all four musicians up close and did not have to deal with the discomfort of sitting in a tightly packed auditorium. I was impressed at how the two violinists, the violist, and the cellist all moved in unison. Their arms swayed back and forth together, and they each paused and turned the page at the exact same time. I was especially amazed by how quickly the cellist moved his fingers as he played. Although seeing their movements allowed me to gain a better understanding of how talented and adept these musicians were, it was also a bit distracting. At times, I found myself focusing on the flapping of the violinist’s hair and on the movements of their arms more than I was focusing on the actual music. Looking back, I wish that I would have closed my eyes from time to time in order to be able to take in just the music.
In the string quartet, even though there were three different types of instruments being played at once, each sound was still distinguishable among the others. However, in the orchestra that we had attended, I often found myself not being able to tell which sound was coming from which of the instruments. There were just too many of them to keep track. Another difference between the string quartet and the orchestra was the presence of the conductor. Watching the conductor of the orchestra was extremely interesting; he looked as though he was performing a dance routine as he moved his entire body to the sounds of the music. At times, his twitch-like movements reminded me of some crazy mad scientist.
After attending both the string quartet and the orchestra, even though I have not yet fallen in love with classical music, my level of admiration for musicians has certainly increased. If I had to listen to classical music for over an hour straight, I would probably get bored within the first few minutes. However, being able to watch the musicians as they played the instruments not only made listening to the music bearable, but it also turned it into an enjoyable experience.
As I entered the Metropolitan Opera House, I was immediately stunned by everything that surrounded me. The magnificent chandeliers and red carpets made me feel as though I was a celebrity. Unlike the other events that we had attended, most people were more formally attired. Men were dressed in suits and ties, and many women wore dresses and heels. I definitely felt under dressed, considering that I had gone to the opera straight from school. As I began walking up the stairs…then some more stairs…then even more, I was soon reminded of my fear of heights. Nonetheless, I got used to sitting so high up and eagerly awaited for the performance to begin.
At first, it felt as though the music was overpowering the voices of the actors. I couldn’t help but think that if this performance would have been in English as opposed to Italian, it would not have been as enjoyable; the words would have been swallowed up by the music. However, since I couldn’t understand the words anyway, this circumstance did not affect my overall satisfaction. The entire opera, from start to finish, was truly awe-inspiring. I was especially fond of the joyful and uplifting scenes, such as the scene of Zerlina’s and Masetto’s wedding. Their wedding followed the scene in which Donna Elvira, upon hearing Leporello recite the list of Don Giovanni’s numerous lovers, had announced that she hoped to take revenge. I enjoyed the transition from the more sullen and gloomy scene to a more joyous one. The stage changed from being serious and dark to being jubilant and brightly lit. Boys and girls danced, Zerlina and Masetto joined them, and everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.
As the performance continued, I kept looking at the subtitles from time to time in order to get the gist of what was going on. I didn’t find the subtitles distracting because I had already read the libretto beforehand and therefore, I only had to glance at them momentarily in order to understand what was happening. Prior to seeing the opera, I thought that Don Giovanni was more tragic than it was comedic. However, my opinion had changed after seeing the performance. It proved to be quite humorous and I even found myself chuckling during several of the scenes. I was completely astonished by the ending of this performance. I would never have expected that Don Giovanni would be surrounded by fire, or that the floor of the stage would open up as he was being dragged into Hell. I was able to feel the heat of the blazing fire from my seat, and I was completely amazed. This was undeniably the most unforgettable and best possible way to end off. Don Giovanni was the first opera that I had ever seen and it definitely left me with a good first impression. I gained an appreciation for operas, and I hope to see more in the future.
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