What We Feel and What We Mean
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Faust. An Opera.

To begin with, the opera house itself was beautiful. If the context of an art piece affects its effect, then the opera house most definitely impacts the grandeur and bravado of an opera. Somehow, I doubt it would have been as impressive an affair in Yankee Stadium, sans big sweeping, carpeted staircases and specially imported British ushers. Interestingly, the way the person is dressed can affect the way an art form is received, although one could argue that opera-goers only dress up to fit the decor. It’s a chicken and egg situation.

To address the opera specifically, I would have to say I didn’t really enjoy the opera itself as much as I did everything else going on around it. Turns out, opera s not my favorite form of entertainment. I infinitely prefer a symphony or a Broadway show. It’s not that I found the opera unpleasant, it’s just that I didn’t love it. It may have been the language barrier. It’s distracting to have subtitles. It may also have been that I was too high up to tsee the acting in any real sense. Which brings me to my next point.

I found the stage to be more an entertainment piece than the actors and actresses. It is fascinating that the “fire-escape” structure flanking the left and right sides of the stage were the main prop pieces. hey were stark white but the lighting changed their purpose. They were red to signify when the work of the devil was amiss. They were green to indicate a garden setting. Blue, for “Goodness” and so forth. That was amazing. The one minimalistic piece of scenery told a story as much (if not more) than the people on stage. The lighting through the windows of the house was also really impressive. To indicate an ominous event, the lights came from left and right, shining through the window to create a cris-crossing window pattern. It indicated an internal struggle or contentious event. The stage floor was reflective, and this too was utilized to convey a sense of loftiness or power when the light shone on Mephistopheles in such a way that his reflection shone back up.
However, my favorite part of the opera, by far, was the orchestra. I didn’t turn on my subtitles until after the first intermission. (Granted, I didn’t know how for the first 5 minutes, but even after that…) I didn’t really need them, though. At some point I closed my eyes, already knowing what was going to happen next and the music told the story just as well. Perhaps I already knew what was going to happen so I may been projecting here, but I don’t think anyone can argue that the music was powerful. It was the most amazing and communicative entertainment tool used that evening, mainly because music touches people in ways nothing else can. To be sure, the singing was amazing but it wouldn’t have accomplsihed anything if there hadn’t been a live orchestra.

Part of the magic of the show was the cut-out floor, allowing the viewers to see the orchestra. In a way, it toyed with the suspension of reality because the viewers could “see the band”. Normally, a production hides something like that but in an opera it’s one of the main appeals. The music is the opera. The singing is nice too, but it was my least favorite part.


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