Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Category — Opera


I was in love with the atmosphere at the Met. I can’t believe that I have been living in New York City for the past 11 years and I have visited the Lincoln Center area countless times, yet I had never been to the Met before this event. Everything about it looked regal, from the giant fountain outside to the interior that’s completely draped in velvet. Additionally, I thought the little cone-shaped paper cups and large metallic faucets were a nice touch. In terms of the auditorium and the opera itself, I was most impressed by the way the music coordinated so well with whatever was going on onstage. The entire time, I was thinking about how much practice that would take. Additionally, I found myself a little distracted by the little screen right by the stage which displayed the words being sung. I found myself constantly closing one eye and then the other, staring at the little sign, trying to test my vision. However, what I found really cool was how if one looks down one’s row, one cannot see the little screens with the words displayed on them that are in front of the people with whom one is sitting. You have to be directly in front of the little screen on the back of the seat in front of you in order to read the words, so you can only see your own. I remember for some time I found myself contemplating whether or not the screens were consciously installed in this way, maybe to create a more personalized experience for each viewer, and to create less distractions if the eyes of the viewers begin to wander?

I also liked the music score for the opera. I noticed that there was much dissonance in a variety of scenes, which was a clear indicator that some sort of conflict was occurring. I enjoyed the way this takes some guesswork away from the viewer. Additionally, I really enjoyed the set designs. My favorite in particular was at the very beginning when they were portraying people in the sea after the storm and there was a giant blue curtain-like cloth with projections of waves being cast onto it. I thought way in which the characters poking their heads through the projection made the scene seem very realistic. Additionally, later in the opera, a large group of people were pushing a raft down a river and there was a projection in the background of trees going by, to show motion. Such set designs really made me appreciate the way in which the production did an excellent job of bringing the audience into the scenes even though the scenes clearly take place outdoors. I also found this interesting because there was what seemed to be very hi-tech equipment used for these sorts of projections. This really contrasted with the structure of the opera house, both inside and out, which had a very old and regal appearance that you could have found in some aristocrat’s mansion in the nineteenth century. Thus, the regal appearance of the auditorium and building itself, when coupled with the technology making the scenes very realistic, has a very interesting dynamic. This shows two realms, essentially, one that attempts to convey the history of the building through architecture while the other embraces the Information Age.

I thought that all of the characters did a splendid job in terms of their articulation and acting skills. The costumes were beautiful and the characters sung beautifully. The one minor objection I had to this was that Arielle’s voice was extremely high pitched and kept jumping back and forth between odd intervals. Thus, whenever she sang anything, I just focused on the little screen in front of me that showed the lyrics. I found this to be a tad upsetting because of all of the characters, I found hers to be the most interesting to watch. She seemed to have no mass, such as in the beginning when she was performing very dangerous and swift stunts on the chandelier-like structure. In other parts, she seems to be floating away or walking along very thin surfaces. I wish I could have focused more on how she was moving, but I just had to keep looking down to follow along with the story.

December 20, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

I had an interesting experience during our visit the Metropolitan Opera. Going into it, I was pretty excited. This was mostly because I had previously attended an opera and I had thoroughly enjoyed it, but I felt a little differently about The Tempest. This was probably because the previous opera that I attended was actually geared for children so it was kind of funny, and was based a well known children’s story (I think it was Cinderealla). In contrast, I found The Tempest to be a little boring; probably because I wasn’t super familiar with the story. Also some parts were a little difficult for me to follow, and I actually had a little trouble following some of the different characters (there were two, whose names I forget, but they had some pretty similar costumes). I’m also not sure how well a medium opera was to convey a Shakespeare play. Some of the rhyming scheme wasn’t too great. Also, the singing itself made it difficult to actually understand a lot of the words, and I found myself paying a lot of attention to the little screen on the seat in front of me, and not so much at the actors on the stage. I felt that the singing also caused a lot of the words to be stretched out too much in order to fill the length of the music, and that kind of bothered me, too.

There were however aspect of the opera that I did enjoy, however. I did like the grandeur of the opera; I kind of liked dressing up for the night out, and the building itself was beautiful, both from the inside and the outside. I also enjoyed the musical aspect of the opera. I spent a solid amount of time averting my eyes from the stage and into the orchestra pit, watching the condutor do his thing, and orchestra making they’re wonderful music. I also liked the stage design, especially the very first scene depicting the tempest, and costumes a lot. And the secret backdoor exit was pretty cool, too.

December 13, 2012   1 Comment

The Tempest

Our trip to the opera was wonderful, and I enjoyed it very much, but I would not recommend The Tempest as a first choice for unexperienced opera-goers. I myself am not very experienced, having seen 2 operas previously, but I can say with confidence that my previous two were significantly more enjoyable.

The Tempest as a play is hard. It’s difficult to follow at times, and the language only makes it more difficult to understand at times. To translate that to the opera stage, with a new score and new words written along the basic plot line, it would be extremely difficult to successfully execute. I wasn’t as pleased as I hoped I would. I had previously seen a Puccini and a Verdi, both very melodic, extravagant, and exciting Italian operas. This was not that. The Tempest was choppy, had no recurring rhythm or musical theme, and reduced Shakespearean dialogue to choppy, disjointed rhyming couplets. While it was a great evening at the opera, I would not recommend the Tempest unless one is truly prepared to see and experience something completely out of the ordinary. Regular every day opera goer beware! The Tempest is most definitely an acquired taste.

December 8, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

This is not my first visit to the Opera (in fact it is my second). I have also seen Verdi’s Macbeth at the Opera in the spring season of 2012 (GREAT deals for students: for something like $32.50 you get seats at the back of the Grand Tier ($100+ price range)!

Anyway, about the Tempest: I unfortunately did not know the storyline. As is most often the case, I had trouble following the action on stage. It seemed disjointed, and at times chaotic. The orchestra, though not particularly musical, was effective at setting a dark, shadowy mood (though it was supposed to be a comedy?! Whatever.)

Obviously, the singers were very talented; to my (untrained) ears they hit notes with accuracy and meaning (the vibrato permeated the opera house). I am not going to say I liked hearing Ariel’s screaching, though I can appreciate the years of training it took to be able to ‘sing’ notes that high.

We were so high up in the Family Circle that I could not make out the costume designs. Based on the clips we saw in class, however, I know that it was terrific and well-thought out.

I haven’t seen a ‘real’ opera sung in English before (does Porgy and Bess count?) so it was interesting to hear music accompanying an English libretto. From what I hear, it diverged sharply from the original Shakespeare, and consequentially the words seemed awkward and unnatural.

With all honesty I enjoyed Macbeth far more than I did the Tempest. I feel like enumerating the similarities and differences for you:
Macbeth Verdi
-Italian -English
-Tragedy -Comedy
-Knew the story beforehand -Did not know the story beforehand
-Lyrical, Melodic -Disjointed, Chaotic

-Great costume, set design
-Adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays
-Lead singer is Baritone

There are plenty of elements to a good opera: music, costumes, lyrics, acting, dance, supporting cast, stageworks. They all have to come together to make a truly powerful work of art. For me, the Tempest did not hit the mark. I feel that all types of performance (Broadway, Opera, Orchestra, Ballet) may be compared because they share the same goal of entertaining the audience. In comparison with Verdi’s Macbeth, Porgy and Bess, and Carl Orff’s Carmina, the Tempest just didn’t have the same level of impact. Nevertheless, I look forward to my next visit to the Opera and to Lincoln Center; may it be a great experience!

December 6, 2012   No Comments

“The Tempest”

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of going to the opera on Tuesday night. The people, the atmosphere, the theater itself, both inside and outside: it was all new to me and I found it to be rather thrilling. I admired the set design, primarily in the opening scene, which I thought was well-thought-out as the layers of movement and lighting combined to portray the raging ocean. The costumes seemed fabulous, even from our seats at the top of the theater! I just wish I could have seen them up close to really admire their detail. The orchestra was also worth noting, which is something I don’t normally comment on after seeing a show. It was an important element in conveying the characters’ emotions- particularly Prospero and his internal struggle throughout the play- as well as manipulating the audience’s emotions: a key feature of any work of art.


On the other hand, I was slightly underwhelmed by other aspects of “The Tempest.” The script, for instance, was a bit off-putting, as mentioned in class. The use of contemporary English seemed out of place, a number of the rhymes seemed forced, and the repetitive use of couplets had an almost lulling effect. However, the use of Shakespeare’s poetic language probably would have made it even harder to focus on what was going on. Between the singing, the music, the costumes, the set, the story and so forth, it was difficult to fully appreciate any one thing. But then again, doesn’t great art have layers?


Nonetheless, it all made for another lovely evening in the city 🙂 Below is our beautiful class photo, by the way! (minus those who I think went to get pretzels)

November 20, 2012   1 Comment

The Tempest

Prior to seeing The Tempest, the only things I knew about the opera largely came from its portrayal in film and television.  Thus I expected it to be a long, boring drawn out affair which only rich people attended. Nevertheless after seeing the small preview video in class I couldn’t help but be excited. After seeing the show, I can say that I wasn’t disappointed.

The opera opened dramatically by depicting the storm at the beginning of the play. I really liked the opera’s take on it. The turbulent sea looked almost real and Ariel dangling above the scene reinforced the fact that the storm wasn’t a natural one. Ariel’s performance was amazing. Honestly I didn’t even know human beings could make those kind of sounds. While this is a testament to the singers skill I also think it emphasizes the fact that Ariel isn’t a human character but rather a sprite.

In the beginning of the play I found it hard to get immersed in the story. Our seats were really far away and I had to constantly look at the subtitles. However, as time went on it became easier. I started playing attention less to how far we were and more to the quality of the performers voices. I began to notice the amazing range the voices had. I saw how they were able to raise and lower their voices to reflect the mood of the character at the time. I also noticed how the music followed the highs and lows of the voices perfectly and created a sort of a compound effect that amplified them both. The effect was so powerful that I had trouble getting a few of the melodies out of my head long after the opera was over.

The costumes and set design was also amazing. I liked how the set was dynamic, and sometimes changed to reflect what the characters were doing. It also helped add physical dept to certain scenes. Overall the costumes were pretty fantastic too, especially Ariel’s. I remember the glitter from the costume reflecting all the way to the ceiling.

I’m glad we were able to go the opera. It’s definitely an experience that I’m to going remember for a long time.


November 12, 2012   1 Comment

The Tempest

The Tempest was the first opera I went to. It was a new and different experience, and overall I enjoyed it a lot. I felt rich, though I was sitting so high up that I could touch the ceiling. I thought opera shows were like a Broadway musical and it would be a normal play but when you least expect it, a song starts. My favorite character was Ferdinand because he has an amazing voice. My least favorite character is Ariel because her voice hurts my ears. When I first heard her voice, it did not sound human. But I admire her talent. I agree with Daniel that some words would be stretched when sang, and those words were usually rhymes. Knowing the story of The Tempest is key to understanding the opera. The first acts were very easy to follow but I got lost on the last act. I could not figure out why Properso had a sudden change of heart. My favorite part was when Calilban tried to overthrow Properso but he failed miserably hahaha. I was really impressed with the background. When Ferdinand and Miranda were holding hands and moving towards the sunset. The background was the only moving but it felt real. Amazing!

November 10, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

Like many of my other classmates, it was my first experience at an Opera. And I have to say it was a really fun experience.

I read the Tempest a few years ago and remember hearing that it was Shakespeare’s last play. To be honest, it was the only Shakespeare play I enjoyed reading. And I enjoyed the opera version we watched a few days ago. I thought the way they reenacted the play was excellent and all the characters played their roles well. I also thought the characters had exceptional voices, especially Ariel – the coloratura soprano. I thought it was really incredible how she was signing with such a high pitch.

The one thing I didn’t like about the opera was the ending. While reading the play, I felt like there was a large focus on Prospero. Even though it seemed like it was the beginning of Miranda’s new life with Ferdinand and the end of Prospero’s story, Prospero was still left with a sense of authority. They way he addressed the audience in the reading was very powerful. In fact, I have heard that this represented Shakespeare saying goodbye to his readers. However, during the actual opera, Caliban was left as the main focus at the end. He was given the sense of power because he had his island returned to him. Prospero didn’t receive any importance and left with a feeling of weakness and despair, which I didn’t really like.

Aside from the ending, I found the opera very enjoyable.

November 9, 2012   No Comments


I’ve never been to an opera and honestly after seeing the Tempest, I do not plan on seeing another anytime soon.

The plot was interesting but the production was far too long. Each line was stretched unnecessarily to 30- 40 seconds. Although I enjoy music and can appreciate the skill in most styles of music, the opera voices annoyed me. Ariels voice jumping from to low to high pitch so abruptly gave me a headache. The inability to understand most of words while they were singing and reading the words off the screen, I felt, disconnected the plot from what was happening on stage.

But I did enjoy some aspects of the Tempest at the Met.

The building is very fancy. The main colors are red and gold, which reminds me of royalty. The seats and railings all are covered in red velvet which have the same effect. The chandeliers are beautiful.

The opera crowd that night was friendly.

The spirits’ costumes and choreography were interesting.

Plays and musicals make sense to me. Operas… not so much…



November 7, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

“The Tempest” is the only opera I’ve ever been to in my life.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I had read “Maskerade” by Terry Pratchett, so I was prepared.

According to this book, a random person viewing an opera won’t know what’s going on at all without the little booklets that they pass out explaining it, so I looked up the plot online beforehand. The book was right- I would’ve never been able to follow the show without it.  I like my entertainment to be fun, and fun can only be had if at least half of your brain isn’t saying “OK…what’s going on….I don’t understand.” So I can read a book and not understand why a character did something because I know it will be explained later in the plot. Movies take this reliability to an extreme, recycling the same plots over and over again- you know what’s going to happen in a movie just by the title and poster. The opera seems to be the most brain-bruising form of entertainment by far. I wasn’t used to this, and I don’t think I like it.

“Maskerade” also pointed out that the singers in the opera have to worry about their appearance, and I noticed that everyone in “The Tempest” took good care of themselves, but maybe that’s just in acrobatic operas like this? I wouldn’t know. Either way, the Tempest involved a lot of  gymnastic skills, and I wasn’t expecting that- I guess I always pictured some fat lady singing high enough to break glass when i pictured “opera.”

The voices involved sounded good to my unsophisticated ears. The Ariel singer’s voice was annoyingly high- 2 people complained that they got headaches from her.

I liked the scenery, especially the sea and the forest. The idea of waving a sheet to portray the ocean worked out well, and the trees moved farther apart as singers walked towards them, creating and illusion of depth.

The costumes were intense. They were made so that even the people in the top row could see all the details.

I don’t know. Opera just isn’t my thing.

November 6, 2012   No Comments