Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Category — Opera

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

Metropolitan Opera

Our visit to the Met was my first experience with the opera in my life, and I didn’t know much about the opera other than what I had seen on television and what was the general stereotype about it. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the scenery and how beautiful the set was. However, the singing of every word did not suit me. I don’t see the purpose of every word being dragged out. That is the point of the opera, I suppose. That’s why the people that go enjoy it. I just wish there was more music to what they were singing. I felt that they were just holding the words out for a long time, and not necessarily being sung. Many times, I didn’t know what words were actually being said and I needed to use the subtitles. All that being said, I actually did enjoy the opera more than I expected to. It was a new experience and I would not mind another trip to the opera.

November 6, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest – A review

I know this is a little late, but I just recently received WiFi after Sandy’s Aftermath. I hope everyone is doing okay and that they are all safe.

Anyway, I thought the opera that we saw was good, and that even though I don’t regularly go to operas, I had a great time. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to sitting for a few hours and listening to people sing. It turned out to be a remarkable experience and I enjoyed the opportunity we had. The singer who played Ariel in the opera had a remarkable voice. I couldn’t understand anything that she was saying, but the pitches that she was reaching just did not seem humanly possible. Overall, the singers were great and I felt that they put on a wonderful performance.

The one thing that really struck me about the script of the opera itself was the use of the word Art. They seemed to never use the word Magic, when clearly it is Magic that Prospero is using. The word Magic is replaced with the word Art. This has me wondering if Magic is considered an art form. Are performance magicians artists? Is there a reason that the term “the ART of MAGIC” is sometimes used? This word swap had me interested the whole night and I find myself still with no answer.

November 3, 2012   No Comments

Thoughts on The Tempest

“The Tempest” was the first opera I ever watched in person. Previously, I’ve only listened to famous arias from different operas, such as “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot. However, listening to an opera is only half the experience. This became more evident after I watched “The Tempest” live. The set construction was very impressive. The set appealed to me right away as the opera began with a storm scene. I found it fascinating how the producers were able to make the stage look like water. People seemed to pop out of the water-like stage whenever the light was placed on them. The clothing the characters wore was also very well made. However, it was hard to see the fine details of the clothing live because we sat at the top. The opera singers were also great, especially Ariel. Even though I couldn’t understand much of what she said, I appreciated her singing.

Although the set was constructed very nicely, I felt like it didn’t make sense. In the last scene, the set contained a stage to the left and a portion of an opera house to the right. It felt weird to be in an opera house and then to watch an opera whose setting is in an opera house. I didn’t understand how this set was relevant to the plot since they are on an island, not in an opera house. Perhaps Prospero recreated such structures with magic since he was homesick, but it still feels out of place.

I also noticed how the plot in the opera is a bit different from Shakespeare’s original piece. In the original play, Prospero is shown as a powerful figure with more control. For example, in the play, it is his plan to make Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love. In the opera, he looks defeated when Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love because it wasn’t a part of his plans. In terms of plot, I didn’t like the end of the opera. Caliban is portrayed as the victor since he now owns the whole island. I didn’t like this because throughout the opera, he is an evil character, and it doesn’t feel right for him to be a “winner” at the end.

Overall, I liked this opera, but it is hard for me to judge it since I haven’t watched many operas and so I have little to compare it to.

 

On a slightly unrelated note, I hope everyone is safe after our own tempest.

October 30, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest Mini-Review

Hi everyone,

I just re-read the New York Times Review of “The Tempest” and found it really interesting. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/ 2012/10/25/arts/music/ an-inspired-and-personal-tempest-makes-met-debut.html

Like I said in class, I found the overall experience rather thrilling. When I was 8-9 years old, I was in a couple of operas produced by the Bronx Opera House Company that had child characters. I can’t remember the names of the operas I was in, but performing was an amazing experience because of two reasons: 1) I was able to perform on stage and 2) wear exotic costumes. After so many years of not performing, I felt a little nostalgic watching the actors on stage. Needless to say, they did a wonderful job.

On another note-although The Tempest essentially had the archetypical romance plot structure (boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, the couple can’t be together because of family feuds, etc.), I felt like it had such power and dynamism because of the music. The music was haunting and was full of subtleties: as Mr. Tommasini notes in his review, the music lends the opera a “ritualistic mystique” as it transitions from “skittish bursts and slashing dissonances” during emotionally-charged sequences to “wistful and plangent” scores during other scenes. In this way, I feel like going to the opera complemented our in-class discussion about artists being manipulators. Music, as an art form, is also a form of manipulation. It is no surprise that I was so impacted by the musical scores in this particular production of The Tempest.

Below are some photos I found on The New York Times website. Enjoy!

October 27, 2012   1 Comment

The Met

Coming into the opera, I didn’t know what to expect. Often I’ve seen clips of operas in movies in which only individuals of the higher society attend.  Therefore, I thought it would be full of rich people coming to socialize amongst themselves. However, upon arrival I saw that there was a mix of people who attend the opera. Most of them looked like regular people, not power-hungry individuals whose checkbooks speak for them before they do.

The opera itself was extremely intriguing. The plot was very interesting and had me captivated throughout the performance. The introduction with Ariel on the chandelier was nothing short of captivating. The orchestra managed to capture the moments of the play with the perfect music. I especially liked the way the director set up Prospero on one side of the stage for him to “watch” over what he was doing. The actors’ voices were amazing, especially Ariel. It’s unbelievable that she can reach such high octaves and yet still maintain a strong voice.

The visit to the opera changed my perspective of it. It puts a spin on the type of performing arts I’ve been used. I no longer think if it as something only rich people do, but as an exciting performance to watch.

October 24, 2012   1 Comment