Our Opera-’80s-Opera Weekend

So I’m sitting on the couch watching the final episodes of “Person of Interest” when The Wife comes to me and she says,

“You remember when we had opera tickets a few weeks ago and you wanted to go home because it was Memorial Day weekend and so we went home instead of going to the opera?”

“Yes. Really dodged a bullet there, eh?”

“Well, good news. I was able to exchange our tickets for Sunday. Oh, and we also have our regularly scheduled opera for Friday. So you know what that means?”

“Opera double-header?”

“Go put on some decent clothes.”

Now if you’re wondering what an opera double-header is, it’s like a baseball double-header but with opera instead of baseball. In other words, about 100 times better.

And so it was that we once again made our way to the Loretto-Hilton Center for dual performances by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. First up: Macbeth!

macbeth-325pxYou may be saying, “I didn’t know ‘Macbeth’ was an opera.” Neither did I. Neither did The Bard, no doubt, as he wrote it as a play. It was Giuseppe Verdi who came along later and turned it into an opera. Because, I guess, Shakespeare in play form just wasn’t highfalutin enough for Verdi.

Watching the show I was struck by how thin the story was, yet still managed to take almost 3 hours to tell. Basically, witches tell Mac he’s going to be king, Mac kills the king so he can be king, he then kills his buddy Banquo because the witches said his kids would be kings after Mac, Mac and Lady Mac sing and plot and sing and plot, Macduff kills him.

Did Verdi cut out a bunch of stuff? Seems pretty simple for such a classic tale. You’d think I’d remember the story better as many times as I’ve been forced, I mean, enjoyed seeing it.

I just thought there was a lot of padding, especially where the witches scenes were concerned. Other than that the music wasn’t bad but not particularly memorable. The staging was fine except for a few times when it obstructed your view if you sit stage left as we do.

The real selling point here is the on-stage talent. The leads — Roland Wood (Macbeth), Banquo (Robert Pomakov), Lady MacBeth (Julie Makerov) and Matthew Plenk (Macduff) all have tremendous voices. There were a couple of really nice chorus bits as well.

NewWaveSaturday night we took a break from opera to enjoy the musical sound stylings of The New Wave, a local band that performs the hits of the ’80s. Mostly 1-hit-wonder hits as well as the Go-Gos, B-52s and whatnot. The Wife noted that they didn’t perform any U2 and then listed several other bands that were big in the ’80s. I pointed out that there’s only so much of a decade’s worth of music you can cover in three hours with one half-hour break and a couple of stops for technical problems.

This was the first in a series of free concerts taking place this summer at New Town in St. Charles. We love going to these shows because (a) they’re free (b) they’re close to home (c) they’re free  (d) sometimes we see people we know there. We didn’t this time. I’m sure Yellow had an excuse. And everyone else I invited via Facebook. Why does everyone hate me? It can’t be that they hate ’80s rock. It’s not like they played “Come On, Eileen” (Thank God).

A few hours rest and then back to the Loretto-Hilton for Giacomo Puccini’s classic “La Boheme.” If you’ve never seen “La Boheme,” it’s a lot like “Rent” but with half the cast and fewer AIDS references.

la-boheme-325pxFour bohemians — Rodolfo the writer (Andre Haji), Marcello the painter (Anthony Clark Evans), Colline the philosopher (Bradley Smoak) and Schaunard the musician (Sean Michael Plumb) — live in an attic apartment in Paris. It’s winter and they’re freezing so they start to burn Rodolfo’s play but then Schaunard has scored a gig so he has money so they go out for dinner. Rodolfo stays behind to write and meets his neighbor Mimi (Hae Ji Chang), who needs someone to light her candle.

Rodo and Mimi talk and sing and fall in love and go to meet the gang at the cafe. There they have an encounter with Musetta (Lauren Michelle), a former love of Marcello. Intermission.

Rodo and Mimi are still together after intermission but his jealousy threatens their relationship. That and the fact that Mimi is slowly dying of consumption. After much singing they break up and by the beginning of Act 4 everyone is back where they started. But then Musetta breaks in with word that Mimi is down on the street near death. They bring her up to the room, sing a bit, and she dies.

Did I say “Macbeth” had a thin plot? There is practically no story here and yet it’s one of the best known and most beloved operas in the world. Of course, it’s not about the story it’s about the music and Puccini’s well-known work is moving and captivating. It’s always good to experience a work of art in its intended setting.

The cast was fine and the staging wasn’t as obtrusive this time. I survived opera double-header (still better than baseball double-header) and can take a much-deserved break from opera. Until Friday.

Remaining show dates for “Macbeth” are June 16, 18, 22 and 26. “La Boheme” runs June 15 and 25. https://www.opera-stl.org/

Learn more about The New Wave on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-NeW-WaVe-210850908987055/

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