Monday, September 22, 2008

Times Square Becomes Public Screening Room for Renee Fleming & The Metropolitan Opera

The above video was taken by myself in the middle of Times Square last night. After going to the Algonquin Hotel for some good open mic work (I sang "And I Will Follow," this time dedicating it to husband Pete since he followed me and my dream to New York with uncertain sacrifice on his part), we walked through 42nd and Broadway to see the final act of the Metropolitan Opera's Gala Opening celebration. Renee Fleming, one of my opera inspirations, was the diva of the night, starring in three different selections: "Act II of Verdi’s La Traviata, and continues with Act III of Massenet’s Manon, and the final scene of Richard Strauss’s one act opera, Capriccio" ( It was being broadcast simultaneously on the huge screens of Times Square itself. The center of the square had been cut off from traffic by barricades, and about 200 folding chairs (with an aisle through the center) were placed for an audience. My husband took a picture showing the seats packed as he walked through on the way to the Algonquin Hotel; when we arrived around 9:30, many audience members had left and the cold had arrived. There were also camera rigs, reporters (or broadcast hosts to the event), and huge speakers set up around the area.

We arrived during the second intermission, and waited for 15 minutes as the set was re-struck and dressed for the third part of the evening. It was (as it always is to me) fascinating to watch the backstage of the opera set being attacked by guys in black with headsets and drill guns. We saw the wooden facade of the set and the stage manager or an equal standing center, obviously giving out orders. The camera then cut to Martha Stewart in a lobby area of the Lincoln Center, dressed in gold and giving host Susan Graham the recipe for some champagne and orange cognac drink. Boring! Unless I can afford all those ingredients (well, I could afford the orange peel twist), I don't care...get to Renee!!! We also watched a preview of the upcoming opera Doctor Atomic but the audio was cut off from us in the audience, so I'm not sure what the opera sounds like. The sets look impressive, though.

Finally, after some live reporting from the aisle of our audience in Times Square, we watched the conductor (James Levine) walk from backstage to his place in the orchestra pit. Renee then sang what was practically a one-woman one-act show (she shared the stage with Michael Devlin as the Major-Domo). Dressed in a gorgeous dress-and-coat combination designed by John Jalliano and sporting a simple shoulder-length straight-cut hairstyle, Renee Fleming looked gorgeous. She owned herself onstage, being sexy and voluptuous, yet simple and real in her acting choices. She is definitely an actress-singer, hitting the notes beautifully but having many, many real moments of thought behind each lyric. She isn't an over-the-top opera singer with little behind each high note; instead, she truly lives each moment as it is happening and makes it believable. It was a marvel to watch, and I'm going to have to get the footage of what she did with the earlier two pieces and study her techniques.

Man, it's just a reminder that I want to do my own opera work - my voice teacher in Los Angeles & I talked briefly on getting two one-woman one-act opera pieces together, and after I put my own work on them I might make a special trip back to LA to work on them for a special engagement.

Photos of what it looked like in Times Square last night:

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