The Teatro Real in Madrid next year will celebrate its 200th anniversary, which makes it 49 years older than Canada! It was founded by King Ferdinand VII in 1818, built just across from the Royal Palace on the other side of the Plaza Oriente. The Royal crest is seen above the proscenium arch:
Here is a photo of the orchestra pit just before the performance. As you can see, a first violin, a violist, a cellist, the mandolin player and a percussionist (barely visible) are practicing. The other players already know their parts (just kidding).
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There is a pretty spectacular chandelier in the hall, about 20 feet across:
And here is a look at some of the seats:
These photos were taken from my seat, which was pretty good. I was in the front of the 3rd balcony and could see all the stage really well.
Attending an opera here is a very civilized experience. During the 25 minute intermission, you can buy a drink and a snack at pretty reasonable prices. 4 Euros for a glass of Spanish cava isn't too bad. The multi-level lobby has a big oval counter you can set your food on:
I said multi-level:
So much for the concert experience! I will do a detailed post on the opera tomorrow as I need to translate some stuff from the booklet. In the meantime, some first impressions. This is a long, long, opera. Not by Wagnerian standards, but still--the first act (of two) is an hour and 45 minutes and the second act about an hour. Including intermission, you are there for over three hours. The piece is very much in the avant-garde language of the 60s with a lot of extreme dynamics, crescendos, textures and an atonal harmonic and melodic palette. Now there is nothing wrong with that, if well done. Certainly this piece does not sound dated the way a lot of others do. But there are certain features of the style, certain melodic and rhythmic gestures that are common to so many pieces of the era that their effect, at this point in time, is rather diluted.
The production was spectacular. From time to time bars of light would descend, move around, block out sections of the stage, become horizontal or vertical, change color and frame the stage in different ways. It was a fascinating effect and I have no idea how it was accomplished--nor, really, what it specifically meant. The stage had three areas, front to back. Certain things happened right on the front apron, most things in the middle and some at the back. From time to time a large rocky hill, the width of the stage, would move from the back to the middle and be used for various entrances and exits. Nearer the front, three sections of stage about two meters deep spanned the whole of the stage and could be lowered or raised about six feet. Also used for entrances and exits and for various characters to drape themselves on.
The singers did an excellent job, I thought. It is not easy being an opera singer these days. Apart from spending ten or fifteen years simply mastering vocal technique (if you can), then you have to act, wear costumes and, in contemporary productions, a bit more. One singer (Damián del Castillo, I think) had to sing one aria entirely naked. And yes, I mean entirely! Others had to sing while being sexually molested at length or while draped in translucent cloth. But I really couldn't say that anything in the production was gratuitous as it all seemed to suit the idea of the opera. There were usually two, three or more different things going on simultaneously, but it all seemed to work out well.
The bottom line for me was that it was a very successful production, though the opera itself might benefit from a bit of trimming. Tomorrow I will dig into what is going on in the music and libretto.
Until then, here is the first part of a 2007 Italian production: