I don’t know if I have written about this, but G and I were discussing that Vancouver has so much to offer and despite living here for 20+ years we hadn’t really taken advantage of all (read: any) of it.
This started off as a conversation over a dinner in which we were discussing how we had yet again managed to not go to Bard on the Beach and that this summer should be the summer we do it. We’re finally old enough to stay out late, that we all have (semi) decently paying jobs and since our small group of friends are not currently in school (next year, bitches), it seemed like the ideal time to, well as I titled our google calendar, get cultured.
While we had started with getting into yoga and went to a concert, this didn’t really feel like stereotypical or traditional culture until this week: the opera and the art gallery (to come in a later post). Surprisingly, my head did -not- explode from all that culture.
Thursday was Madama Butterfly. M unfortunately couldn’t come due to the pricing/timing (rent sucks) and therefore it was only G and myself. So we got a little dressier than usual and went on our way--and thankfully we did. While the event wasn’t exactly black tie, minus the dude with the Hawaiian shirt and the other dude with the jeans, it was definitely a dressy affair. Which brought about what was possibly one of my favourite things of the night:
Just like Joan Rivers and her kid (Melissa?), G and I sat back and got to point out the disasters (who wears their prom dresses from circa early ‘00s Mariposa?) and the class acts (a rather gorgeous trench coat I’d love to steal). It managed to combine three of my favourite things: judging, fashion and people watching. It was a great start to the night.
Once inside, it seems that we were not the only people to be judging. Dressed in some rather bright teal tights, cut off lace gloves that Madonna would have been proud of and a short black dress, more than a few of the older ladies gave me the ol’ stare down. There was a bit of a distinct feeling of not fitting in, but I’m pretty sure most of that was in my mind as there was a surprisingly varied amount of people who attended. From the typical “old money” to the hipsters to the yuppies, Queen Elizabeth theatre was packed with the last performance.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get programs when we sat down so we spent most of the first act a little lost. During intermission, standing in a very loooooong line for the bathroom, I was able to google a synopsis and basically Madama Butterfly tells the story of an American naval officer who comes to Japan and ends up getting married to Butterfly.
He ends up leaving her and after three years of waiting, she tells him he has a son. The jackass (I’m pretty sure this wasn’t in the official synopsis) comes back with his new American wife to collect his son, and after hearing the news and basically having her heart torn to pieces, the beautiful Butterfly says goodbye to her son and kills herself at the end of the final act.
It’s all very dramatic.
Overall, I’d say the experience was positive. The music and talent of these performers was astonishing (and the kid who played the son was simply adorable--again, coming from me, that’s a HUGE compliment from this crusty bitch). The singing was gorgeous and the set design, for the most part, was spot on and while minimal, worked for most scenes.
Unfortunately, and I’m unsure if this has to do with operas in general or just music I do not understand, but upon reading the subtitles for the opera, I found that a bit of the “magic” and “wonder” that I originally felt listening to this music and the emotions, was taken away or cheapened.
The best way I could relate this to is a story of why perhaps we shouldn’t get our favourite songs translated. There was this one Italian Opera piece (unfortunately I do not remember the exact title) that I use to adore. It was bounce-y and fun and seemed like such an uplifting piece, I adored it. Me, being the utterly brilliant person I am, decided to find out what it really meant. Cue the disappointment when I found out it was about how all women are flighty and I believe, dumb. Thanks old Italian dude, way to be a jackass.
Sadly, this ruined the song for me.
I couldn’t help but after getting through the first act, feeling a lot like that. I believe G honestly summed it up the best when stating that you see and hear this beautiful piece of art and then, upon reading the subtitles it plays out like a children’s book. See Spot. See Spot Run.
Stories, by all means, do not have to be elaborate or complex to be interesting. They say after all there are only really 8 (I’m guessing here) to tell. I totally and completely embrace the less is more when it comes to storytelling. Unfortunately there is definitely a balance that needs to be made.
That said, after the second act, things did drastically pick up and with the drama circling, I quite enjoyed the entire thing. The musicality was amazing and fit the story wonderfully--especially at the key moment. Seriously, if I die, I want this type of soundtrack for my death scene. It would be epic.
The set design was at times, very telling. Simple things like ribbons were able to subtlety convey a change in mood, screens with simple graphics allowed your imagination to have a jumping point for something off stage. It were these little touches that were much appreciated and worked best when used sparingly. Sadly, at times they were a tad heavy handed and lost much of their whimsical charm.
The costumes were honestly lacking (minus Butterfly’s wedding kimono) with a design that we both found too contemporary. The mixture of fabrics, while nice for a little less typical garb was a little misplaced in 1890s where our story is to have been set. While this is a nitpick, it did detract from the overall story.
All and all, I will admit that I enjoyed it quite a bit and would love to go to another one. Although, perhaps next time I’ll skip the subtitles and stick to just listening to the music and a synopsis.
After all, ignorance is bliss.