I made the mistake tonight of going to the opera. A friend is in the chorus and sometimes sends out notice of a fantastic deal – $25 orchestra seats on a slow night. So I changed my home class time, cut my poor students off at 7, rushed out into the night to grab a cab and dash to the Four Seasons Centre, to see Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito,” which I’d read, distractedly, was not a great production but had wonderful music.
Well. The music – sublime. The singers – wondrous, though it was an odd night to begin with – a different conductor just for tonight, and the famed Michael Schade, they announced as the curtain rose, was “indisposed” and would be replaced with a member of the chorus. People are generous at these times, hoping for the best, though most of them had paid a great deal more than $25 for their seats.
Jesus God. Hideous. A grotesque production. Everyone in ancient Rome was a lesbian – women groping each other, fondling, kissing, one of them a jogger in big glasses, a tunic and Adidas. The emperor wanders about in purple satin pyjamas, clutching a long bedspread over his shoulders, as his lesbian friends sulk drooping against the wall. The Roman centurion, on the other hand, is in full Roman gear, only his helmet bounces like plastic and there’s an unbelievable bit of business about a cramp in his leg. The set is a solid sheet of fake concrete perfect for the graffiti that gets painted on it in Latin, and there’s a K-Mart chandelier and a brass – yes – garbage pail. The chorus comes on dressed like Italian bag ladies, with masks. Yes. Bag ladies with masks.
And heartbreakingly, through all this absurd, mind-boggling grotesquerie, the music shone, glowed in all its beauty, the singers sang Mozart’s enchantment, the voices clear and pure and gorgeous. Their artistry attempted to vanquish the work of this foul director. To no avail.
I couldn’t bear it, even though I spent much of the act with my eyes closed, listening but not watching, and decided to leave at intermission, only to run into a Cabbagetown friend who was also leaving and offered me a ride home. So we vented; she felt just the same. When I got home, I wrote a letter to the COC.