Saturday, January 31, 2009


I grew up in Orange County, California a Dodgers fan. My father had grown up in Brooklyn during the 1930s and so loyalty to the team and to the sport was never a question. As far as football was concerned, we had the hapless Rams. Consequently, I was never much of a football fan. Until... The Raiders moved down to LA sometime in the 1980s, and everybody jumped on their bandwagon. My adolescent thought at that time was "screw that!" I decided that I would be a Rams fan.

Soon after, I moved down to San Diego to attend college at SDSU. Back then, it seemed that half of SDSU students were from Orange County and the other half were from the Bay Area, so the Rams-49'rs games were always contentious. In fear of stating the obvious, the 49'rs were somewhat more successful during those years. I don't mind routing for the underdog, but those years were brutal. Then, the Rams moved to St. Louis and I at that point lost all interest in the franchise.

In 1994, I moved to Arizona to pursue a graduate degree at ASU. For a few years, I was indifferent. But, after the 1996 perfect season of the ASU Sun Devils--led by Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman who were then drafted by the Cardinals--I became a whole-hearted supporter of the Arizona Cardinals.

It has been a difficult 15 years. Even at my regular bar in Phoenix, I was often the only Cardinal fan. Most people in Arizona come from somewhere else--mostly the mid-west, so we have plenty of Packer fans, Viking fans, Browns fans, etc. Plus, most native Arizonans are actually Cowboy fans, since they long ago drank the Kool-Aid of "America's Team" before Arizona had a team of their own. So, it was brutal there also.

When I moved to Rhode Island in June, I knew I was moving into a town that was drunk with the success of their Patriots, their Red Sox, and (soon) their Celtics. When I established myself at a local watering hole at the start of the NFL season, I boldly predicted that the Super Bowl would be contested by the New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals (Being pretty confident about the Patriots, but almost joking about the Cardinals).

So suck it, New England fans! My prediction was half true. Whether they win or lose, I don't care. The Cardinals already have the championship that has eluded them for 61 years: they are the NFC Champions of 2008 and nobody can take that away from them. But, I think that I have converted a lot of New England fans over to the Arizona cause. Normally, my drinking place here in Providence would be pretty empty if the Patriots were not in the big game. Now I know that a lot of my new-found friends will be there at least supporting me in this game. Here's to a good game!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

eight months

Having moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Pawtucket, Rhode Island eight months ago, I find myself no longer on a deserted island when it comes to opera offerings. To be fair, Arizona Opera was (and is) a fine company. However, with (at most) five productions a year to contemplate, my options were limited considerably. Financially speaking, I couldn't jet off to LA or San Francisco or Seattle as often as I would have liked (in reality: zero times).

I feel positively spoiled and overwhelmed to be on the East Coast now for the first time in my life. The operatic riches for a bumpkin like me are a bit embarrassing (Incidentally, I am maintaining a public Google Calendar of opera events in New England and as far south as New York. You may access the calendar here. Please let me know if you have any additions, corrections, or comments regarding these entries.).

I have missed more performances that I would have died to go to here in my last 8 months than I could have ever hoped to attend in 15 years in Arizona. However, I did manage to get out a little bit.

Eugene Onegin (August 2, 2008 in concert at Tanglewood; Renee Fleming)

What a beautiful idyllic Berkshire summer evening. I am now sorry that I bought a seat in the Shed. After intermission, I went outside and spent the rest of the performance on the lawn. Note: will bring lawn chairs next time and hope for another evening like this without rain. James Levine and Ramon Vargas called in sick for this gig, but I did get to see Renee who was lovely and in great voice.

Salome (September 23, 2008 The Metropolitan Opera; Karita Mattila)

This was my very first trip to the Met, and I was not disappointed. There seem to be many differing opinions about this performance, which was the season's opening night for Salome. For me, KM nailed the part: I measure this very scientifically by the degree in which the hair on the back of my neck stands up during Ach, ich habe deine Mund geküsst. Nearly matches the rating of my Cheryl Studer recording (Sorry fans, but Nilsson doesn't quite do it for me).

Seated Orchestra Rear.

Lucia di Lammermoor (October 5, 2008 Salt Marsh Opera; Diana McVey)

Basically, the opera house is a small converted church in Westerly, RI, not the greatest acoustics for opera. The stage is about the size of a largish dinner table and the set could have been stolen from a local high school's production of Hamlet. That being said, the singers were marvelous, particularly the young local soprano Diana McVey in the title role.

There are two classes of seating in the "church". The classy seats are in the nave area with unobstructed views of the stage. I was in the cheap seats on the side in what I guess you would call the transept or aisle, which means that as the singers moved about the stage, I had to dodge my head left or right to see around the columns which obstructed my view. The good part was that by the first intermission, everyone in my section and in back of me had moved to empty nave seats and so I could shift around freely and even stand up without bothering anyone. I even managed to film the sextet for posterity.

The orchestra, by the way, was above and behind the stage. At the back of the church hung a large video monitor which displayed the conductor, presumably for the benefit of the singers on stage, but I also found it interesting to watch from time to time.

Der Freischutz (October 21, 2008 Opera Boston)

Boston being much closer to me than New York, I hope to not miss any productions of the Boston Lyric Opera and the more daring Opera Boston. The Cutler Majestic Theatre (home of Opera Boston) is a grand old lady. I do have to say, however, that the balcony seating is ridiculously cramped. Luckily, being in the first row, I was able to hang my legs over the railing and nobody objected. I don't know how many opportunities I will have to see Der Freischutz over my lifetime, so I was very grateful to see this (adequate) production.

I remember the singing as wonderful, but not having made any notes I cannot recall any standouts. The staging and acting, however, I would describe as eccentric at best descending down to silly (and even borderline pornographic at one point).

Les contes d'Hoffmann (November 18, 2008 Boston Lyric Opera)

Practically next door to the Cutler Majestic, the Shubert Theatre is its rather plain sister. The Shubert, however, is the Cutler's equal in its assault on your legs and knees in the balcony section. Being in the second row this time, we just had to grit it out.

This production was absolutely spectacular in almost every way. In marked contrast to the Opera Boston production notes above, the BLO really outdid itself with this staging of Hoffmann. The sets were gorgeous and quirky; the acting was brilliant and funny; the singing was top drawer throughout.

Lucia di Lammermoor (January 26, 2009 The Metropolitan Opera; Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón)

My triumphant return to the Met was also the occasion of the (not so triumphant) returns of La Trebka and Mr. Villazon. Much has already been written of this performance, to which I can add little. Colin Lee was a promising Arturo with his clear ringing (and in-tune) voice. That the only role I am writing about in a production of Lucia is the Arturo let us leave speak for itself.

One thing about the audience, and I don’t care how bad the performance was or how late the start time: the steady flow of people exiting the theater after the Mad scene is just plain rudeness. This turned into a cattle drive after the last scene, BEFORE the curtain call. Being in Standing Room for this one and next to the exit, I guess I noticed this more than most.

If I were not quite so poor, I would be out every night....