"This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affectations glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Tale of Two Operas

Once upon a time, there was a fantastic eons-old legend brought to musical life by my favourite composer, Richard Wagner.  He named it *The Flying Dutchman*....the synopsis was a Dutch Sailor, trying to navigate through a monstrous storm, prayed to Satan to help him.....  Satan agreed, but exacted the curse that he was to sail the Oceans continuously....except for every seven years, when the Dutchman (and his crew of dead men) was allowed ashore).  If he found a woman who could be faithful (until death) to him alone...he would be redeemed and allowed to die and finally find peace. The legend of the Dutchman has him in a ship with blood-red sails...a pale man, in dark garb... 

Most of you know I adore all Wagner Operas....they are not done with the regularity of Mozart or Verdi, because of the vocal stamina needed to sing them.  I knew *The Dutchman* was to be performed at our SF Opera for well over a year...and starring one of the best (and most handsome) Bass-Baritones, Greer Grimlsey.

So, for the first on-stage rehearsal, back on 9th October, I sat down...eager with anticipation to hear the familiar music...see the familiar ship... imagine my surprise, when I saw......Skeletons!


No Galleon....but a Blood-Red Space Ship!

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.... it was all the bad-dream of a Romanian Director....Petrinko Ionesco.

I happened to be sitting across the aisle from Monsieur Ionesco and his Romanian *Crew*....(some of who sported identical Ionesco-mustachios)....when I laughed out loud, they turned and glared at me.....
I merely shrugged my shoulders!

At one point, the Dutchman was dressed like this....and these two were his doubles...not sure why there were three *Dutchmen*... in fact, not sure if ANYONE knew...

His *idea* was to have the Dutchman and his crew be Space Aliens....landing on a  Norwegian Fishing Boat of Captain Daland. 

Anyway, we were subjected to three days of this horror...I witnessed arguments between Ionesco and our *Dutchman*, our Maesto and ultimately, our General Director.  This *Dutchman* was quickly turning into a laughing fiasco...the WORST production I had ever seen!  I came home every night depressed and saddened.  

On the fourth day, I entered the Opera House to find our General Director calling everyone to the front of the stage....and he informed us Monsieur Ionesco and team had *left*...(i.e.  fired)!  I was so happy....(and you know I am not one to hold back on my emotions), I ran over to Mr. G, hugged and kissed him and said "THANK YOU"!

A relief....because now the Singers could SING...not be encumbered with ridiculous *Alien* Costumes and Masks...  BUT, also a challenge because 70% of the staging for Principals, Chorus and sets had to be redone...in three days!

*Dutchman* opened on October 22nd...it closed last night (November 15th)...

The Dutchman's non-Zombie, but still dead crew!

Captain Daland, the wonderful Icelandic Bass, Kristinn Sigmundson

Captain Daland and Crew....ah...so nice not to have a Spaceship in the background!
Senta (our obsessive Heroine) sings the Ballad of the Flying Dutchman

Senta and her would-be fiance, Erik.

I mean..really, wouldn't you choose the Dutchman?

The Dutchman thinks Senta has betrayed him with Eric....and departs....BUT....as in most Wagner Operas, Senta remains true and throws herself off a cliff.....the Dutchman and she are reunited in the Cosmos....  ah....lovely!  

On our Opening Night....I created this *Table Decoration* from alphabet Cookies... I even made an umlaut!  A-ha-ha! (I forbade the Orchestra, Chorus and Principals from eating it - until after the intermission!  A-ha-ha!)

And you know, I MUST *Model* some of the hats from the production!  Here I am, wearing the Steurmann (Steersman) Hat!

Last....I was lucky enough to be invited to a Cocktail Party at the German Consulate where *The Dutchman*, himself was the guest speaker!    We had a nice tete-e-tete and he gave me a *Scoop*...he will be returning to SF Opera in 2 years to sing a totally different Wagner Role...Hans Sachs in *Die Meistersinger*.  We shared a giggle about the *Zombie Apocalypse* rehearsals!

Last Friday was the final performance... for me, witnessing what was on the stage back in early October, and what was the concluding performance was a miracle...a testament to a wonderful Opera. GREAT singers and orchestra.. the thrill of Opera....there's nothing like it!

I cannot leave you without sharing a bit of the music from the fantastic Opera! 


  1. What an awesome story! I can't believe you all had 3 days to pull the whole thing off but am so glad it wasn't a flying spaceship. Really, some things should not be messed with.

  2. Mim...you are so right! Kudos to the two young (and female) Assistant Directors from SF Opera who pulled it all together. They did a fantastic job...and though it continued to be a *work in progress*..(the wonderful ending didn't appear until Halloween...) I continued to be awed by everyone's talent in making this a memorable production! ♥ Robin ♥

  3. The first opera sounded sacreligeous!!! How awful! So glad they resurrected it properly with an ever so hunky Dutchman ;)

  4. Well that makes sense - an opera-worthy dustup about rehearsals for the opera!

    (p.s. I thought the photos of Senta in the opera were actually of you!! Cute shot of you in the Steersman hat!!) xoxo

  5. I feel a little less uncultured than I was before reading this post. So much still left to learn! So much wonder still left to experience. Thank you for sharing this.