Making Lemonade with Gounod
Friday night we headed downtown for a concert scheduled on the 30th. I had the right date in mind, but Friday was the 29th. Imagine our surprise when my slippery grasp of the present was uncovered. D’oh!
At a loose end the better half and I wandered toward the opera house. To our great delight, the evening’s performance was about to be PlazaCast on giant monitors for the free enjoyment of all. On the bill: Gounod’s Roméo & Juliette.
The weather was beautiful (a touch warm, a slight breeze) and a good crowd of about 300 had turned up with lawn chairs and coolers. A number of other people revolved on and off the plaza, but most stayed for at least 10 minutes worth of the show. Concessions were set up offering pizza, ice cream, and drinks. We skipped the lemonade in favor of a White Russian-coffee mix at intermission.
The performance itself was unexceptional – mostly solid, but not fantastic – dramatically a little slack and with a dull stage production. [I should note here that we missed Act II, iii – including Stephano’s aria – when most of the action happens while getting coffee.] Anyway, I’ll defer to local critic Charles Ward for details.
The neatest part of the evening came after the opera when an announcement asked those of us enjoying the show on the plaza to stay put for a curtain call. Sure enough, a golf cart appeared from around the corner carrying the vocal principals and conductor.* The plaza-sitters crowded around and gave lusty rounds of applause. It was great of HGO to acknowledge the open-air audience as contributing significantly to the success of the evening, even if we didn’t shell out for tickets.
(To be honest, I had wanted to see the production more out of a sense of duty to HGO [we’ve only made one other opera this season] and idle curiosity than any great love for Gounod’s R&J which has to be one of the worst offenders in the opera-as-bad-drama camp. Lucking into it for free and in an atmosphere where we could openly laugh at the contrived death scene was an optimal way to go.)
Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle was visiting to check out David Gockley, on his way to run SF Opera. ArtsJournal links to his article on HGO’s weekend.
*I wonder if they’ve gotten away with carting established stars out to the plaza…I suppose we should’ve showed up for the Gala the next night to find out.