Carmen (March 18)

Apologies for the out of order entries here. This actually happened before the last entry, but I wanted to write about the play immediately while it was fresh in my brain. So now we’re back to Friday, where I spent the morning sorting out my back entries and going to the coffeehouse and uploading a whole slew of stuff. I should note that a lot of the detail in these entries is for my own benefit. Years from now, when I want to remember “Hey, where was that restaurant with the soup dumplings?” or “What was the name of that artist I liked?”, I can go back to these entries. I don’t necessarily expect them to be of interest to anybody else.

After dealing with the blog stuff, I headed uptown to see how the Squid:Labs sculpture turned out. Pretty excellent. You can see the fully operational sculpture at the left; the way it works is that if you pluck any of the blue cords, a signal is sent to the computer housed in the spool at the lower left, and a tone sounds. There’s also visual feedback on the screen in the spool of how hard you’re pulling the rope. It’s pretty neat. On the right, you get a better sense of how the ropes are attached between the pillars in a spline-like skew pattern. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. But very neat. I’m sure the kids are going to absolutely love playing with this thing when the exhibit opens next month.

Afterwards, I wandered across Central Park, and poked around the Upper West Side for a while. And, as long as I was over there, I picked up a dozen bagels from H&H bagels, since they’re, y’know, awesome. Back down the island, I stopped by the Times Square half-price booth to see what was available, but nothing really appealed.

I was okay with taking the night off, but then Sasha called me and said that he and his girlfriend Rena were going to see their friend sing in a production of Bizet’s Carmen that evening at a church in Brooklyn. That sounded like a New York kind of thing to do, so I said sure. The production was remarkably good. I think the One World Symphony is an amateur orchestra, and it showed, but they tried hard. But the singers were very good. Okay, yes, I’m biased towards singers, but it also means I can be more critical of them. None of them had the kind of powerhouse voice necessary to make it in a full-size opera hall, but they had plenty of power for the church, and negotiated some fairly tricky passages with aplomb.

The staging was also quite well done, despite the lack of a stage. Just a big open space between the pews and the altar. The orchestra was on the left half, the singers on the right. No sets. No subtitles. But it worked. The description in the program was enough to help figure out the context, and the choreography and acting made it pretty clear as well.

Carmen is just fun. I’d never seen it before – I was thinking about it during the performance and realized I’d probably performed more operas than I’d seen – I think I’ve only been to the opera twice – I’d been to the Met last time I was in New York, and this time, whereas I’ve been in three semi-staged operas, I think (Dido and Aeneas at Stanford, The Flying Dutchman and Mlada with the Symphony). But even though I hadn’t seen it, I knew the music. Everybody does, if you’ve watched Bugs Bunny. So it was fun – good music, good performance.

I also liked the sheer incongruity of it all. We’re sitting in this beautiful old church in Brooklyn, watching an opera. If you’d walked by on the street, you would never have guessed. The floor would rumble regularly with the subway going underneath. But rather than detracting from the experience, it added to it, because it underscored the obstacles the performers were overcoming to make this performance happen. They were doing it because they loved music and wanted to make it happen. And I think that’s great.

Afterwards, we went to Faan, an Asian fusion place near where Rena lived. She’s a regular there, and so we had a blast, hanging out with the restaurant host and having some really excellent sushi. I think we got out of there after 1am, and then I took the subway home. Yay public transportation that doesn’t require pumpkinulation at midnight. And also yay a city where even at 1:30 in the morning, the streets are still crowded with people, as they were on my walk back from the subway. In most parts of San Francisco, the streets are dead at 11pm, let alone at 1am. In the East Village, it’s hopping until much later – I went to the midnight movie last night and lots of people were still out at 2am when I got out. Crazy stuff.

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