What's opera, doc?

Get ready for something unprecedented at Irony or Mayo: Friday night live-blogging! That's right. I'm going to take a little time out of my busy schedule propping up the cultural and gastronomical significance of the McRib to cover something a little less intellectual.

I'm going to the opera.

I know, I know--you're thinking, Why is he wasting his time on something so trivial and insubstantial, when he could be telling us how much he loves pretzel M&Ms or something? Well, the short answer is: the Overture Center asked nicely, and offered wedding cake.

In all seriousness, I was invited to attend the Madison Opera's performance of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro for Blogger Night, and I couldn't resist. I like Mozart. I saw Amadeus. And while I've never attended an actual opera, I've seen the "Ride of the Valkyries" Bugs Bunny cartoon about a billion times. I even own a CD of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, which is pretty operatic.

Still, this will be a new experience. Taking in opera, a foreign mode of stage entertainment for me, and responding critically on the fly. I'm looking forward to it, but be prepared for a Homer Simpson-esque analysis: "That thing is really, really.. really.... good."

The live-blogging shall commence below, shortly before curtains-up. I'll be back to continue during each of the show's two intermissions, and then again after the close of the performance. If you're at Overture for the event, stop by the blogger station and say hi.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the aforementioned Bugs Bunny operatic shenanigans.

The namesake of this post, "What's Opera, Doc?".

"Long-Haired Hare"

"Rabbit of Seville"


7:10 PM

Having just completed the tour of the backstage area, I have to say it's a little surreal being in the guts of a theater again. The last time was a year ago July--for my wedding.

So, hey, Marriage of Figaro, at least on a titular level, is mighty appropriate.

We saw Figaro and his gang getting all made up (hello, kabuki faces!), and were warned that there could be boobage! Sadly, that was a false start. Madison Opera Communications Guru Brian Hinrichs gave us the rundown on the structure of this opera, at least--arias for emotional outbursts interspersed with sung dialogue (recitativo in the Italian) to move the plot along. So, kind of like porn!

I hope no one's lurking in the shrubbery, for this corset must come off!

We'll be clattering away here, like nerdy zoo exhibits, until the show starts. I'm trying to convince a dubious Laurie of Your Ill-fitting Overcoat that Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter" is appropriate blogging music.

There's something strangely old-school about sitting at a desk with three other people, everyone typing, making faces ranging from studious (everyone else) to dorkily emotive (me). It's the Electronic Theatre Bureau! I gotta make t-shirts.


7:40 PM

Ah. Alcohol.

Unfortunately, no sippy cup. This is a dry performance.

Can I mention how absurd I feel, checking Wikipedia on the synopsis of Figaro. I'm terribly delinquent in my haute culture. I will say that I'm really looking foward to the harpsichord. Tiny little thing, it looks like a bar game version of a full piano.

We're getting a cool dissertation on ornamentation and ad libbing from A. Scott Parry (PARRY, Lindsay. Parry.), the stage director of the show. He's a cool guy, and much younger than I'd expect for the director of an opera. Pretty sweet gig.

Bell's about to ring, better go get cultured!


9:45 PM


"Thus the suspicious are condemned." A great line, and one that sums up the closing action of the first half of the opera.

Act One covers the interpersonal relationships well--Figaro and Susanna, servants set to wed; Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina, schemers set to ruin the nuptials; and a Count and Countess set at odds by varying degrees of infidelity.

But Act Two really cranks up the Benny Hill music. There's ducking, lying, hiding, jumping out of windows--you could almost see Scooby and the gang running from the villain of the week.

In my minimal ability to critique opera, I'll say that Susanna (Anya Matanovic) and the Countess Rosina (Melody Moore) are stealing the show for me. Their voices carry better than all the male performers, and their stage presence is both endearing and evocative. (There are many a moment of shoulder-to-shoulder girl power in Act Two, and these two ladies carry it off like Thelma and Louise.)

I will give a special shout-out to Emily Lorini, doing the yeo(wo)man's work of playing a pubescent young page boy, Cherubino. It takes a moment for unsophisticated me to figure out that it's a woman playing a man, in the old Globe Theatre tradition, but her lanky, awkward strides across the stage set her gender firmly in the adolescent male category. Lorini and Moore play well off of each other as well, with the former's affections for the latter forging an irrefusable tie between the two.

I'd say more, but what the hell do I know? Plus, they're gonging for us and everyone's fingers are FREAK. ING. OUT.


11:20 PM


The latter half provided the majority of the recognizable tunes, culminating with "Sul l'aria," the duet between "those two Italian ladies," Susanna and the Countess, that Andy plays over the loudspeaker in The Shawshank Redemption. I'm guessing that, from what I can tell, most comic operas end about as tritely as Figaro does, so I'm okay with the "everybody run and play!" exeunt.

I'll close with this thought. The Madison Opera is not an expensive night out. As my wife pointed out to me, tickets started at less than $20, and maxed out for this show at around $115 for the best of the best seats. I'm wearing jeans, for crying out loud; you don't need a monocle or tails for this.

So that's it, more or less. There's cake and champagne that isn't going to consume itself, and we're on the invite list.

Oh, and never, at any time, does anyone in this opera stand up and belt out, "FIIIGARO. Figarofigarofigaro!!" That's The Barber of Seville and a whole 'nother Blogger Night at the Opera.


12:20 AM

Back home. Making a frozen pizza. I can't take this much culture. (We had to spring our dogs, anyway, so skipped the afterparty.)

Can I say, though, that my caption for the above photo--meant as a riff on the porn joke--actually proved to be pretty accurate given what's happening in that scene? I'm, like, an opera savant or something. (The picture is credited to the Madison Opera, by the way.)

And lastly, sincere thanks to Brian Hinrichs, Manager of Communications and Community Outreach, for the invite and the hospitality. He's doing a great job bringing a younger demographic into what can be a tough sell sometimes. We got a lot of response from folks in the lobby, and Brian himself got specific praise from outgoing Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton before the show. He deserves it; thanks, Brian!