I was well into my 40s, and I’d never experienced the opera. It’s not like I’d purposefully avoided; I’d just never had an opportunity to attend.
My computer guy friend and I were IMing one day, and he mentioned the opera. He attended. He enjoyed it. I might enjoy it too, he said. He offered to treat me to a performance of the San Francisco Opera next time I was in town. I was excited to take him up on his offer, but I didn’t make it to San Fran for over a year.
When I started planning my visit with Bay Area friends in 2016, I contacted my computer guy and asked him if we were still on for the opera. He said yes.
My short visit to San Francisco coincided with a Sunday matinee of The Makropulos Case starring Nadja Michael. I’d never heard of this opera, but when I did a Google search, I found information on San Francisco Opera webpage (https://sfopera.com/discover-opera/201617-season/the-makropulos-case/).
The seductive diva Emilia Marty has broken hearts for over 300 years and yet she doesn’t look a day past 30. Now that the magical elixir granting her eternal youth is wearing off, can she seduce her way to immortality?
Music by Leoš Janáček | Libretto by Leoš Janáček
Sung in Czech with English supertitles
The story sounded interesting enough for me want to see the show.
I was concerned because don’t people dress up for the opera? I asked my computer guy. I’m not exactly toting around an opera worthy wardrobe in my van, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if I had to dress fancy.
My computer guy didn’t seem worried about the opera dress code. Hwwever, he is a man who–for the last couple of decades–has partially based his acceptances of job offers on whether or not he’d be allowed to wear shorts to the office.
Are you going to wear long pants to the opera? I asked him, and he said he supposed he could.
The afternoon of the performance came. I wore a long, straight black skirt and a colorful 100% cotton top. My computer guy friend wore full length black pants and a dark shirt. We may not have looked fancy, but we looked respectable, much like everyone else in the audience. I was relieved to see no one else at the matinee wearing evening clothes. (I guess by definition, “evening clothes” are not worn at two o’clock in the afternoon.)
The day of my first opera attendance was also the occassion of my first ride with an Uber driver. Before we left his apartment in the Mission, I asked my computer guy if we would be riding the bus so I would have adequate bus fare if necessary. He said no, so I assumed we’d be walking. When we got out to the corner of his block, he raised his phone above his head.
What are you doing? I asked.
Hailing our ride, he told me.
I was a bit confused when the car that pulled up had no markings distinguishing it as a taxi.
I set up a ride with Uber, he said.
Oh, yes, Uber, I thought. I’d heard of such a thing.
The driver was friendly and polite; the three of us chatted about the opera. The car was exceptionally clean, and I felt safe for the duration of our short ride.
My computer guy had the driver drop us off so we could walk through the lovely Memorial Court. After we climbed the steps into the War Memorial Opera House, we picked up our tickets at the box office and found our seats under the balcony.
The War Memorial Opera House is a beautiful building, inside and out. According to http://www.sfwmpac.org/history,
The cornerstones of the War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building were laid on November 11, 1931. These two buildings and the Memorial Court between them formed the original San Francisco War Memorial.
The War Memorial Opera House has been home to the San Francisco Opera since it opened on October 15, 1932. Despite the nation’s severe depression, Puccini’s Tosca, conducted by Mr. Gaetano Merola, saw its original schedule of nine performances quickly sell out and three additional performances added, due to the incredible anticipation of opening season in the new house.
The Opera House is also home to the San Francisco Ballet, and served as home to the San Francisco Symphony until Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall opened in September 1980.
We only had a short while to flip through our programs before the performance began. Of course, I don’t understand Czech, so I was glad for the subtitles projected throughout theater.
I must have stayed up too late the night before, because my head was nodding and I could barely keep my eyes open by the time intermission rolled around. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the performance; I was enjoying it–but damn!–I felt sleepy. While my computer guy went off to stretch his legs during intermission, I took myself a power nap. Staying awake was easier during the second half of the show.
We walked back to my computer guy’s apartment after the performance, and it was a lovely afternoon to stroll through the city. As we walked, we discussed what we’d just seen.
We agreed the diva, Nadja Michael, was a lovely woman with a great voice and a commanding stage presence. I highly recommend seeing any show she stars in.
My computer guy didn’t enjoy this performance as much as other operas he’d seen. First, he thought sitting under the balcony had detracted from the sound quality. Second, he thought some of the performers were not giving their all since the show was near the end of its run. Finally, much of the opera consisted basically of sung dialog rather than full-on operatic singing.
I enjoyed the opera, I really did, but I wish we’d have been able to see something more traditional and well, famous. In any case, I really appreciate live performance and will choose live performance over a recording any day.
As I told my computer guy friend, I’m glad I was able to attend the performance. (I’m so grateful he bought me a ticket!) I enjoyed going to the opera house (and wish I had taken photos!) and experiencing the performance, but it’s not like opera is my thing now. It’s not as if I’m going to follow the opera like Deadheads followed the Grateful Dead, but I will attend the opera again if a free ticket is involved.