Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Operas

We were in Santa Fe for a few days last month to see the opera. Specifically, we saw two operas, Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd, and a 21st century opera called Adriana Matter. They were both well-staged, sung, and acted, of course. Santa Fe doesn't do anything half way.

I liked Billy Budd, but was not wowed by it. After seeing Paul Bunyan a few years ago at Central City, I was expecting more. Paul Bunyan was brilliant -- its American themes captured so perfectly (an accountant going to Hollywood to be an accountant there? Of course!). Billy Budd, not so much. Perhaps the two Britons who created the piece -- both incredible talents -- Britten himself and E.M. Forster (imagine my surprise) -- were just not ready for an American novel yet. There was much more emphasis on duty and honor than there was on the struggle between good and evil.

Adriana Matter was a masterpiece. I had chosen it because Peter Sellars was directing, and I felt I couldn't go through life without seeing one of his productions. Beyond Mr. Sellars' excellent staging, Adriana Matter had everything you could ever want in an opera: war, rape, deceit, the possibility of patricide, atonality.

But the best part of this opera was not anything that a human could engineer. The evening was typical for Santa Fe in July -- wet and cold. For this reason I really don't like the outdoor venue in Santa Fe. Indeed, I wouldn't attend the opera there if it didn't stage really good, new, and interesting stuff. But just after we were seated for the second act, when the singers came out into a set built to indicate a war-ravaged city, the fog began to roll in over the stage. The mood it created was both dark and thrilling. I have never experienced anything like it.

To Billy Budd I wore my gray, Grecian dress by Lanvin with Steve Madden open-toed booties in neutral suede. To Adriana Matter I wore my brown Rick Owens rocker dress with Tara Subkoff suede open-toed, wedge sandals with ankle ties, and a Stella McCartney oversized sweater coat. I carried my cobalt-blue Alexander Wang clutch both nights.

Peter Sellars wore a red kimono top over black pajama pants.

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