October 19, 2019
Wanna know just how good we got it here in Winston-Salem? We just saw Piedmont Opera’s “Mary, Queen of Scots” and it cost us exactly $185 for two of the best seats in the Stevens Center. OK, maybe that’s a lot of money for a lot of folks, but if you’re an opera fan, compare that to the $990 it would cost to see the same opera at the Met in New York City. I suspect W-S Journal Arts critic Lynn Felder would tell you that it wouldn’t be any better than what we saw just four blocks from home. It would probably be cheaper for a New Yorker to jump a plane and come here to see what Piedmont Opera can do.
Since my most extensive musical experience was listening to Muzak as the elevator ascended the 55 floors of the building I was working in in NYC, I will leave final judgment on the singing to the experts. But we’re fortunate to get an invitation to a cast party at Phil and Vicky Auchincloss’ apartment after the performance (way past my bedtime now that 9:30 is the new midnight, but I wouldn’t miss the spread she puts on and, secondarily, the opportunity to expand my knowledge of opera). Those who were there assured me the singing was magnificent, the set was striking (pardon the inside pun), and the music was grand. But you can judge for yourself if you beat the rush to get tickets to the remaining performances because, judging from the reactions of those I talked to, it’s run, don’t walk, to avoid the rush.
So how does a city of some 240,000 get blessed with an opera that can compare so favorably with whatever is going on elsewhere in the world? Lots of reasons, but they all boil down to three things: 1.) some of the best operatic talent anywhere, 2.) a dedicated base of opera fans, which includes some businesses, not for profits, and governmental folks) who foot the bills (and putting on an opera is the costliest square footage of any theatrical performance), 3.) a staff and volunteer group, cleverly named the OPERAtors, who work their butts off. I know because Carole is President of the OPERAtors and she approves of this message. (HINT, HINT, maybe the city could find a way to help a bit more. After all, it is the City of Arts and Innovation, not just the City of Artists and Innovation.)
My only other thought is how do you get the rest of the city to be thrilled by what the human voice is capable of? Do what I did. Go see an opera. They’re a bit like martinis. The first one may not be to your taste, but by the third one (not in the same night, of course), you’re wondering why you’re drinking anything else.
(By the way, I shouldn’t take credit for the title to this post. I stole it from Mariedith Appanaitis, who writes very clever and helpful synopses of the plot you can wear on your jacket.)
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