New York has certainly turned on its charm. I arrived on schedule last Friday 5th February, and though the temperature has virtually lingered below zero, the skies have been as clear and blue as you could wish for. Today, however, there is no blue. A snow blizzard has settled on the city and overnight the city has taken on the appearance of a new place far from where I was just yesterday. It gives me as chance to return to my blog.
To update where last I was, on my last night in Paris I saw WERTHER by Jules Massenet at Opera Bastille. Again I had no ticket and again it was going to be a strategic exercise in procuring one. There was a young Dutchman, (with a group of Dutch opera-lovers), trying to sell a 172EUR ticket for as much as 150EUR. I could not see any scalpers in site so as much as I was pleased to see that no profit was being made by persons with no interest in attending, I was minus a ticket. There were tickets to be had and I hesitated on a couple of occasions hoping to get the most favourable seat. With less than 10 minutes before the start of the performance, I offered the Dutchman 80EUR for the ticket and said thank you very much. I was treated to a premium seat in what would be the equivalent of the dress circle and had a good chat to the couple adjacent to me.
As each part of the story unfolds the music and voices unobtrusively create the drama but then suddenly there are stunningly beautiful waves of melodious perfection. The story of the opera progresses erratically. In an instant Werther has fallen for Charlotte, the eldest daughter of a widowed magistrate and though she is engaged to another, Albert, Werther cannot let go. He takes no interest in Charlotte's sister who is offered to him and still after Charlotte's marriage to Albert, Werther persists in declaring his love. His mental anguish escalates when Charlotte refuses him one minute and then upon his own suicide tells us how much in love she was with him. Werther's death is one of the slowest in opera. He shoots himself just poorly enough to have his Charlotte embrace him for longer than would ever have happened. Tragedy! Jonas Kaufmann sang the role of Werther and Sophie Koch the role of Charlotte. Just last September I saw Jonas Kaufmann perform in Don Carlos at Covent Garden. After that stellar performace, I asked him to sign my programme and had my photo taken with him.
During the interval as I stepped outside for some air, (I have recently discovered the benefits of the occasional cigarette though I have to stop this), I was approached by a young guy for a cigarette and as it turns out he is a young conductor and artistic director for a newly formed group of Baroque musicians, the Ensemble Pygmalion. He mentioned that they would be performing their first opera in Paris at the end of the year. I somehow don't think I will be there.
As for New York, there is much to tell...