You guys, it was awesome.
Ok, so I bought my ticket online. Never been to the Metropolitan Opera House before!. Went for a dress circle box, a $40 seat with an “obstructed view”. Figured there might be a column in the way? Or something? Decided to risk it, as the un-obstructed Dress Circle Balcony was sold out, the $20 seats were in another county, and the $85 seats were, you know, $85.
So imagine my qu’el surpríse when I crowded through the lobby, up the red stairs, up more red stairs, then down some red stairs, through a red curtain, then through a little door into this tiny little arc of a four-person box, with a little two person box popped up behind with it’s own special door. Fucking magical. Would not have traded it for a regular balcony seat for all the world. From this little velvet nest the Adult Beginner could scope the crowd, admire jewelry and hairdos, spy on the other boxes! Seriously, where was my lorgnette?
And no column! Ok, there may have been a few times when I had to lean out to see things at extreme stage left, but all the main action was super visible, no prob there. And leaning was kind of fun. I was in a box! Like T pain, I was in a box, muthafuka, never thought I’d be in a box.
Things started to start, and, Gentle Reader, I almost cried. Right off the get-go. When those crazy exploding-asteroid chandeliers floated up and away and the orchestra swelled into that music- that music that I know but have never heard live- oh man, big ol’ welling-up in my chest and things got a little misty and it was like, KIT, Adult Beginner, Keep It Together. Do not bawl before the thing has even started, you are ridiculous.
Maybe I’m a sucker for big swelling chords. Maybe I’m just a sucker.
So the ballet starts with a little “lemme ‘splain” scene behind a scrim.
This is how we know that what we’re seeing happened Long Ago, because scrim equals the past. Lady in white runs around looking freaked out, Scary Swamp Thing appears, then she runs off, and Scary Swamp Thing re-appears holding, like, this giant prop swan, like a big stuffed toy, and Gentle Reader, I almost laughed out loud. I mean, really? Really? A big swan toy with dangly legs? Does no one else find this Hi-Larious?! Maybe it’s tradition? Maybe there’s got to be a big goofy swan prop or else?
Ok and also, why does Rothbart look like Scary Swamp Thing? Isn’t he supposed to be an owl? But maybe this makes more sense because he lives in the lake, which is swampy? I guess???
Ok, cut to big party for Siegfried. He is the main character, but we don’t really care about him. We want swans. Anyway, it’s his birthday, everybody’s getting their groove on, especially Sieg’s buddy Benno who is a total lady-killer. Seriously, Benno spends the entire show with at least one lady on each arm. One really great part, clearly rehearsed to the song “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta,” where a couple ladies have a dance-off to impress Benno, and then he’s like, “Ladies, ladies! No need to fight! There’s enough Benno to go around!”
I mean, that wasn’t exactly what the playbill says, but it was pretty obvious.
Sieg’s mom shows up and nags him about getting married, Sieg ducks out of the party.
Totally hot scene change to the forest. It’s really beautiful. Sort of a hanging curtain of mysterious dark trees, and a lake, and a ruin, and moonlight sparkling off the water…
Siegfried sees Odette and almost shoots her with his new gun- I mean crossbow- she mimes at him, he falls in love with her.
Um, Dudes in the house, does that work? Is mime hot? Should I advise my single girlfriends to take up mime?
Whatever, the mime mojo was not working on me because I only had eyes for the corps dancers. Hot damn. There is something so enthralling about watching people dance in unison. The way the tutus would flash white as the swans bent low and then their hair would shine dark as they rose, these amazing shifting color patterns, and the sound!
As the swans bourré in a row, their pointe shoes knock the floor in a continuous patpatapatapatpat like rain on the roof, like I’m sitting on a porch swing during an afternoon storm and the day is finally cooling down and the smell of ozone and wet earth… Wow, chills you guys, seriously.
And the four cygnets! That soft bouncing puff puff puff of their tutus contrasting with their angular, locked arms, their feet solving complex math problems and the kind of unthinking, animal head movements, responding in unison to whatever it is birds respond to- loved it.
Ok, so then Scary Swamp Rothbart shows up and Siegfried tries to shoot him too, but Odette is like, “No, don’t tase him, bro,” and then there is a really cool moment where Rothbart summons Odette, and she freezes and turns and her body changes and you understand that he’s turned her back into a swan and she flies away. So cool. I was like,(punches fist in air) “boo-yeah Michele Wiles! That’s what I’m talking ’bout! Yeah girl, get it! You a swan, baby!”
Then bam! Intermission!
Girl beside me complains about Michele Wiles’s arabesque. I feel weirdly defensive and consider sternly reminding my box-mate that a less than 180% extension requires more strength to hold and besides isn’t it neat to see someone that’s not yet a ballet household name let’s not rush to judge and besides maybe she’s saving it for Odile but then figure no one likes a bore so I change the subject to the cygnets.
Box-mate learned the cygnet pas de quatre when she was studying to be a ballerina.
Incidentally, I’m guessing everyone in the audience has some ballet connection. Funny, I mean, you go to a baseball game, you don’t look around the stadium wondering who had ten years of baseball training and was going to be a star but then the bunions got too painful and they had to quit, and who is fulfilling their lifelong dream by starting baseball as an adult.
Asked Box-mate which is hardest: end-cygnets or middle cygnets? Always wondered, I mean, the ends are more visible and they have to kind of steer the group, but no, the middle is more difficult, according to Box-mate, because they have a girl on each side to keep pace with.
Then bam! Intermission over!
Big party, Siegfried’s mom is like, No, for realz, you have to get married. I invited some girls over. Pick one.
And then we get one of my favorite ballet memes: the Parade of Exotic Foreign Countries! Ballet is full of these things, and they bring up some interesting questions, like, is it ok to love the spicy music, the bright colors, and the folk-ish dances? Or are they exploitative? Or is it overly self-conscious political-correctitude to even question the Parade of Exotic Foreign Countries?
Anyway, Siegfried is not impressed. Then Odile shows up, with Rothbart who is no longer a swamp thing. Now he is Hot Sexy Rothbart! And seriously, well done, Jared Matthews. It can not be easy to look like a bad ass in thigh-high purple suede boots, but sir, you did it.
Odile and Sieg run off stage. Where do they go? Probably to make out. Hot Sexy Rothbart charms the pantaloons off all the ladies, including Sieg’s ma, who lets him sit in Sieg’s chair. Gasp!
One of the ladies from an exotic foreign country does this heart wrenching bourré in parallel from all the way across the stage, arms dangling behind, she is drawn to Hot Sexy Rothbart, she is powerless, you feel the pull in your own chest, Gentle Reader.
So then Odile and Siegfried come back, and do their solos and pas de deux.
Started thinking about Odile. Why is this considered the sexy bad girl role? The music is not giving me any evil cues like it does for Rothbart. It’s fun lively music. Perky. Maybe this is an issue of how old the music is? Like maybe it’s kinda dated? Like when you watch Jaws and you expect heavy horror movie music but other than the dahDuh shark music it’s kinda bouncy like, hey! Two dudes on a boat! It’s a fishin’ movie!
It feels more like Odile is the confident, triumphant counterpart to Odette’s downtrodden earnestness. Odile is a sassy-sassafras. Love it when she burns Siegfried, pulls her hand away before he can kiss it. Seems like the music and choreography and performance were all in agreement that she’s not the sensual dark creature a post Black Swan audience has come to expect.
And for that matter, what is Odile? Is she Rothbart’s daughter? If so, why is she beautiful while he’s a swamp monster? And does she live with him in the lake? Or does she live with her mom in Long Island City?
Did Rothbart call and say, “hello my Princess! I have a job for you, sweetie!”
Or did he create her? Is she like The Flesh from Doctor Who? Did he make this sassy, full, real person, just to fulfill this one purpose and then throw away?
Found myself really feeling for Odile.
Ok so Sieg believes Odile is Odette, promises to marry her, and everything goes to hell.
Castle blows up.
Siegfried in despair.
This is the first time I really care about Siegfried as a character: he has fucked up in the worst possible way, he knows it, nothing will ever be good again in the world. Well done Cory Stearns.
Music is swelling, I’m totally white-knuckling the balcony rail, the lovers jump, Rothbart is freaking out, and I’m not sure why, I mean, is he a sore looser? Or was Odette somehow in control of his power? Did she know that?
But whatever, I’m too busy like, ‘But what about the Swans??!!!?!?!?! Is the spell broken by love???? Do they get to be girls again??!!?!!’ and then the most devastating moment in the ballet: the swans sink to the floor, fold, rise one last time, fold, fog rushes in and covers them, curtain closes, music thundering and the Adult Beginner is grabbing the girl beside her by the shoulders, sobbing into her cardigan, yelling , “nooooooooooooooooo! Why can’t they be girls again???? Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?”
And then a million curtain calls, wild applause, and I was thrilled to see that special bouquet thing I’ve read about in books: tiny ballerina reaches out from the mountain of flowers she’s barely holding to present one pink rose to her man.
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