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A night at the opera

Lady J and I took in the opera Saturday night. Capping our fancy duds with motorcycle helmets we buzzed down to San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House to see the SF’s current rendition of The Marriage of Figaro.

Motorcycle parking was a gimme, and we felt like rock stars, snatching up an immediate spot and walking the big wide stairs all wind blown ‘n shit. After handing our tickets to the taker, who politely informed us we could drop our helmets at the coat check, we were immediately stopped by¬† what William Burroughs might describe as an old church (or in this case opera) going woman, with her mean, pinched bitter old face. She held a stack of programs, and whatever near-volunteer office that came with them. She was obviously put out by us, if not scared, and edgily informed us that we absolutely MUST check our helmets. If I had my wit along I might have informed her we intended to wear them, but alas, I explained that the gentleman taking tickets had done this part of her job for her.

After the coat check, the magic was on. Folks dressed to the nines, sipping champagne through elegant flutes. Children all done up and smoothed down like miniature adults. Men with obvious escorts. It was the opera.

I am abashed to say that it was the first time I have seen Figaro live. It was a wonderful show, and not something I would try to critique. It filled me with joy and happiness.

If I had a single complaint, it would be directed at the War Memorial Opera House. This was my first visit to the old place. Built in the early Thirties, it has a grand lobby. The interior boasts a gilded proscenium and a vast art deco chandelier. But when it comes to acoustics, it is plain to hear that they are still working with 1930s technology, carved into thousands of tons of immovable stone.

From the lower balcony, the show is a quiet one.

The other observation that Juniper and I both had was that behind the airy spaciousness of the lobby, loomed numerous snaking corridors which one traverses  to get to their seat. Stone staircases and windowless landings are stacked upon each other, lending the feel of a 1930s government building, polished, unforgiving. And during intermission when the theater empties into these spaces, the feel is claustrophobic. In future visits it may indeed be worth spending another stack of bones for reservations to the Opera House Cafe.

All in all though, the magnificent performance and the charm of merely seeing the opera will surely bring us back, helmets in tow.

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