The Triumphal March aka The Graduation March from Verdi's Aida.
This of all tunes should sound familiar to anyone who's ever graduated high school.
We spent the night at the opera last night.
Well, not exactly, but close enough.
Quite by chance, I managed to stumble across a one-night only listing for an HD screening of Verdi's Aida at the CCP's Bulwagang Gantimpala. Starved by the summer hiatus (the next big event at CCP will be the stage version of Dirty Dancing, which won't happen until July), I was eager to see Verdi's classic, my interest piqued by the novelty of watching it in HD and curious to see how lavishly the Met - that apotheosis of New York arts & culture - would stage it.
And so it was that my young date and I found ourselves amid a chi chi - if modest -gathering of predominantly old people last night, who looked at him with a mixture of pleasant delight and bemusement. The clear demographics of the crowd seemed to confirm the stereotypes that opera is 1.) only for the rich, and 2.) only for the old.
Neither of which my date and I were.
Sing it, girl.
It was a very telling overture to the gist of what CCP VP and Artistic DIrector Chris Millado would say in his opening remarks, just before the screening. Opera is an artistic endeavour that some consider the pinnacle of musical expression. As such, opera is also the Everest of expense when it comes to staging and production. As Millado jokingly pointed out, an opera ticket to the Met would cost you Euro 50.00 or $25.00 - while the tickets to that night's screening at the CCP set me back a paltry P500.00* each. And on a less hilarious note, Millado also pointed out the sad fact that ticket sales contribute less than 50% to a show's take, which is why the arts - the performing arts, in particular - are perennially in need of corporate sponsors and private benefactors, much more than public support.
The night's presentation of the The Metropolitan's Aida in HD was, in fact, the first in a series of opera screenings that the CCP has embarked upon. An effort, as Millado remarked, to bring opera to a new and different kind of audience. A younger audience, it went without saying. A new generation that will hopefully support, not just the CCP, but artistic productions and art in general.
"I'm sorry that you/Seem to be confused/
He belongs to me/The boy is mine."
Speaking of that new target audience, I was afraid my 25-year old would be catatonic throughout the 3.5-hour screening, but remembered that we weren't strapped into Wagner** and his epic 24-hour snorefests. And quelle, quelle surprise! The kid actually got into the story (admittedly, I had given him the Cliff's Notes beforehand that Aida was basically your standard bizarre love triangle - but with more singing.) Presently, he was enthusiastically clapping after the bravura performances of the stellar cast led by Ukrainian diva Liudmyla Monastyrska as the Ethiopian princess/slave Aida; Russian diva and Met regular Olga Borodina as the vengeful Egyptian princess Amneris; and Italian tenor Roberto Alagna as Radamés, the Egyptian general who stole both women's hearts.
"What can I say? Bitches love a man in uniform."
It did feel kind of weird to applaud a screening, especially when no one else in the theater seemed to. But it also felt weird not to, especially after witnessing such excellent, moving performances. So we settled for a little compromise and kept our applause to teensy-weensy claps at lap level.
There were some bonus backstage footage of the Met during the three intermissions, hosted by Met soprano Renee Fleming, which kept me in a dilemma: should I relieve my bladder or should I stay and watch the magic behind the scenes? Instead of a quick leak, I opted for the sneak peek at the workings of the magical Met machine, and was handsomely rewarded with trivia, interviews with the cast, and an insider look at the clockwork efficiency of the Met's stage management.
We left The Met's Aida in HD almost as satisfied as we might have been had we been elbow-to-elbow with New York's culturati.
I wish CCP well regarding this new attempt to bring opera to a broader audience, and am looking forward to their next opera screening: Rigoletto in April.
Till then, let the fat ladies keep on singing.
Spoiler: the star-crossed lovers die, entombed alive beneath the temple.
What? Did you think it was gonna be a happy ending?
*P250.00 for students. So there.
I kid, I kid.