The San Francisco Opera's 92nd season began with the production of Bellini’s “Norma,” a provocative story about a Druid priestess who betrays vows of celibacy and bears two children with her secret lover. The one she has made untold sacrifices for betrays her for a younger virgin priestess (hmmm…this story sounds strangely familiar). We follow Norma through the implications of her lust and love, desire for revenge and retribution, a murder plot and eventual self-sacrifice. Who doesn't love a twisted, tormented plot that ends tragically? Sounds like the makings of a perfect evening to me.
It is about the music
The dramatic renderings of the story are further embellished by soprano Sondra Radvanovsk who gave an exquisite performance. Norma is considered to be the peak of bel canto Italian opera, where control and the tone quality of the voice are paramount. The singer has to convince you she wants to kill her children just by the way she sings. I don't know, this might be a whole new parenting method.
Fabulous costumes and sets
Watching the transformation of characters through elaborate sets and costumes is magical. It's easy to liberate the imagination when the visuals are so compelling. You’ll likely find yourself in a trancelike state honoring the genuine struggle and poetic determination it took to create the set or costume.
The men look incredible
Let's be honest, it's surprisingly difficult to find a man in a suit in San Francisco. Unfortunately the Bay Area seems to be a place where zip up hoodies and T-shirts are dress code. A girl can get nostalgic thinking about a time when men actually took the time.
Opera Diva takes on a whole new meaning
On opening night you will find a lot women dramatically accessorized and dressed, each caught up in some archetypal quest to embody the ultimate Opera diva. Some actually take time re-envisioning and re-creating a fantastic interpretation of the Opera itself with elaborate, over-the-top gowns, while others are more content using gazes into the distance as a communication of the cool Opera diva.
Now let's get to the heart of it. Going to the Opera almost immediately makes you fabulous. I'm sorry but it's true, people assume that you have achieved some high cultural access by simply attending the Opera. If you drop some visionary announcements and prophecies after you have attended you may just be feverishly worshiped. People may see you differently and think you know something about culture and the arts. You have been warned.
Its not that expensive.
Although the Opera has a reputation of being highfalutin and bougie, it really isn't. The Opera is extremely accessible to just about anyone who wants to go. It’s one of the very few places you can see such diversity in age. It is wonderful to see kids attend with their parents, as well as aging patrons who come for the show and people watching( which at times can be as good as the show onstage).
San Francisco Opera 2014 Fall Season
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: Friday through Dec. 2
Tickets: $25 to $370 for single tickets
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com