On Halloween night Emmett and I went to the opera for the first time ever. We live very near the Seattle Opera house, which is in Seattle Center with the Space Needle, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Repertoire Theater, Science Museum and the Monorail. We often see fancy pedestrians in tuxedos and vintage fur walking around the area at 7 p.m. and we always say “bet they’re going to the opera.” Even though they could totally be going to the ballet or theater. No, the opera is the place you can bust out your floor length mink, your semi-legal red coral necklace, your shimmering cummerbund and no one bats an eye.
We enjoy listening to opera music quite a lot. Who needs Lord of the Rings when you can get the original epic set to breathtaking music by Wagner? And in terms of contemporary opera, Emmett’s eyes mist over when listening to John Adams’ Nixon in China. But we’ve never been to the opera mainly because it is prohibitively expensive. Not only do you need to acquire a floor length mink, nose bleed tickets in the mezzanine are over $100 each. This Halloween we deviously pounced on half price tickets to none other than Don Giovanni. What more perfect Halloween opera is there? Don Giovanni is called “Mozart’s bad boy” (which I can’t even type with a straight face) because he’s the Italian Don Juan whose lusty prowling lands him a dinner date with the devil and an invitation to hell in a very spooky and fiery final scene. I am able to give you this summary because graciously there were English subtitles above the stage.
It’s famous Mozart music you know and love set as a comedy with gorgeous singing and hilarious over-the-top delivery. It was perfect for this Halloween, a Friday night after a long week during which Emmett was sick and I was pretending not to be. We got there a little early to people-watch which is something you do both on Halloween and at the opera separately but together it became a next-level social experience. Never having been to the opera, I couldn’t have known that masquerade is a default opera theme. It’s totally fine if you want to wear a lot of velvet and hold up a feathery mask at the opera. On Halloween we had full costumes, Renaissance dresses with bustles that wouldn’t fit in the aisles, and further mixing the themes, we had some zombie Brünhildes with bloody face make up.
I’m told that seeing a good production of a Mozart opera ranks as a bucket list item, even at their maddeningly slow 18th century pace. The plot you can deliver in a sentence, but the appeal is in the music and how the libretto supports it. You can see in later operas, even in Wagner’s 19th century opuses, that the music is still masterful but it fully shares the stage with plot and lyrical complexities not seen earlier. Seeing Don Giovanni at the Seattle Opera on Halloween was a surreal initiation into a world in which we don’t belong — we shared wine out of a plastic water bottle we brought into the theater, tell no one — but to which we will definitely return.
(Featured image and larger below because it’s so beautiful I wanted to show the whole thing: Renoir’s La Loge, 1874)