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Falling in Love with Opera: The Phenomemon of Plenty


Developing a passion is a delicious thing filled with excitement and fervor.  Having sipped the operatic elixir of love, there seems to be a phenomenon of plenty.  For example, Diana won tickets to see a full dress rehearsal of Bartlett Sher's new production of by Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera.  Abbondanza indeed!

On the way up, up, up to our seats we had a new view of the chandeliers.  I expect Swarovski Crystal would not want to hear this, but they look to me like something from the set of Lost in Space, just a bit sparklier.

Our seats were in the upper most tiers.  It did offer a full view of the orchestra.  If we ever sit up there again, I will have to invest in some opera glasses.  Perhaps that way I will be able to tell who is singing.

It was fascinating to sit in on a dress rehearsal.  Right off the bat Conte was different from other operas we have seen.  The curtain opened to reveal some wonderfully racy -- hm, dare I even call them costumes?  These girls would have fit right in at Burlesque by the Beach!

After the first act they announced a 30-minute intermission.  Off we trotted down the 100 staircases (the nice part is that the walls and handrail are all deep red velvet!) only to find the superb coffee and snack bar closed.  Unfortunately, we did not get the memo that all of those people with sandwiches wrapped in tin foil got.  I guess we were doing that German thing that Plotkin talks about in Opera 101, getting our intermission exercise.  Up we went back to the rafters.

Another announcement: the tenor playing Hoffmann had a cold and would be replaced by his understudy.  1. Wow, that’s what he sounds like WITH a cold!?  2. What a wonderful way to compare two fantastic singers.  The first Hoffmann had a deep resonant voice that projected well.  The second Hoffmann reminded me of Bing Crosby, a crooner with excellent diction.

During the second intermission Diana and I tried out the view from an empty box seat to our right.  We were very interested to see all the note-taking tables and computers set up on the orchestra level.  I also really enjoyed listening to Conductor James Levine give orchestra notes after the performance.

The highlight for me was the scene in the Venetian brothel (third act in this production).  The costumes and set were like my artwork moving around to fabulous music.  Big elaborate dresses, hanging chandeliers -- all in tones of deep red.  My subjects, my palette all wrapped up in my new passion!

Five months after seeing Les Contes d’Hoffmann  I have completed the piece I envisioned that day:

Meridith McNeal, Giulietta, 2010, score and libretto for Les Contes d’Hoffmann velvet, ribbon, crystal beads and mannequin

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A bit about drawing in pen and ink
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