Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's Opera, Fox?

Just returned from the first performance of grand opera at the Pomona Fox Theater. OK, I admit that I went because I want to be supportive of this type of use of the Fox (no I wasn't at the Marilyn Manson concert). But I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the afternoon immensely.
I'm afraid that I'm musically challenged and don't know a contralto from a contra bassoon. As a result I wouldn't even begin to attempt a review of the performance, but I can comment on the experience. 
First off, we sat in the front part of the balcony (the mezzanine?) with the extra wide leather seats. The $30 price was general admission anywhere in the balcony and we were there early enough to get into those great seats. I've been to a lot of venues and have never had seats that comfortable, even for movies! Yes, I was able to sit on my ample back side without twinging during the entire 2.5 hours. I'm also a little hard of hearing (what?) and am pleased to say that the acoustics at the Fox were surprisingly good without a lot of extra amplification.

The music was provided entirely by piano and musical director Brian Farrell. The staging was very minimalist with just a few boxes and steps providing the scene and then a lot of hand props and costumes adding the flavor to the action.

While the singing was mostly in Italian (with a few wink-winks of English to help with key plot elements) there was also some English narration provided by Robert Arce and Rochelle Firestone which helped if you got lost. The main way to follow the action was to read the two page synopsis of the storyline BEFORE the start of the performance. 

The story follows Nemorino, Matt Dunn, who is in love with Adina, Leslie Dennis, but is too shy to approach her due to her beauty. Along comes Belcore, Raul Matas, who is a soldier who enchants Adina. Nemorino  is crushed and seeks the help of snake-oil salesman Ducamara, Arthur Freeman, who sells him some bordeaux rebranded as love potion. Of course that's when things get interesting. The comic parts, especially  with Ducamara or Belcore, were quite enjoyable and you didn't need to understand the language to enjoy it.

Of course everything comes out well in the end.

I learned that the presales for this performance were about 300 (we bought out tickets at the door). Hopefully that will be enough to encourage the Repertory Opera Company to use the Fox in the future. During intermission we saw councilman Tim Saunders and is wife Dawn, as well as DPOA director Larry Egan. They had VIP seating in the orchestra area of the auditorium which was set up with tables and plastic chairs. Upon arriving at home, we had our Pomona Heritage mail (our membership director collects it once a week so we don't see it in a timely manner) and we had received an invitation to attend as VIP guests. Considering everything we're glad we paid and got to sit in the comfortable seats. We're also glad we were able to help support opera at the FOX!


John Clifford said...

Just noticed that this same opera will be presented Sept 12-30 at the Dorothy Chandler in the Music Center by the LA Opera. Might be interesting to contrast a large production with this one.

I know that the LA Opera usually uses projected subtitles, which might also enhance the experience. Hmmmmm

Ed said...

"Pomona Heritage mail (our membership director collects it once a week so we don't see it in a timely manner)"....I really think you might want to rephrase this!

meg said...

Ooh, Pomona Heritage catfight! I'm selling popcorn...

John Clifford said...

OK, so it wasn't the post politic thing to say, but I was trying to make a point about the opera.

The majority of PH snail mail is ads or newsletters from other heritage groups so it's really no big deal. Mrs. C is the president so she gets any mail that isn't financial in nature which would go to the treasurer.

John Clifford said...


Pick me up some to.

Anduhrew said...

sounds like a wonderful time! I wish I had known in time. I just got back from Peru on thursday, and have tons of things to do around the house since i've been gone for two weeks.

meg said...

John writes:
"Pick me up some to."

Some to do what with -- throw at Ed?

(Hey, if you're gonna post a grammar rant, you get what's comin'.)

John said...

The same company will present the same opera with another cast on September 12, Saturday 8 pm, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1757 N. Lake Street, Pasadena. Tickets will be available ($30) on the web site
Glad you liked the show.

John Clifford said...

Ah Meg,

I knew you'd throw it back at me :0. And I do like your idea.

John Clifford said...


Sorry I was too tired when I responded to realize my lack of an "o" in my initial response. Like I hope I've said, the rant was for "professional" writers, not us (OK, we) lowly bloggers.

Ed said...

Wow, you have an interesting approach when it comes to treating volunteers. Now, don't y'all just want to jump at the opportunity to volunteer for a Pomona Heritage position?!

If it was me, I'd tell you what you could do with the mail and give you the stick to do it with.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that you're being passive-aggressive and sulking over not sitting in the VIP section. For the sake of all the struggling volunteer organizations, I suggest you exercise more (or some) tact next time.

Back to the opera!;-)

LALa said...

Sorry we sent your invitation so late, but thanks for coming to support opera at the Fox. It is a great theater and beautiful inside. We loved performing there. It surprising how wonderful the accoustics are. We don't need no stinking mikes.
LizBeth Lucca, Repertory Opera Company

John Clifford said...

Wow Ed, I'm not sure how I managed convey all that. We had been planning on PAYING to see the opera all along. We were happy to do so and especially more so after the actual event.

I wasn't complaining about the way the mail is handled. It's handled that way to make it as easy for the volunteer as possible. It was not a complaint but more an observation that we "could have" gotten comped. Since we had planned to see the opera anyway, if the tickets had come earlier we probably would have passed them on to someone else to represent PH.

I apologize to anyone who, like Ed, felt that I was insulting anyone or "passively aggressively" complaining about paying for my tickets.

Anonymous said...

John... your writing was fine.

Some people just seem to want/need to complain about stupid things.

meg said...

Just to show that there are several ways of reading something, I did read the original line ("our membership director collects it once a week so we don't see it in a timely manner") as being a dig at the membership director.

Not a huge insult, but the use of "timely manner" added a critical note. If you'd said "immediately" or if you'd used the passive ("PH mail is collected once a week"), it wouldn't have sounded snarky at all.

John Clifford said...

OK, I'll accept that responsibility. Actually our membership director, Alison McCurdy, does a great job of getting the mail picked up and processed. I think that what I was trying to say was that WE don't look at our mail in a timely manner. But I guess it could have been more clear.

The perils of writing quickly and during 100+ degree weather.

Pomona Diva said...

WOW...sadly I missed the event this past Sunday as I managed to catch this latest round of flu germs and my "seat" was quite different than the one I had been hoping to sit on last Sunday.
But, hey...all this after event stuff is quite entertaining. Thanks gang!

Meg...not able to handle popcorn yet.

John Clifford said...

Ooh, can I have Pam's p'corn?

Anduhrew said...

this has been a fun read. john and ed goin' at it like drunks in a bar room. awesome!

jk, it's a little more like how the english handle things. instead of driveby shootings they have driveby arguments... "HEY YOU! I DISAGREE"