Sunday, November 15, 2015

Opera Watch! We take in some culture and see "Tosca" at the Houston Grand Opera

So, it's pretty hard to call me an opera fan.  I mean, the only opera I've seen live in the past 30 years has been Das Rheingold.  For reasons I don't even remember, I had to give up my tickets to see Der Walkurie this year, and if Jamie's enthusiasm to Das Rheingold was any indication, it's not really worth the weekend trip to Houston to go catch parts 3 and 4.

But, you know, I think its not imperative, but a good idea, to try to see famous works for yourself.  That's kind of the stage of life I'm in now I guess.  And among operas, Tosca is more or less a household word.  Fortunately, I'm culturally illiterate, so I wasn't actually sure what the word "Tosca" meant when I plunked my butt in the seat at the Wortham Center to see the Houston Grand Opera Saturday night.

Little background:  a fellow I was pals with in high school is now a, like, serious opera-performer-type-person, Weston Hurt (ask for him by name)!  Weston has performed all over the US and abroad, but he'd never wound up playing Houston Grand Opera until this recent run of Tosca at the HGO.  And while I've watched YouTube clips of him and whatnot, I hadn't seen him sing since high school where he kind of shamed everyone else during a musical revue where he led the chorus in "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Mis and sounded like a grown-up-type singer among a herd of high school squawkers (I was working crew for that show, so I got to hear it over.  And over.  And over.)  He also did a little Country and Western at the talent show, which left me baffled, but the guy has pipes.

The story of Tosca is the story one particularly bad day which starts off simply enough, and by the end, everyone is dead.  Because: Opera.

There's some historical context around the play which audiences in 1900 and non-American educated folks are more likely to hop-to more quickly, but some quick Googling will tell you that it takes place as the French army is returning to Rome to retake the city and reinstate the republican government.  In the meanwhile, the government in charge was doing the typical "secret police" bit.

As it turns out, "Tosca" is the name of the lead character, Fiora Tosca, whose natural jealousy the evil secret police chief (is there another kind?), Scarpia, uses to track down her boyfriend's escaped pal.  Both the boyfriend and the escaped pal were part of the prior republican government.

Scarpia is interested in catching and killing his enemies, but he's really interested in bedding Tosca, preferably against her will.  Like I say - he's a bad guy.

Anyway, the opera gets plenty bloody from there.  Really, I way over simplified it all, but there's wikipedia out there for you to check.

HGO is no slouch of an Opera, and last night was an great reminder of the terrific work that goes into the shows on that stage.  The orchestra is fantastic, the sets, lighting, etc... remind you how this is supposed to work.  And, man, the talents is just incredible.

Seeing high school and college pals do well is nothing new.  I've got former pals on Broadway, on TV, writing for major motion pictures.  And I am always impressed by these accomplishments.  None of them just fell into it - they all worked incredibly hard to get there, and that spark you saw in them back in the day turned out to be well worth keeping kindled.

Seeing Weston on stage last night was nothing short of incredible.  The man can sing - sure, but he's an excellent actor with terrific presence on stage.    It was fantastic to see him make good on a stage as big as the HGO.  And the standing O he got was well deserved.  So proud of that guy.

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