Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stars of Lyric Opera 2014

The cozy hearth of Pritzker Pavilion lit up in the center
And so we were back to Millennium Park and the Pritzker Pavilion lawn this weekend.  The Stars of the Lyric Opera is a very popular event.  I've covered this in the past, about how thrilling it is, but this year we decided to view it from another vantage point:  the lawn.  General seating in the actual pavilion opens at 5:30 p.m. and for the last several years, we have arrived at 3:30 p.m. to get in line.  The closest to the front of this waiting line we've even been was two years ago when only two others were ahead of us.  After we race in and get our seats -- which takes all of 30 seconds -- we sit in those seats for another two hours before the show begins.  From those seats one could see the facial expressions of the singers and be stunned -- in good and bad ways -- by some sensational gowns worn by the female singers.

It was exhausting.  Four hours devoted to sitting before the show even began.  The sun was inescapable and mostly blinding where we waited for seats.  Even though I am not small, I ride public transportation every day and I know how to move if I want to get a seat ahead of the young, strong, and thin, but it was a nerve wracking 30 seconds.  Then you have to stay in your seat so no one else takes it.  At the end of the night, it felt like we'd spent most of the weekend in the park.

This year, we decided to arrive in a mostly timely manner (about an hour ahead), bring our folding chairs, and have our meal among the other fans of the opera on the lawn.

We got seats at the center back of the first section (the lawn is divided into two sections with a security pass-through in the middle), and everyone around us was polite and respectful of the performers and their fellow viewers.  (Someone brought a baby and the baby settled down at showtime and stayed settled.)  Right before it started, someone sitting to our left (who had two tables for their lavish spread) had gone to the restroom and came back to announce the park was closed.  The pavilion lawn, auditorium, and side viewing area were so crammed full of people that they allowed no one else in.

It was the nicest evening.  The weather was perfect.  When we arrived, the sun had already gone behind the sklyine buildings so our corneas were spared.  Chicken salad with tarragon and curry, grapes, and edamame that were washed down with nonvintage Piper-Heidsieck champagne.  The people with the lavish spread were having a birthday party and I assisted with lighting the candles and we joined their group in singing Happy Birthday.  They served each of us French bread with cheese and pate on top which was delicious beyond description.  (It had never occurred to any of us, two of whom are celebrated gourmands, to put cheese and pate together on bread at the same time, together.)  They had leftover cupcakes and shared those and yes, I did take a half and oh man, the Magnolia Bakery is wonderful.  The people with the lavish spread are very smart and nice, and were generous to the three of us, total strangers.

Oh, and the Stars!  A tenor who was to be the Duke in Rigoletto fell ill and they brought in another tenor from Seattle.  Tenor Robert McPherson's plane landed at O'Hare at 5:45 p.m.  (In order to get there at 5:45 in the afternoon, he was probably on a flight at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time.) He did a beautiful job as the Duke in Rigoletto, singing "La donna e mobile" at about 9 p.m.  The magic of the opera!  I personally thought the night belonged to three baritones:  Mark Delavan, Kyle Ketelsen, Mariusz Kwiecien.  As Leporello, the statue come to life in Don Giovanni, bass-baritone Ketelsen had me standing up with binoculars to get a look at the person sending out those tones.  The whole show was great but oh, those gents with their deep tones!

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