The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Opera, and the question of whether it is only for the well-heeled, made it into the Occupy Wall Street debate last week.
NPR Music posted an item Wednesday highlighting two New York Times stories. In one, food critic Sam Sifton went on with rich operatic analogies in his review of a restaurant where dinner started at $295, pointing out that orchestra seats to the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore ran $330 — both excluding wine.
The culture clash in a story that the Met had set a fund-raising record of $182 million came in the comments section.
“At least some of those sickening Wall Street bonuses are going to good use,” one commenter posted. Another said, “Just as drug money built the Miami skyline, the corrupt nature of New York’s financial center will continue to fund the monuments of their success.”
There were numerous references to “the 1 percent,” meaning the wealthiest people in the country whose income far exceeds that of the rest of the nation — “the 99 percent,” as Occupy Wall Street folks refer to themselves.
With that context, NPR Music asked, “Is opera stuff (that only) rich people like?”
The real question seemed to be is: “Is the Metropolitan Opera stuff (that only) rich people like?”
Most opera companies do not charge $80 to $415 a seat, which is what it would have cost to get into all but the top tier at the Met for Friday night’s performance of The Barber of Seville. By comparison, the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of Roméo et Juliette, which opens Friday for a two-weekend run, is $40 for adult tickets. Tickets to The Marriage of Figaro by Louisville’s Kentucky Opera, Nov. 18 to 20, are $28 to $95.
Even at those prices, a night at the opera is real money to most households, but it’s probably doable if you love opera and want to go.
And really, that’s the thing with any upper-level live entertainment: Most people will put their money where their passion is.
Somebody has to find the body.
Whether it’s a murder, a suicide or an unfortunate solitary passing, someone has to discover the corpse and then live with that unfortunate moment – or not.
The lives of those innocent bystanders and the eerily close relationship with death they create are explored in Actors Guild of Lexington’s season-opening production of Laura Wade’s Breathing Corpses. It’s a show that unfortunately has trouble coming to life.
The trouble starts in the first act with Bethany Finley as a motel maid who finds a suicide victim when she goes into his room to clean it. This scene is a tall order for Finley, who has already filled one tall order this fall as the waif in Balagula Theatre’s production of One Flea Spare. Here, she seems to lack direction in navigating this dialogue with another character who cannot respond.
The question that hangs over this scene is why this woman is staying in a room with a dead body instead of going to report it. Her lines tell us this has happened to her before, finding a body in a room, and she is afraid of being fired because she fumbled handling the previous incident. But she seems to be messing this incident up too, and her portrayal of the scene’s awkwardness is too awkward, featuring several pregnant pauses that elicit more frustration than tension.
Finley, and the play in general, fare better when they have other actors to play off of.
The show portrays three situations in which people find bodies and deal with the consequences, with set changes coming through scenic designer Tommy Gatton and director Eric Seale’s use of a circular stage that shows the audience a third of the pie for each scene.
The best and most unsettling of the trio are Kate (Sarah Tackett) and Ben (Zack Hightower). Kate found a murder victim while walking Ben’s dog and exhibits scant sympathy for the murder victim or the dog, but voluminous rage at how the discovery and subsequent police questioning and other details loused up her busy day.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich