New York was cold and snowy and I took my flight from Brasilia, where it is warm and rainy. I guess I was supposed to get an allergic reaction or some kind of flu, but it seems that I was the only healthy person in the Metropolitan Opera for a week or two. Those people cough as if they were all stand-in’s for Mimì in La Bohème.
The most curious thing about coughing is the dynamics. If those people were really sick, they would cough out of control in any given time, but experience has shown me that opera coughing has its own rules. One would expect people to cough during orchestral fortissimo passages, when they would go more or less unnoticed – but the fact is that pianissimi seem to have an encouraging effect on people’s tracheae. For example, you can almost predict that the Marschallin and the violins in the end of Rosenkavalier’s Act 1 are going to be drowned in coughing…
Other interesting aspect of opera coughing is that everyone’s moms tell you to cover your mouth with your hand – or better – with a handkerchief. This makes the noise far less loud and it is also considered polite, but it seems that the audiences feel that they should contribute to the music-making by a generous unprotected open-mouth coughing. Thus they can be recorded to posterity while Montserrat Caballé was trying to do justice to the ppp markings in the score.
I intend to research further in this subject.
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Sorry – it is awful to hate things, but it must have vent or inward hating will consume me. Now that I have a proper blog, I have to say I like proper booklets – with photos of the production so that I can remind how much I liked/disliked it, erudite tests about Nietzsche and opera that I am never going to read and some advertisement by EMI or Deutsche Grammophon about a disc I am probably not going to buy. They are also shaped like books and fit perfectly in your shelf – your friends can look at them and say “So you’ve been to the Vienna State Opera…” and other very useful things. So I feel happy for actually paying to have them.
On the other hand, Playbills are given away and have to be cheap therefore. They also feature make-up and fragrance ads – they have thousands of pictures about every other opera and play in New York BUT the one you’re currently seeing and they have those cool articles in which you learn that Renée Fleming only uses her iPod to help her to learn by heart the stuff she’s working on…
But the worst thing about Playbills is that they stick to your hand. I won’t say my hand, because I keep it away from it in order not to produce that awful cracking noise when you try to pull your hand away. But it seems everybody needs to fidget with their playbills as if their lives depended on it. I remember one particular Mahler 2nd at Carnegie Hall during which there was so much noise with Playbills that I felt as if I was listening to an old LP cracking throughout.
But I’ll tell you the real reason for my bad humor. I have hundreds of playbills here and I don’t have the courage to throw them away, because I would like to keep record of what I saw at the Met. I have tried different storage solutions and a visit to Muji finally gave me the solution for my problem. I bought some small binders and now I am in the process of unstapling each one of my Playbills, keeping the center pages (related to the performance), throwing away the ads and the Renée Fleming/Anna Netrebko articles, re-stapling the remaining two or three folds and storing each one in an individual plastic thing in the binder. It should be a wonderful pastime for an obsessive-compulsive person while listening to music, I reckon.
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