My Eagle River Community College music appreciation class went to the opera tonight. Along with hundreds of other elementary, middle, high school and college students, they were treated to the dress rehearsal of the upcoming Anchorage Opera production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's pre-verismo realist masterpiece.
The cast is superb. Especially Anton Belov as Onegin and Veronica Mitina as Tatyana. The supporting roles and chorus were far better coached, blocked and choreographed than they had been in the season's earlier twin bill of Sister Angelica and I Pagliacci.
The costumes were gorgeous. The sets, though somewhat stark, reflected the ambience of early 19th century St. Petersburg leisure wealth, and in the outdoors scenes, the Northern Boreal forests we share with that city.
The orchestral playing wasn't what I had hoped for, and this is probably largely due to the very small ensemble they used, hoping to cut costs to enable them to bring in such good principal singers, and still end up not losing money.
Overall, this production may be the most satisfying since Don Pasquale in 2008.
Before the dress rehearsal, I had gone to watch the first part of the taping of this week's segment of Moore Up North. This week's topic (to be aired Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. on KYES TV) is old media-new media, and features Julie Hasquet, Sen. Mark Begich's Communications Director, in a one-on-one interview with Shannyn Moore; and a panel of Christy Harvey from the Center for American Progress, and Craig Medred and Maia Nolan from the Alaska Dispatch.
Just before the taping started, Kelly Walters, Shannyn's partner, asked me if he could come to the dress rehearsal. I gave him a voucher. I left Bernie's before the taping was over. Kelly had to attend to details after it was over, so he ran the three blocks from Bernie's Bungalow to the Discovery Theater.
Kelly was so enthusiastic. He loves opera. He got me to cheer and "Bravo!" more than I would have had he not been sitting next to me. We had a great time.
One of the best parts of my job at UAA is that even when I have to show up early in the morning to give makeup tests to athletes or soldiers who had to miss a couple class sessions, then deal with typical stuff through the day, I can introduce 100 UAA students to the amazing talents of Tim Smith, playing Liszt in the morning, and then take 33 ERCC (Eagle River Community College) kids to the first Alaska production of a Russian language opera in the evening. It makes leaving home at 7:00 a.m. and getting home at 11:30 p.m. very worthwhile.
The most worthwhile part of it might be seeing the expressions on students' faces when they realize that they've almost instantly fallen in love with something - opera - our culture somehow deems far less important than arguing over one bright, shiny object after another.
Go see Eugene Onegin.