Day: September 26th, 2006

La Gioconda — Act I

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Friends, Music

I did not make it into the office today.

I did, however, make it to the opera for the first performance in my season’s series. The Metropolitan Opera’s 2006-2007 season kicked off the night before with a red-carpet gala performance of Madama Butterfly broadcast on giant video screens in both Lincoln Center Plaza and on the Panasonic jumbo screen at 1 Times Square. Broadway between 42nd and 45th Streets was closed to traffic to make space for 650 cushioned seats — no tickets necessary; alternatively, for $50,000, patrons could have purchased an eight-seat opera box and attended the post-performance dinner.

This night (sans Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Connery, Goldie Hawn, Anjelica Huston, David Bowie, Meg Ryan, Al Roker, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini and Jude Law): Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

Met Opera

Madama Butterfly

Met Chandelier

La Gioconda translates to The Ballad Singer, though the English title is almost never used. It is a lengthy work (with an estimated performance length of four hours) with four acts by Ponchielli, and a libretto by Arrigo Boito, after Victor Hugo’s play, Angelo, Tyrant of Padua. Each act of the opera has a separate title: Act I, “The Lion’s Mouth“; Act II, “The Rosary“; Act III, “The House of Gold,”; Act IV, “The Orfano Canal.”

Even those not familiar with La Gioconda  recognize its “Dance of the Hours,” which is inextricably associated in the cultural consciousness with the trippily lumbering, twirling hippos of Disney’s Fantasia (and Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”).

From the Met’s website description of La Gioconda:

Historical spectacle and extreme contrast of musical moods highlight the plights of five love-crazed characters in Ponchielli’s grandest of grand operas. Violeta Urmana, Olga Borodina, and Marcello Giordani head the vocal forces while renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon creates the dances (including the irrepressible “Dance of the Hours,” made famous in Walt Disney’s Fantasia). The opera also features the all-time best final line in opera (“and by the way, I killed your mother!”).


This night, I didn’t make it to that finale either.

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