The New York City Opera production of La Perichole was a first for us in several ways: our first trip to City Center, our first New York City Opera Production, our first opera matinee experience, and our first experience with opera buffe.
Here is a brief history of the City Opera. You are welcome to skip this part if it’s already old news to you, click to get to the review of the production.
The New York City Opera began in 1943. The idea was to offer opera for the people with low-price tickets, a kind of post-New Deal project that still has New Deal written all over it, fitting for a city where at one time museums, botanical gardens and other cultural institutions were for anyone who had a nickel for the subway. It became a starting ground for many young singers including Placido Domingo and homegirl Beverly “Bubbles” Sills – who didn’t make it over to the Met till long after she was an established star.
The original home of the company was the New York City Center. This bizarrely ornate Moorish theater was originally known as the Mecca Temple and designed for the Shriners. After the depression when they couldn’t pay the taxes, the building stood empty and was slated for demolition before being reborn as The New York City Center for Music and Drama.
The company later moved to another “permanent” home at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center (now named for someone we won’t name) across the courtyard from the Met, where it remained until leaving in 2011 because it could no longer afford the rent. City Opera has since survived by roving to different venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and now it’s old home, the City Center.
Because our only opera experience has been at the Met, we couldn’t help make comparisons. When we got to the City Center, we were impressed with the bathrooms. We can report that both the men’s and women’s restrooms were cleaner and in better shape than at the Met, though long lines are still an issue for the ladies. The house is much smaller, with only three seating levels – orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony. Our seats were in row G of the balcony. The renovated rows offer more legroom, but the result is that the seventh row of the balcony is very distant from the first, and while the much smaller house puts you closer to the stage than you would be from the balcony at the Met, the site-lines are nowhere near as good. We were in the center, but at an angle above the stage where we could only see a part of the orchestra pit if we stood up, and the very front of the stage was cut off, especially on the left side which was problematic at times with the staging. Despite the steep levels, because we had to look down to see, peoples’ heads in rows in front of us, could sometimes block the view. The rails between rows are low, so if you have a fear of heights, the balcony is no place for you. There is no balcony lobby so nowhere to go during intermission, and if you need to use the bathroom, you have to walk through the rows of seats to get to it. Compared to equivalent seats at the Met – the full-freight price would be similar, but the view at the Met much more open, including the orchestra pit, and at a better angle, though further away.
As for the production itself, Continue reading La Perichole, NYC-Opera — A First for Us Idiots