Monday, August 31, 2009


My head is so full today, I can scarcely concentrate on the matters at hand. Preoccupation with the Twilight of the Gods is the reason.

Not only did I survive the final episode of The Ring, but I sat enraptured for most of its five-and-a-half hours. The first time around for this year’s Seattle Opera’s production had mixed reviews—some bungled horn work (unforgivable when it happens in Wagner), several scene-changing delays due to technical snafus, and a Siegfried, who carries the third and most of the fourth opera, suffering from a virus that affected his vocal chords. By the time I saw the third iteration of the production, those problems had been ironed out.

In the auditorium, I was transported into another time and place, caught up in the demise of the gods. The imagery of the world ash tree, broken and poised for destruction by fire, is heartbreaking, and the unraveling of the skein of fate ominous. I let the opera pull me into the world of Valhalla and Nibelung and sat there spellbound as the twilight descended.

In the lobby, however, I was in the moment. Nowhere but Seattle could you see the mix of getups worn by Ringheads and newbies. From souvenir Ring tee-shirts worn cockily with Dockers to crown jewels topping gold lamé, I saw everything imaginable in the way of clothing. The shoes were particularly amazing, from drugstore flip flops, athletic shoes, hiking boots and Crocs to dainty sandals, bejeweled pumps and five-inch heels. There was even a pair of oxfords with orange desert-sunset scenes painted on them, worn by a man wearing a sunset-orange shirt to match. Trained not to stare, my only double take was when I saw three-inch platform saddle-shoes worn by a twenty-something woman in bright yellow tights.

Handbags ranged from canvas totes filled with dinner snacks (the woman next to me even gave me the menu of her purse-feast) and binoculars, to sequined clutches big enough to hold one breath mint and a tissue. Men wore everything from tuxedos to jeans, while the variety of women’s wear was astonishing, especially the fabrics: Thai silk, denim, corduroy, satin, ribbon knits, cotton knits, gold and silver lamé taffeta, jersey, and spandex. Styles ranged from bridesmaid dresses to clothing suitable for grocery shopping—from strapless to turtlenecks, leather to gossamer. Clearly some women had dug deep into their closets to find that one fancy dress—right out of the 70s or 80s, judging from the look.

But designer clothing abounded, too, peppered throughout all lobby levels. One gorgeous outfit stands out in the kaleidoscope. Made of chocolate brown silk, it was a two-piece dressy suit with a floor-length, slender skirt made in a layered petal pattern. Stunning—and the more so because there were two such outfits—identical—worn by two gorgeous women standing together who could have been sisters, or mother and daughter. The younger one was pushing seventy.

Lots of people needed mobility assistance, but apparatuses were plentiful: trekking sticks, walkers, canes, crutches, bunion boots, more canes, and even a seeing-eye dog that—miracle of miracles—successfully guided her mistress to an available toilet stall at intermission.

We all came to the opera house hoping for a memorable experience, and some of us probably had more transformative experiences than others. But even the man who sat behind me and audibly yawned through several prolonged sequences throughout all four evenings, loudly announced to his companion that he’d learned a lot by enduring seventeen hours of opera.


1 comment:

old gray prof said...

I never figured you for a masochist, Sallie. But I will say this for Wagner, he has always let me catch up on my sleep.