Saturday, June 21, 2008
Friday Night at Prospect Park: The Metropolitan Opera with Angela Gheorghiu & Roberto Alagna
We left Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg well after 7 p.m. last night and so were a little worried about getting to the Met's only summer concert in the park this year, with the magnificent Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna. The Times had suggested the crowd might be over 100,000. But the G and F trains got us to Bartel Pritchard Square and the park entrance by 7:50 p.m. with a whole lot of other folks. Police were everywhere from the subway platform to every few feet in the park. As we got to the meadow, we could hear the bombastic voice of our friend Borough President Marty Markowitz, and we knew he'd speak long enough for us to find a place to put down our blanket before the music started.
Back in the 1970s, when we lived in our childhood home, we attended the summer Met performances at nearby Marine Park. Our friends the literary agent Linda Konner and the sculptor David Devrishian would arrive with a picnic basket filled with Zabar's goodies. It was in our old neighborhood that we learned about opera from Joe the barber on Avenue O and East 55th Street, where we got our Beatles haircuts and listened to Puccini, Verdi and Rossetti. We didn't find out opera was a gay thing till much later. Still, our knowledge of opera is pretty limited; we just know what we like.
Anyway, a friend estimated the crowd at 30,000, far from what was expected, though we don't know how he reckoned this. Still, lots of people there: kids running around, old people in wheelchairs, young couples and friends with munchies and wine, at least one guy selling marijuana, and a number of women who resembled Ruth Messinger. It was a beautiful night, and summer had just begun at 7:59 p.m. We could really see only on the two giant video screens but we could make out people onstage.
Conductor Ion Marin and the orchestra began the concert with the overture to Verdi's La Forza Del Destino, and then the married team of soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Roberto Alagna came out and did their magic. We knew a couple of the pieces they sang, individually and together, but mostly they were unfamiliar to us barbarians. Yet they were all beautiful, especially for us Angela Gheorghiu's rendition of that desperate aria from Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Roberto Algana doing an aria from his brother David Alagna's Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné. The Met's Chorus sang that thing from Verdi's Il Trovatore that we know from the Marx Brothers movie. And in the encore we got "O Sole Mio" plus "It's Now Or Never"! And lots, lots more good music. The stars seemed to enjoy the evening, and each other, a great deal.
We and thousands of others left Prospect Park in a great mood. Isn't life wonderful!