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Bit O' Paris

DegasA time machine has been invented, and you may find it this weekend at Rockwell Hall. 

Buffalo Opera Unlimited is staging "Faust," the 19th century opera by French composer Charles Gounod. The opera premiered in Paris in 1859, and it was kind of like 1859 last night.

What happened was, the first half featured occasional appearances by a half-dozen talented young dancers. After Act II, the dancers had nothing left to do. So you could see them exiting the hall here and there, now dressed in jeans and leggings.

They were not going to stick around to see Faust dragged down to hell! Which is what happens at the end of this opera, not to give away the plot.

Let me get to the 19th century part. Each dancer came with friends and family. And you could see the friends and family exiting too, sometimes noisily. One woman actually stood between me and the stage, dancer daughter in tow, loudly chatting with a friend, oblivious to that Tim Kennedy had given the downbeat and the music for the next act had begun.

Authentic Parisian behavior!

Being an opera nerd, I knew enough not to be offended. When Mozart was in Paris in the 18th century, he noted this weirdness, that people were interested only in the ballet part of the opera and nothing else.

A few decades later Wagner was up against the same problem. The situation was, the dancers' significant others would all show up to see their sweeties perform, and they would leave when the dancing was over, and be disruptive the rest of the time.

So, what we were witnessing last night was what French audiences have been seeing forever.

With luck people will experience the same thing Sunday at 2:30, when the opera repeats.

Vive la difference!

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