Sunday, 10 July 2011

..till the fat lady sings

We made two trips to Prague (landing there doesn't count). In the first trip we had tickets to the opera and ballet at Prague State Opera House! =D With a little over two hours to go for the evening show, we were at the train station on a Saturday with no hotel booking, undecided as to which way to turn. We went in the direction of the opera house, lugging heavy bags (the memory is too painful to brood on). The first hotel we passed was full. We turned into the main square admiring the opera house we were to come to in a short while, and the Národní Museum. 

Narodni Museum, Praha
On asking a policeman in queue at MacDonalds, he directed us to a hotel 'yalta' straight ahead. A few steps and we were there realizing it was spelled Hotel Jalta - j in Czech is pronounced y. It was the swankiest place we stayed in (the hotel in Fussen comes a close second). I heaved a tremendous sigh of relief and thanked the Lord for the bellboy and his trolley. Loving the bathroom and exclaiming in deep disgust at the prices of food in the minibar (90 CZK for a single lousy teeny bar of Toblerone? I think not) we decked up in our evening finery and hurried to catch the show.

The evening show was Aida and matinee the next day was Swan Lake. Honestly I never thought I would like opera so much. Strangely enough, I preferred it to the ballet. Maybe due to the English subtitles that appeared above the stage, in sync with the Italian. Understanding every scene and dialogue was a BIG plus. If you're in Prague and enjoy either ballet or opera try to fit a show into your budget and schedule. Matinees are not expensive. Check the website for the schedule and prices. And try to get seats in the pit; they're the best!

We took our seats in the balcony (don't sit in the balcony - the chairs are uncomfortable and ruin the viewing) and settled down gazing open mouthed at the gorgeous ceiling. Aida is the protagonist; an Ethopian princess captured by the Egyptian army and offered to the Pharoah's daughter Amneris as a handmaiden by the army general Radames. Aida and Radames fall in love (of course). And Amneris is passionately in love with Radames and is exceedingly jealous of Aida. What transpires? Read the story here.
Amneris' performance enraptured me. Her personality was a clash of so many intense emotions - love, jealousy, guilt, remorse, sorrow - and what a voice! Her powerful voice effortlessly expresses the storm raging within her. Aida and Radames on the other hand were wimps in my opinion, just wanting to die because they couldn't be together. The scene that REALLY got onto my nerves was when Radames tries to persuade Aida to live in Egypt with him. Aida is tempted but misses her country; she asks him if he would be willing to flee with her instead. Radames is close to horrified - leave his homeland? His beloved Egypt? So it's okay for Aida to live in a place where she belongs to lowest strata of society (being a slave), but not take her rightful place as a princess in her own country? Get a life.
In the end, when Aida and Radames die in each other's arms, I was pitiless.
I loved the sets, especially in the scene where the moonlight iridescence falls upon Aida and her father and later Aida and Radames. The Ethopian king and Pharoah were stupendous. But for me, the show stealer was Amneris.

Prague State Opera House
The ceiling took my breath away. Note the 3D statues of pixies seemingly flitting about! Me camera didn't do justice. Take a panoramic tour (the option is on the left).

Frescoes and fairies

Next day.. Swan Lake! It was a headache getting there çoz we had walked far away and on the way back I lost the mother and the sister 'coz I was too fast (turn to see a sea of tourists with them nowhere in sight) .. But we found each other and made it in time for the show. Our seats were somewhere in the middle of the pit =D This particular production of Swan Lake commences with Odette daintily picking flowers in a basket. Looming up behind, advancing towards her is a monstrous creature. Keeping in pace with the music as it gets more dramatic, she notices it and drops her basket with a terrified start as the creature envelopes her (depicted with waves of a cloth). She is then turned into a swan. Fast forward to when the Black Swan makes her appearance at the ball and dances with the Prince (Siegfried) who proclaims his love for her (you get a glimpse of Odette desperately trying to catch Siegfried's attention by the window.. awesome effects!) by handing her a bouquet. The deed is done as the Black Swan maliciously flings the bouquet to the ground and Siegfried realizes his fatal mistake. It's too late for the White Swan. I got really drawn into it and was completely on edge with this scene and the finale. This time, when the doomed lovers died in each other's arms, I was upset. Siegfried was handsome and regal just as if he was a Disney prince. The court jester brought out gales of delighted laughter and thunderous applause from the audience with his ridiculous antics, prancing about, somersaulting in the air in tune to Tchaikovsky's music which is of course, unparalleled.

I left the opera house thirsting for more.

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