I live a little less than an hour from Chicago, and I work about a half hour south of Chicago. One of my favorite things about Chicago is the cultural scene: the big museums like the Art Institute and the Shedd and the Field museum, and all the little museums sprinkled around the different Chicago neighborhoods, and the live music scene and the symphony and the local art. Chicago is the best damn city in the world, and I hate that I think it a drag to drive in, because I’m really missing out on so many things I love.
But hopefully it’ll be easier now for me to get in and out of the city more regularly, since a colleague of mine gave me his extra parking space at his apartment in the Near North Side, with valet parking and a 24-hour accessible heated garage and everything. So I basically have no excuse, right?
That’s why I said yes when my friend James from high school sent me an invite to a performance of “Anna Bolena” at the Lyric Opera on a Monday night. Sure, it was a 4 hour opera and it would be past midnight by the time I got home. Sure, I had an extra early court call the next morning. But why the hell not go see “Anna Bolena” on a random Monday night in my favorite city?
This is James’s sinister plan, guys. And by sinister, I mean amazing. I am 100% down with this. James says he wants to help me be more cultured. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
James and I were friends back in high school. We lost touch after we graduated, but then reconnected in the last couple of months, because he’s also good friends with Lizzy, who is one of my closest friends.
(Yay, grainy Instagram photos! I love this shot of us. He’s the only man I know that just gets more and more handsome every time I see him. How I loathe him.)
We’ve been talking a lot, and hanging out more, and since James is a dancer and singer, we talk quite a bit about his work. He’s performed at theaters and opera houses across the country (and, I believe, the world), and he’s always in the know about excellent shows and, more often than not, affiliated with them in some way because he is so terribly talented.
Recently, he took me to the opening night performance of “Mary Poppins” at the Paramount theater, which was a wonderful show, and introduced me to all his theater friends at the party afterwards.
(God, it’s killing me to spell it t-h-e-a-t-e-r instead of t-h-e-a-t-r-e, as I always have.)
So when he told me about the (deeply discounted) tickets he had for “Anna Bolena,” I agreed without even thinking about it. After court that morning, I headed into the city and parked at the Park Tower in my colleague’s extra spot (the poor doormen are always so bewildered when I breeze in and out with a sunny, “Oh, [redacted] said I could use his spot”) and found a nearby coffee house where I spent a couple hours working on one of my many appellate briefs. (Kill me.)
Then I drove over to where the Lyric Opera is (hooray for using ParkWhiz to find an $8 spot in a well-lit garage from 7-12:15am!), and ran in to watch the show.
I had excellent seats, in my opinion. The question of what makes an excellent seat is the start of many great debates. Do you want to be close enough to see the costumes and set and facial expressions and to be able to read the translated Italian easily? Or do you want the seat where the performers’ voices will sound the best? Or, if it’s a more dance-intensive kind of show, do you want to be in a spot where you can see the performers’ movements at their best advantage so you can really get a deep sense for the choreography?
For me, what I really enjoy in opera performances – where there’s really not much dancing – is being close enough to see the performers’ facial expressions, their body languages, their costumes, and the set designs and set changes and how the performers move around to accommodate the moving of the set pieces into position.
And I had excellent seats for that purpose – main floor, one of the center aisles. It’s a seat that would have cost me close to $200, but I think I paid like 10% of that, which suits me just fine, thank you. I’ve got student loans to pay back, guys – I don’t have Opera Money to splash around every week. Maybe in ten years when I’m supremely fancy and equally crabby and have paid off my massive loans. (Which, if I can keep putting as much as I’m putting toward them right now, will be a reality! Prayer circle.)
“Anna Bolena” was excellent. EXCELLENT. I’ve always loved the story, and the performance was just fantastic. Such a great cast! Anna was a revelation, really, especially in the end when she was going mad. I particularly enjoyed the woman who played Jane Seymour. She won Singer of the World last year in Cardiff, and it was well deserved.
The performer who played Smeaton was puckish and inspired. So entertaining to watch. Hervey was tall and ominous and just a wonderful, handsomely dark presence that swept around the perimeter but boomed strong and sure.
Honestly, though, I fell in love with the guy that played Henry. AMAZING performance! He made Henry so captivating, so compelling a character, and he had the deepest voice I’ve heard in a long time.
Men with deep voices. Ugh. <3
Hey, I told y’all I’d be going nuts with the Taylor Swift pics. You should’ve listened and abandoned ship while you had the chance.
This reminds me: I should start wearing winged eyeliner every day, I think? I’m good at it. Maybe it wouldn’t be too much.
Anyway, Henry was amazing. I could listen to that man sing the Federal Handbook to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, I swear. That’s a bad example because I love that book and find it endlessly interesting. Fine. I could listen to that man sing the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy, which is unmitigated steaming horseshit.
James didn’t come to the show with me, which was disappointing, but I totally understood. He’s in rehearsals now for an opera premiering at the Lyric in February, and the poor man is just exhausted. So he went home and took a nap, and then met up with me after the show.
Once the show was over, I hightailed it to the stage entrance at the other side of the building. James was there with a friend of his, a Ph.D. student from the Czech Republic who was at the University of Chicago writing his dissertation on the Czech community in Chicago. (James is Czech, too.) Such a nice guy. We chatted briefly about the show, and then James took us backstage at the Lyric to meet some of the performers.
The lady who played Jane Seymour is a friend of James’s, and she’s so nice. We waited outside her room and saw her for a little bit, and while we were waiting and talking amongst ourselves, I SAW HENRY.
His name’s John and he’s incredibly nice.
After we talked to Jamie/Jane Seymour for a bit, we headed out and split up not too long after that. I headed home and got like 5 hours of sleep before I had to get up for court, and it was totally worth it.
I’m definitely going to see James perform in February, but I’m hoping to add even more trips to the Lyric into my near-future plans. I absolutely love the opera, and I need to start doing more things that I love. I also love Chicago Symphony Orchestra and haven’t been there in way too long – not since Pierre Boulez’s 80th birthday performance, which was so long ago that I’m legit embarrassed.
I also love ballet, having grown up in Boston and seeing performances literally every year. Coincidentally, James is also a ballet dancer, so I’m hoping to work that into my cultural experiences again. Plus, the Joffrey Ballet is based in Chicago, and I’d see them fairly regularly when they toured in Boston, so it’s basically a crime that I haven’t been to the ballet in so long. Must fix that.
(And calm your tits, I’ll be back with more Drug Rip posts on Wednesday.)