A night at the Met Opera — wow!

By Caitlin Kelly


From the moment you enter the building, elegance!


Imagine living in New York for decades but never once attending the Met Opera, considered one of the world’s greatest. I’d been to Lincoln Center many times for ballet and theater, but never once for an opera.

Until two friends raved about a production of Parsifal, a performance lasting (!) 5.5 hours (including two intermissions), Wagner’s final opera.




Five and half hours?




I was nervous as hell, but spent $132.50 for my seat (F119) in the first balcony. My view was stupendously good, but I was very glad to have brought my binoculars as well.




Even the lighting and handrails look like jewelry








I love these chandeliers — the ones inside the hall dim and rise to the ceiling as the hall darkens…






The evening proved to be one of the best of my life, in every way.

Even the usher taking tickets, as the crowds were pushing and shoving, said “Welcome!” when I told him this was my first visit to the Met.

As is typical, many in the audience had dressed up, like the seatmate to my left, a woman slightly older who told me that the surtitles (which are discreetly displayed on the back of the seat in front of you) were being very tightly edited — she speaks German and the opera is in German. (They offer surtitles in several languages.)

The opera itself is complex to explain; best to read this instead!

And here are three brief videos of the production.

It’s in three acts, and the staging, costumes and lighting were all truly extraordinary, with an entire back wall of the stage used as a screen of moving images of clouds, of a moon, of various other shapes and colors, each matched to the mood of the act and the music. It was visually astonishing.

The first and third acts used a stage that was massively raked — i.e. slanted upward away from the audience, creating an illusion of distance, so that some singers entered and exited by walking down at the rear, disappearing as shadows and silhouettes.

The second act is, literally, steeped in (fake, stage) blood, ankle deep. It is astounding — and here’ s a New York Times story explaining how it worked. There were 1,250 gallons of it for every show, kept warm for the barefoot artists.

Keeping things neat and safe with over 1,000 gallons of fake blood sloshing around is not easy. An overflow trough sits behind the pool. Rows of chairs with towels and sandals are placed for the performers coming off the bloody stage, and absorbent mats and brown paper are taped along the path to their dressing rooms. Members of the stage crew are posted beneath the stage to make sure no blood seeps into the Met’s underground storage areas, where sets for operas like “L’Elisir d’Amore” and “Pagliacci” are currently stored.

This work offered so much wealth — gorgeous music, amazing singing, and many stunning visuals of tremendous subtlety (thank heaven I took my binoculars!), like a very early moment when the men’s chorus, attired in gray suits, slowly and gently remove their suits, ties, black shoes and even their watches — to emerge in a sea of white cotton dress shirts.

(The piece also includes two long intermissions, useful for eating a quick dinner and using the bathroom.)

If you think “Ohhh, I hate opera!” this one was a perfect entry point, even at its length.I was never once bored or distracted.

It’s not all cliches of enormous women in breastplates or endless arias, but a somber and meditative work that even Wagner himself didn’t call an opera.

He wrote Parsifal in 1882, in his mid-60s, and it has the feel of a look back.

The next day I tweeted my gratitude to fellow Canadian, the Met’s new conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who liked and re-tweeted it.

As I was leaving the hall quite late, I shared the escalator to the parking garage beneath Lincoln Center with a man who sang a line to me in German — one of the smaller parts he’d just played! His knee was sore, he said, from a month of climbing that steeply raked set. He even offered to walk to me to my car, a gesture of such unexpected kindness from someone who had just left the Met stage.

At its best, that’s such a New York moment.



The underground garage…

What an evening!


14 thoughts on “A night at the Met Opera — wow!

  1. what an incredible undertaking this must be, just to create and set up this performance. it sounds like every detail of your evening was stunning from beginning to end. i’ve never seen a live opera, (other than a chinese one, which i had a hard time with), but this has inspired me to once again seek one out.

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  3. I’ve never been to an opera. This sounds like an incredible production. When I saw the ticket price, I gasped but after reading your review and taking into account what it took to put that production together, it seems reasonable. I even learned a new word – surtitle.

    1. I know that price seems crazy high! Believe me…I have never paid that much for a seat to anything, ever. I’ve avoided the Met not because I hate opera but I feared tickets would be $300 or more (which I think orchestra seats can be) and ballet is more affordable.

      But look at what it gave us all! The quality of every single element was so stunning and satisfying I can’t really think of anything else at that cost that would give me a great memory for life.

      I also was very inspired by the rave reviews of 2 discerning pals, one of whom was a professional classical musician for many years. I trusted their judgment.

  4. My mom took me to my first opera when I was about five. She sang opera. Over the years she and I attended more performances. I love how the scenery is designed and set up by the crews. Five hours is a long time-so it must have been a wonderful story. The last opera I saw with my mom was “Madama Butterfly”. It was a different version in that when “she” is waiting for “him” to return to her one night, the audience is made to “wait” also. It absolutely injected us into the story. I love opera. Those chandeliers look similar to the ones in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles as does the staircase. A bit pricey, but worth a nice night (or afternoon) out. Thanks for the pictures.

    1. I’m hoping to see Butterfly at the Met this season, too.

      It’s not inexpensive, but I feel there’s so much value and skill involved. It seems a total bargain in that regard.

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