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Subject: Re: The audience sighs as one
From: John Greiner <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Wed, 9 Aug 2017 18:28:03 -0400

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I can think of a number of instances the audience sighed (or reacted) as one.  I recall a production of The Cunning Little Vixen in D.C. imported from Covent Garden that resulted in a huge gasp as one.  The production had a musical scene where a little girl, representing a baby rabbit was hopping/dancing around the stage.  Incredibly sweet and endearing.  And then the Vixen killed her.  She was food.  She was prey to a fox.  But a huge intake of breath by a stunned audience when that happened.  

When Washington Opera did Tiefland years ago, there was a staging moment that got gasps when the stage converted from inside a building to high in the mountains.  Everyone was stunned with that.  Supposedly I read it was easy to do in terms of staging, but it did draw a huge collective gasp from the audience.

Singing wise, two stand out that were jaw dropping.  One was Ben Heppner before he was "Ben Heppner" singing Andre Chenier at Washington Concert Opera.  Folks had no idea who he was, and everyone's jaws just collectively dropped when he started singing.  We were all looking around at each other like "Are you hearing this? Are we hearing this?"  We couldn't believe it.   The other one like that was Susan Dunn in Il Trovatore.  Again, no one had heard of her.  We were all stunned at the beauty of her voice then, whatever happened afterward.  There was also a Tosca on the Met tour with Scotto and Domingo and McNeil and when Domingo let go with a stunning "Victoria, Victoria" that resulted in the audience bursting into applause afterward.  He was great that night (and I'm not always a fan, and saw him walk through a Tosca in D.C. several years later.)  But that night he was gangbusters, as was all the cast.   And the Summer Opera Tosca mentioned (with a different Susan, Susan Foster) really had the audience going as mentioned.  

Another instance, not in an opera but in a ballet (and available on tape) was Natalia Marakova (sp) dancing in Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center.  There is a part where the bad guy (Von Rothbart?) is pulling Odette back toward him.  Marakova was absolutely straining forward, but moving backward on pointe and the audience - including myself - could not believe what we were seeing.  It was the first time I ever blurted anything out in a theater, something like "oh my God", and I was initially embarrassed, but everyone else said or did something similar.  You can rent the DVD of this performance, and you can hear the audience do this.  It sounds like a huge, collective groan.  The camera shot is unfortunately not the best for this moment, it is at a distance so DVD viewers may not fully see it, but the audience did.   Probably the most stunning artistic achievement I've ever seen and that was a good 30 or 40 years ago now.  Lots of high points, but that one was in a class by itself.


John Greiner

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