Tosca by Puccini
13.11.2009 - 13.11.2009 22 °C
My first trip to the opera came courtesy of my student's mother, who works for the Cairo Opera House. I have always liked the idea of being a fan of opera, since it implies a certain amount of culture, wealth and a good musical ear. I didn't really know if I fit in to any of these categories but I was pretty excited about going anyway. The Opera House is in Zamalek, in downtown Cairo and takes (on a good traffic day) about an hour to drive there from Al Rehab. We now have a regular taxi driver, recommended by my school, who charges fixed prices and will collect us from wherever we are dropped off with an hour's notice. Due to the hectic Cairo traffic, our taxi driver waited for us for nearly 4 hours and the round trip fare was only 145LE.
The Cairo Opera house is a large and modern building, built by the Japanese to replace the former opera house, which burned down 40 years ago. We struggled to find the way into the Main Hall area because there was no grandiose entrance like I was expecting. There is a dress code (more for men than women) of a shirt, tie and jacket but I did see many 'foreigners' (i.e. Europeans) at the end of the opera exchanging ties for their passports, so the Opera House does try to accommodate the patrons who didn't read the back of their tickets.
The Opera House has a regular rotation of operas, with a mixture of local and overseas performances. I went to see Puccini's Tosca. I had read the Wikipedia synopsis but struggled a little to get into the story. Luckily I was able to make frequent reference to the synopsis in the program on the night. I enjoyed the whole experience of being in the perfectly-sized pink opera house. I was sitting only 3 rows back from the orchestra pit, level with the stage. While the clarity and volume of the orchestra was perfect, some of the performers (including the female lead) were too quiet and didn't have the strength of voice to be heard over the accompanying music. The lead male (playing Mario) had a really pleasant and good voice but 'Tosca' (played by some aging, unattractive and overweight Egyptian woman) could not produce any power during the subtle and low notes and had too much vibrato in the higher notes. I realised this more so after researching different versions of the opera on Youtube.
My overall feeling by the end of 'Tosca' was that I was still a little out of touch with the genre of opera but I did enjoy it nonetheless.
It has only been 4 days since I went to the opera but since then I have had an insatiable need to listen to songs from Tosca. Although I have to add that the versions I love are performed by much more impressive singers than the Cairo Opera Company. Next time I attend an opera at the Cairo Opera House I hope to be one of the informed listeners, who knows when the famous solos are coming, and when to applaud!