I should have known by the five dead skunks I saw during my drive to Dallas, plus the two that I didn't, how the Sunday matinee performance of "The Marriage of Figaro" was going to be.
The opera is one of my favorites. Humor and wit abound along with the cleverness of Mozart's music. Like the road to Dallas, this production was thoroughly enjoyable and the best I've ever seen for this opera. The laughs were elicited from us by sight gags as well as by vocal phrasing and the performers' timing was impeccable. For example, Keith Jameson, who played Don Curzio, the magistrate, stuttered musically and majestically; we couldn't help bursting out with laughter and love how his stuttering was echoed by the other singers which enticed even more laughter from us. It wasn't just the laughs, either. Susanna Phillips, who portrayed the Countess Almaviva, sang so beautifully that I wanted her arias to last longer and wished we could shout, "Encore!" at the final curtain and get her to sing one again.
However, as excellent as it was, I am almost sorry that I went and I deeply regret buying season tickets; I am that disgusted. It wasn't the horribly uncomfortable seat that will hopefully be corrected with the move to the new Winspear Opera House next season or that I was perspiring until the third act when someone finally got smart enough to turn on the air conditioner.
The skunks were in the audience.
Every other opera I've attended in other cities, when the house lights go down, the audience settles in anticipation. In Dallas, chatter speeds up and doesn't finish until AFTER the music is started...except for the past-their-prime women sitting near me who started talking well into the act while the performers were singing. I couldn't give them the evil eye because they were in my row and wouldn't have been able to see me. I couldn't shush them without creating another disturbance. The only things I could do were pray for them to shut up already and wish my arm was long enough to reach over and head-slap the pair of them.
In addition to the talking were the cell phones. Not only did I hear a cell phone playing a tune that was discordant to the music being played by the orchestra, I heard the bzz-bzz-bzzz of a vibrating phone, and the ting-ting-tinging of a watch alarm. Which part of "Please turn off your cell phones" couldn't the morons understand?
Another skunk was the perfume. Ladies, when you're going to be sitting for hours, shoulder-to-shoulder with others, PLEASE DO NOT WEAR PERFUME OR ANY OTHER TYPE OF FRAGRANCE. All you need is the effective use of bath soap. For those of us who are allergic to fragrance, the watering eyes and congested sinuses are agony. For those of us who think your favorite fragrance stinks, it's misery. How would you like to spend three and a half hours sitting within five feet of a skunk? If you think I'm the only person who thinks this way, there were women in line at the ladies room who I overheard complaining about someone wearing perfume who was sitting near them, too.
Another thing, especially if you were among the group of idiots sitting in the right balcony and clapping when no one else was, here's a clue:
The superscription above the stage means that someone is singing or is about to sing and that you should be quiet and listen. It is NOT a signal for you to start clapping with all your might to drown out the singer's voice as well as the harpsichord being played by the conductor, Graeme Jenkins.
Since the Dallas Opera was founded in 1957, one would think there's been enough time for its audience to learn how to behave. Certainly, cell phones have been out long enough for people to have grasped general etiquette by now and turn off their cell phones in libraries, churches, theaters, AND AT THE OPERA. The mere fact that the performers are singing without microphones gives normal, respectful audiences the motivation to help them be heard by everyone by being quiet, but no, Dallas, you are too rude, crude, and socially unacceptable to exhibit the minimum in common courtesy or to have any degree of couth.
Dallas, it's time for you to grow up and start behaving yourself. I'm giving you the rest of the 2008-2009 season to prove yourself capable of not ruining another opera only because I already have tickets. Yes, I have thought about trying to get a refund or sell my tickets on eBay, but I really want to see the operas. After that, we'll see. There's also opera in Tulsa and Fort Worth's Bass Hall is too fabulous for me to waste nine hours of driving time plus the cost of gas and the ticket only to endure your atrocious behavior no matter how stellar the performance.
In the meantime, I'm telling everyone to stay away from you.