Sunday, April 14, 2013

La Sonnambula-Sleep Walking Girl in Alhambra Opera House in Izmir


Dear Colleagues, Dear Opera Lovers,

I work all week on an article. Sometimes preliminary draft work for one article goes to long past. I try to complete my  article  and submit to my Editor on Friday.  You read on hardcopy newspaper on Monday. Web site internet appearance is on next Wednesday. So we have 3-4 days of checking/ correction / editing period.


This week we shall talk on Opera.  Vincenzo Bellini's "La Sonnambula- SleepWalking Girl" Opera was in Alhambra stage  in Izmir on November 26-27-29.  Your writer has great enthusiasm but no school education on Opera.  Most of the audience in Opera House have the same situation. We all love Opera performance but like most of us, we have no school education.   So my observations are shared by my other Opera lover readers, hence we have empathy in between. We are not musicians, but we notice some details to share to help and advance warn director, artists, and administrators for better performance. 

Money buys comfort, but money does not buy happiness. Money buys you an Opera ticket but you enjoy by yourself.  Here in Izmir, this is a once in a life time opportunity to watch an extraordinary Opera performance. This article is written after I had the opportunity to be in Izmir Opera house for LaSonnambula Opera performance. LaSonnanbula Opera was on Alhambra Stage in Izmir Opera House on last November 26-27-29.


I could not understand anything of this Opera work during the first listening to the Cd performance. In the second run, I started to follow the music and the tune, now it is more than 10 times of listening and I can follow the work. It is a complete melodic music / "bel canto".


There are a number of complete release in YouTube videos, I choose the NewYork Metropolitan Opera House 2009 performance adapted to present day Manhattan environment with beautiful French Collature Nathalie Dessay as the best.  Nathalie Dessay is the right choice for this role. She was also great in paris Opera house performance adapted to Paris environment on stage. Anna Netrebko's Vienna 2006 performance was also one of excellent performances. 


In our local CD stores, you can purchase three different "LaSonnambula Opera" performances, by Nathalie Dessay- NewYork Metropolitan, by Joan Sutherland in London Royal Opera House, and by Maria Callas 1957 Milan LaScala recordings. Maria Callas performance in 1957 in Milan was incredible.  

We have three beautiful young soprano voices alternately on stage in Izmir. The role of Amina is shared by Sopranos Birgül Su ARIÇ, Eylem Demirhan DURU and S.Evren IŞIK. I have no choice, all three had excellent performances. I watched each one of them on three nights. Believe me there is NO any other equal new Opera performance now in our local Opera programs. Others are all repertory performances  in repetition.


Opera is based on a misfortunate sleepwalking girl at wedding age. Although subject is funny but the program booklet names the Opera as "Melodrama". I feel that the Director tries to interpret the Opera as overly more dramatic. In lieu of a heartbroken man with hard facial expression, I feel that it is better to ask the artist to have frustrated, confused, funny looking acting performance. That  could be better. On NewYork Metropolitan and Paris Opera house performance, that is the case.

Tenors Murat Karahan and Erdem Erdoğan both were right choices with  great voices. I would advise them not to touch Almina physically, since they could express their frustration in betrayal misunderstanding without hard touching. I wonder if  Mrs. Director Evin Atik will have any opportunity to read this article with my humble observations.


I cannot make any distiction between our young talented beautiful Sopranos. I was greatly enchanted when they sung their arias, so nice, so melodic/ emotional/ romantic/ controlled voices. I feel that we shall see them soon on famous international Opera stages, Milan, Sydney, London, NewYork.

LaSonnambula performance is world class in Izmir Alhambra Opera House for sure. This is my humble rating as your humble Opera enthusiast writer. Believe it or not.

Izmir Alhambra Opera house was  built in 1926 as a movie theatre. In 1980s it was renovated by Ministry of Culture with financial support of local Opera lovers, and then it is operated as Opera House. Alhambra Opera House has high ceiling, good acoustics, big empty volume, comfortable chairs in red color. However I presume that backstage could be a bit cramped/ small for the   players.


Opera House was full on Monday. On Tuesday night first three rows were reserved for local protocol, who have not appeared. So we moved to front seats. When the light goes out, it is common practise to occupy the front seats everywhere. Artists do not get pleased to perform to empty seats. Ladies in charge on Parter should lead the last minute arrivals to front empty seats immediately.  

Interior environment of Alhambra Opera House is cold. There is no central heating inside. Although Izmir has natural warm temperate climate, Opera interior at night is usually cold. So I would recommend you to bring warm long coats with you. During the break, audience rushed to toilettes. Men could handle easily, but ladies had difficult situation due to insufficient number of toilet cubicles, and long queue. 
It is best to limit your intake of fluids prior to the Opera,  keep yourself warm and reduce the need for the toilet. 


Opera chorus was very good from start to finish. Italian Conductor Sig.Tulio Gagliardo Varas had excellent performance.  Orchestra pit in Alhambra Opera appears a bit unusual since Conductor stands up to the waist. I have no objection as long as he does not block my vision.  I listened to the orchestra performance which is not different from CDs, a more sensitive ear may say even better. 

Tall guys should stay lower in their chairs, since ladies behind them cannot see the stage. I heard a number of similar complaints from ladies sitting behind.


It is my sincere feeling that Vincenzo Bellini's "la Sonnambula/ Sleep Walking Girl" Opera is the most beautiful Opera performance at this time in the local cultural environment, hence I'm writing a very clear, because I know the repertoire of Ankara and Istanbul. There is no new performance on stage elsewhere, they are all old repetitions.

There are a number of local new Turkish Opera compositions in performance, but as long as they cannot be placed on international Opera houses, these new compositions are to be classified/ judged in separate. We have no equivalent classical composer as Puccini, Wagner, Verdi or Mozart. This is not a shortcoming. Classical ages have passed long ago. We all hope that n
ot a classic but modern composers in the future are expected to appear.

However we have 
gorgeous young Opera Performers of classical composers, we have great artists. Economic décor, and costume with competant choir, the Conductor and the staff, all had excellent work performed on three nights.  I would like to congratulate them all one by one. I admire their voices, 


In Milan LaScala Opera, audience send flowers to artists, then artists try to grab them one by one without missing, the artists taking flowers.  LaScala audience is so cruel with no mercy to lower class performers. If you are an artist, director, or even a conductor, they do not like the performance, they stop applause and start shouting "boos". 

Our artists do not deserve such treatment. They deserve long round of applause. There is no need for applause during act, better to applaud at the end.

In Germany, there are daily tour busses in front of Opera houses carrying middle aged or retired opera funs from nearby small towns. They start early in the morning, make shopping in the big city, watch the evening Opera, return home.  We may also arrange such daily tours from nearby towns to Izmir Opera.

Ladies can arrange weekly alumni meetings, they may come together in any one of KemerAltı local merchant restaurants at 1800 hours, have a light diner, drink coffee and then move to Opera house. 

At 2230 hours Opera performance ended. Our Izmir Metropolitan Underground Metro system was working properly, ferries to the other side were all available. It was easy/ fast / cheap to return home late night. We felt that  Izmir Opera House is no different than any other high class cultural metropolis in Europe or in elsewhere.

For those who missed this amazing Opera performance, there is one more opportunity on December 24 Monday night as final staging in year 2012. Tickets are available in English web page "dobgm.gov.tr".

All the best for all Opera lovers in Izmir and elsewhere.

*Haluk Direskeneli is a graduate of the METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, U.S. and Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in the fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant and energy analyst with thermal power plant basic and detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of the Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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