Friday, July 19, 2013

La Boheme- Concert in Bilkent Odeon, Ankara

"La Boheme" concert  in Bilkent Odeon, Ankara

Dear Opera lovers,

On the evening of Thursday, June 27, 2013, all our family members were in Ankara Bilkent Odeon, an open-air outdoor environment.  We have witnessed a great orchestra, magnificent performance, with some minor reservations I will explain later.

We had our pet water bottles, chair insulators, fleece blankets, binoculars, cameras. Your critic was also ready with notebook and pencil to record everything for our readers.

Earlier I made some search in youtube for similar concert performances of famous operas as presented elsewhere in the world.

Full records in youtube were from Rome in 1987, and Amsterdam ConcertGebauw 2013.

Other short videos were from following open air concerts,
Angela Gheorghiu-Luciano Pavarotti concert in Modena in 2001, 
Anna Netrebko-Rolando Villazon-in Berlin 2006 .
Andrea Bocelli with Pretty Yende,  NY Central Park in 2011

I noticed that all singers were using high volume acustic microphones, and singing direct to the audience, in order to make themselves audible easily,  without acting and without moving their head elsewhere.

We got our tickets at about 19:30, seats were free to choose, no numbers reserved. At 20:00 hours, entrance doors were opened,  we entered into the concert  oditorium, rushed for middle row seats. These were the best locations to hear the concert, proven by experience earlier. We have kept chairs, right front center, put our belongings- insulation mats on perforated metal chairs to reserve for our late-commer family members. Concert begun at 20:30 sharp.

Bulgarian opera festival  choir had 16 men and 16 women singers. They were far behind the scenes, so their voices reached relatively  weak to the audience. Sopranos of choire also performed children's song in the second act.

I believe that children's songs are to be sung by children only, not by grown up adults. My younger son, then at the age of 10, was in children's choir in the same opera when it was directed by maister Antonio Pirolli, years ago. I watched each one of performance whole season with great pleasure. In Italy it is always played by children.

Our famous local stand-up comedian Cem Yilmaz, defined this place as "bath" during his first and unfortunately the last performance due to hot- greenhouse environment created by rain covers on top, years ago. Turkish baths have at least good acoustics. 

Late at night, we had refreshing breeze, but we had no proper sound to listen to. Without proper and powerful microphones, it is imposible to perform any concert here.

Bilkent odeon is a modern copy of our Aspendos antic amphy theatre with 4000 spectator capacity, however in order to protect audience from heavy rain, plastic cover on top is added. That plastic panels absorb sound, and you hear almost nothing.

Artists were required to play with their natural sound, with no microphone assistance.  When they acted as in opera performance, and turned their heads to rear, left or right, it was  impossible for us to hear them. They should use powerful microphones. They should not act, just sing towards audience.

Orchestra was in the middle stage as usual for concert versions, singers should be in line with the conductor. They were in front, so conductor could only see them from big Tv screens. I am doubtful if he could see them.

As a whole, modern type staging was nice, costumes were more up to date, casual, players consumed two bottles of local red wine(Angora), a big basket of local bread. Coat rack in the middle was a problem, fortunatelt they threw out the scene at the end.

In "La Boheme" Opera performance, the characters Mimi (Burcu Uyar) and Musetta (Gorkem Ezgi Yıldırım) were extraordinary in their respective roles. High-pitched female voices reached us better. I am really "enchanted" same as Danny Kaye while listening to Beverly Sills years ago.

The poet Rodolfo (Bulent Bezdüz), the painter Marcello (Serkan Kocadere), the philosopher Colline (Tuncay Kurtoğlu) were experienced voices, nicely balanced.

Schaunard (Inanç Makinel), Benoit (Umit Kosman), Alcindoro (Beran Sertkaya), Parpignol (Serkan Bodur), were in short but very supporting roles, however  hard male voices were barely heard due to sound absorption of the environment.

Bilkent Orchestra, gorgeous, flawless Machinery as usual, one of the best in the world, I should say, with their maistro "Isin Metin", they created wonderful opera music despite of accoustics disaster.

I should advise Bilkent university administrators that they must find remedy for this situation as early as possible. They are one of the best institutions of the country, one of the best in worldwide lists in academic studies, with lots of researchers, even on underwater accoustics, this is the most important problem that they should engage a solution.

Accoustics should be corrected, this not releated with money, it is only a matter of time, effort, dedication to solve the problem, they should add or deduct roofing material, put more panels, whatever, anyhow in the end we should have a proper environment to listen to our world class singers and our extraordinary orchestra.

Acoustics should not discourage us for future sinilar open-air opera programs. We have now more expectations for similar outdoor opera performances with our magnificient orchestra, in future. Acoustics will be solved sooner or later. 

In the short tem, to eliminate acoustics disadvantage, Singers should stop acting as in opera, but they should line up with the conductor, use powerful microphones, sing direct to the audience. We expect more to come. We all deserve that extraordinary opera performances more and more  in Bilkent environment.

Sisypus of Prinkipo , in Prinkipo island near Istanbul, Turkey

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


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