I always wanted to assist to an opera performance, and just a couple of weeks ago chances converged for me to go with a friend who invited me to the MET Opera House, in Lincoln Center.
Previous to my visit I did the exercise of revising my imaginary in search of preconceptions of what the opera was like. Thereby my symbolic notion of the opera was figured as an elegant, refined, expensive (therefore exclusive), beautiful, interesting, and stylish, place. By describing my visit to the MET I would like to evaluate how these notions endured or were changed (as the resultant interpretant) after my sensorial membrane being exposed to an opera experience.
The opera day came. I met with my friend in the subway, and was quite excited. We got of on 66th st station, and walked through a specially designed exit that takes you right into the Lincoln Center complex, into the main plaza. The exterior air was crisp, with an illuminated central water fountain that somehow came to me resembling the flow of glamorous champagne. A significant amount of people were hanging out, walking, taking pictures and chatting. At the far end, the Opera House with its vertical extension of glass, a translucent membrane that allowed observing a whole spatial dimension of interaction, movement, different tiers, light, and maroon color.
Once inside the building I realized we were entering a first layer, visible from the outside. It was in fact a place of interaction and movement, people chatting accompanied by the sound of uncovering champagne corks. Despite the noise of human interaction, sound seemed restrained, with low reverberation, as I assume is the result of acoustic control material covering the building’s membrane. Space was visually connected in this first inner layer. Ascending through conchoidal shape staircases with balconies that overlooked the lower level. As a whole it gave me the impression of being inside an outer layer of a giant snail shell, with one more membrane separating the final inner space.
The inner space had a tendency of verticality, visually oriented toward the stage as a nodal conjunction point. Being in one of the higher tiers walking down the stairs to our seats made me feel a bit of vertigo. This inner environment felt more enveloped or self-possessed. Sound in here is not allowed to bounce back in reververation, it is clear. Again maroon color dominated the background, it felt red, dark, like cooling lava, elegant; while hanging lamps reflecting sparkles of light evoked again the iconic presence of flowing champagne. Sitting down. Lights off and the show begins.
I realized that my preconceptions of the opera (being elegant, exclusive, and so on) were emphatically there. It seems to me that these preconceptions, incorporated probably through media, is certainly part of what is offered through color, light and space, which is malleable to achieve a defined opera iconicity. As my friend commented while leaving the opera walking down the circular stairs to exit the MET building, “part of coming to the opera is making you feel elegant and distinguished”.