Wednesday was Date Night – dinner and a show. I got all dolled up and had my hair done. Unfortunately, I am still not able to communicate clearly with the hairdressers here. I wanted the hair blown out with a bit of a soft curl towards the bottom. I came out looking like Shirley Temple. Oh well. Brushed through it hard and it looked pretty good.
We went to a neighborhood restaurant I have been wanting to try. It was on the “elegant” side, and by that I mean it had table cloths, waiters dressed in black, and the room was dimly lit. It turned out to be more of a raki bar though, with a very limited menu. The new thing here in Turkey is to charge a “kuver” – a cover charge – which is more often done at bars, where people are drinking and not really eating anything. I found that inappropriate since we had a full meal. We had a nice dinner of adana kebap and then we were on our way.
Next stop – the Opera House in Ankara. We went to see Macbeth, a Guiseppe Verdi opera. Macbeth returned to the stages of Ankara after a 48 year absence. There were a few small bumps along the way. First, tickets only go on sale 15 days in advance, and they sell out quickly. Secondly, their website is pretty bad if you don’t read Turkish. The English side, like most Turkish websites, is missing a lot of information. But I’m still happy that at least they have English pages. Finally, parking is almost non-existent. Public transportation is suggested.
We ran into one large obstacle when we got there. The English play, performed as an opera, was completely in Italian. The opera was kind enough to provide subtitles on a screen above the stage, in Turkish only. My husband and I were like the blind leading the blind. I couldn’t read it. And he couldn’t see it clearly from that distance. I was so tempted to read it to him and have him translate, but that would have been a big no-no.
We both enjoyed the show anyway, listening to the music. I thought we could follow through the acting having read and scene the play before. But it was difficult. An opera generally has less performance than song. This was true for Macbeth. The acting, backgrounds, and props were minimal. Since I couldn’t follow it, it gave my head plenty of time to wander, time to critique the show and the theater.
Seating in the opera house is quite adequate. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house with the exception of a few seats in the center of the first two rows of the balcony. There is a piece of wood sticking out in front of the balcony. If the performers utilize the front stage, that part in front of the curtains, the people sitting in those seats would have an obstructed view. This wasn’t the case for Macbeth as the actors never strayed to the front stage.
The small stage was often full of 40 to 90 people. I found that to be too much. There are 3 witches in Macbeth. In the opera, there are 3, plus another 30 – 40 on stage at the same time. Dressed completely in white with blood dramatically spewed down white aprons. Perhaps it was necessary to have so many for singing the opera properly. They may have need more voices. (The 3 main witches were my favorite part!)
The lighting was also distracting. For some reason, there was a light that shined on the conductor and threw a large shadow up on one side wall and the ceiling. It was ghostly. Interesting at first, but annoying later.
According to Wikipedia, “the building was originally designed by the Turkish architect Şevki Balmumcu as an exhibition center, who came first in an international competition for the project in 1933. It was later converted into an opera house by the German architect Paul Bonatz, and started serving this function on April 2, 1948.”
The acoustics aren’t great. I assume it is because the building wasn’t built as an opera house. The orchestra, particularly the timpani, often drowned the voices of main characters. It was a constant battle. And most of the voices just didn’t seem that strong. The theatre is on the small side, so I believe the voices should have been able to easily reach the far corners. But perhaps we are all just used to our home sound surround systems where everything is loud and clear.
Lastly, the stage hands left a bit to be desired. There were two large boards used as a backdrop throughout most of the performance. At one point, chairs were being moved on to the stage behind the boards for the next scene. I shouldn’t have been able to see this from my 3rd row balcony seat. But the stage hands lifted each chair above the board as they moved them. Quite distracting.
All in all, I recommend seeing a show at the opera house. I would recommend this in any city. It’s a fun, cultural thing to do. Perhaps Macbeth and opera are not your cup of tea. But the Ankara Opera House also hosts an array of ballets, children shows, and other performances.
They do try but I think any decent singer gets snapped up quickly and moves to Europe or America. Macbeth can get away with minimal props but I don’t think it can get away with bad stage management – Is that a dagger that I see before me? No, it’s a small dining chair with a mahogany veneer. 🙂