Last night, Matt and I went to hear the opera Wozzeck, performed at the Stockholm Royal Opera (Kungliga Operan).
This opera is not uplifting. Plus it includes some strident 12-tone portions, written by Schoenberg’s pupil Alban Berg and sung in this eerie almost kind of robotic falsetto. Still, the opera also had beautiful passages, and the staging was clever: gauze-wrapped buildings gave a sense of perspective to the stage, and a murderous, giant, blood-red cratered moon hovered over some of the scenes.
The best parts included the mad scientist who was experimenting on Wozzeck (the poor soldier sells his body to support his wife and child). The military doctor makes his entrance pushing in a wheeled cart carrying test tubes filled with candy-colored liquids. Awesome. And yes, he wears a white lab coat!
A friend who is a member of the chorus got us tickets and took us backstage beforehand for a tour, peering over the catwalks at the ropes and pulleys and lighting, and even standing on stage looking out on the audience seating — it was so cool! We topped off the evening at the symphony’s cafe for drinks.
It made me miss my friend Sue the bassoonist — the opera’s score called for three bassoons. (The word for bassoon in Swedish: faggott. So unfortunate.) And hanging out after reminded me of drinks at the bar with her colleagues, back when I lived in Washington, D.C.
One interesting tidbit we learned over beers in the basement cafe (which has a view of the Royal Palace): 65 or 67 is the usual retirement age, but the pension system here allows performers to retire at age 55, according to my friend and his colleague. Even if the singers continue to be employed and earn full salaries, they can be paid their early retirement at the same time. Not a bad deal — supposedly initiated because women lose their singing voices at that age. I will have to check that out…