Listening to the Glee of the 1840s and Braving Frostbite to Get to It
Last night was the coldest night in Philadelphia on record*, so me and my 12 imaginary diseases decided to head out into it to attend the Academy of Vocal Arts‘ Russian Romance performance with a group of Mr. B’s family.
I work pretty close to downtown Philly but not close enough to walk over for lunch, so I took the opportunity to walk to Spruce Street where the performance would be, taking time to stop for dinner and a little bit of shopping, and a little bit of [Last night was the coldest night in Philadelphia on record*, so me and my 12 imaginary diseases decided to head out into it to attend the Academy of Vocal Arts‘ Russian Romance performance with a group of Mr. B’s family.
I work pretty close to downtown Philly but not close enough to walk over for lunch, so I took the opportunity to walk to Spruce Street where the performance would be, taking time to stop for dinner and a little bit of shopping, and a little bit of](https://vkblog.github.io/2010/09/20/saturday-in-alexandria/) about working and living in DC.
However, it was freezing outside, and you should know that no Russian woman will ever, ever, ever go outside when it’s cold without her head covered. Since I didn’t have a winter hat, I had to improvise, instantly turning into my grandmother (yes, it’s fake. If you have to ask, you don’t know my willingness to spend $200 on a scarf very well.)
However, I was on a quest for an ushanka, and I knew that Urban Outfitters had the exact one I wanted online. However, on my way there, I was distracted by the bright lights of H&M and saw that they had nearly the same hat, for $13.
Much better. I’m almost ready for Oymyakon! Or 1937.
Hat on head, I proceeded to the Academy of Vocal Arts, past the new Comcast Center (can you spot the Israeli flag?)
Past Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia’s equivalent of Dupont Circle in DC:
And past some Israeli real estate agents who took a wrong turn at the Atlantic Ocean:
I met Mr. B’s mom, his aunt and uncle, and his grandparents for an evening showcasing young opera talent where they would each sing about 2-3 minutes of a snippet from famous Russian romances by Glinka and operas like Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades (Pikovaya Dama). Basically, it was like Glee of the 1840s. For two hours. And I gotta be honest, I was bored out of my mind.
All of the performers were extremely talented, performing difficult operatic arias in a non-native language (Russian) and in front of a relatively snooty audience** and they should be commended, but I just haven’t grown into opera yet and found myself wanting to strangle myself with a piano chord during intermission (or at least wondering how Mr. Schu would choreograph Tchiakovsky’s Don Juan Serenade.) Also, it is really, really hard to listen to non-native Russian speakers sing in Russian.
Mr. B’s family, however, was glowing. They were all raised on opera on the single TV channel in the Soviet Union so for them these types of concerts present a return to childhood comforts the same way eating Coco Puffs does for me.
What I did love about the show was that it finally gave me a chance, amidst all the hustle and bustle and stress of life these days, to get out to CULTURE and just being in an atmosphere where people dress up and there is a coat check was really great. And, while I was walking, it started to flurry ever-so-slightly, giving the atmosphere that crisp winter feeling that, combined with all of the lights on the lampposts, put me in a Novogodniye nastroyeniye (a New Year type of mood…kind of like the Christmas spirit but without eggnog.)
Also, I am wearing my hat indoors as we speak.
** When I say snooty, I mean snooty. At one point, Mr. B’s grandpa leaned over to whisper quietly to his grandma about the program and got a backwards glare from a balding man wearing hipster glasses. I wanted to tell the man, “Hey, his grandpa survived World War II and academic anti-Semitism…in Russia. So he can whisper whatever the hell he wants. Whatchu got, son? Whatchu got? ” Probably the snooty-polite society way of saying this would be, “I think because your experiences were so different it’s hard to judge your life and his by the same criteria and you should reevaluate. Son.”