It took me a while to like opera. Growing up, there was a lot of classical music playing in our home. I remember my first, and one of my all-time favorite, dates when I was very young and my Dad took me the orchestra on a Saturday night. We had a very fancy dinner at H.A. Winston (corner of 15th and Locust) and then enjoyed the orchestra. You never forget your first time in the Academy of Music and, to this day, I am still in awe of that majestic concert hall every time I am fortunate enough to see a show there. I even took a classical music class my first semester in college, as all good liberal arts majors are required to do, but even after going to see La Boheme at The Met in New York, I still was not enamored. Until the movie “Philadelphia.” Mara Callas’ La Momma Morta may be the most beautifully haunting song I have ever heard. And I finally understood how one could be moved by a song in a language that you did not speak. I cannot articulate how that works, but I now know. And that is how I came to enjoy and appreciate opera and welcome it to my repertoire of music.
When I saw that the Opera Philadelphia and the Bearded Ladies Cabaret were collaborating for an opera, Andy: A Popera, about Andy Warhol during the fringe festival, I was…well, if you have been paying even the little bit of attention to these blog posts, you can fill in the rest of that sentence, and in many different ways.
On a September Sunday evening, Susan and I ventured to a warehouse on American Street in Kensington for the production. Immediately, I knew this not going to be my momma’s opera. We were encouraged to wear name tags, with any name we wanted. I chose Edie, Susan chose Lili (for Lili Taylor who starred in “I Shot Andy Warhol”) and directed to have some “punch.” We had time to take a selfie in a giant tomato soup can and then we were ushered into the warehouse next door.
The general first act of the opera was Andy Warhol trying to figure out how to fit best into America. He decided to do so by replicating himself and then we have a bunch of Andys all around him/us, a bunch of Marilyn Monroes, Edie, Valerie and Joe also joined him/us. It is one big chaotic party that ends the first act. Oh, after Valerie shoots the first Andy, that is.
We come to the second act through a different entrance (I also had to walk through a giant vagina) and pass Andy’s hospital bed where he is half alive, half dead surround by his other Andys.
It is now Valerie’s opera who goes on, just a tad long, about how Andy has appropriated everyone’s own uniqueness in the name of art.
Then Candy mounts her own, quite breathtaking, death scene that immortalizes her forever. Valerie is jettisoned and Andy is back. Scene. Throughout the whole opera, the cast is continually coming into the audience, encouraging selfies, turning the video camera on the audience, etc. I felt like I was a part of the production and I did absolutely nothing.
It was pretty extraordinary and I kept thinking back to it during the week. I just could not come to any conclusion as to what is art and what is opera. And, I am pretty sure that was the intention all along.
27 shows to go, 253 days left…