Kelly Medford, a plein air painter from Italy picked up the extra ticket I had to see The Medium. Italians love opera. I arrived early knowing I would like to start blocking in a view from the upstairs balcony. This "God's eye view" seemed appropriate for the seance scene. When I arrived, the valet was quick to take my keys. Parking would be tight since this was a private residence. Admission to this rare staging was by invite only. I had my invitation in my bag but by now everyone knew me.
I rushed up the grand staircase and got to work. I leaned against a marble pillar as I sketched. Kelly arrived and I was pleasantly surprised when she pulled out her own sketchbook. She moved a folding chair to where she was working and I decided to grab one myself. I stepped on it and used my horizontal calf as a table to steady the open sketchbook. I had a book-light but realized that I didn't need it since the afternoon sun warmed the room.
Frank McClain announced that they were going to wait a few moments for more people to arrive. Baba said something similar to her guests before the seance began in Act I. Out the top of the tall windows I could see the lake. I joked with Kelly that the delayed guests must be arriving by boat. She said, "Or they are arriving by seaplane!" Frank, seated next to me, dimmed the lights and the room grew quiet.
Monica and Toby began the act in a playful scene of fantasy. Baba interrupted their play when she entered loudly. Monica ran to her room and Toby cowered. Baba's every movement was threatening. She was larger than life. She drank heavily and when she whipped Toby, anger rose in me. Her every frustration was unleashed on that poor adopted boy. The performance flowed effortlessly. I was surprised that I finished my sketch early so I put it away and leaned forward on the railing, looking down.
Baba, played by Susan Neves was singing about the horrors she had witnessed in her life. When she sang, "Oh God, forgive my sins, I'm old.", I identified with her growing madness. "Old Black Swan" is my favorite aria from the show. First Monica, played by Shannon Jennings sang it then Baba sang it in the last act. It is a haunting melody. I was glad the sketchbook was tucked away. I let the music wash over me.
After the performance there was applause. I stood and clapped loudly. The audience below me was hidden. There was deserts and port in the parlor afterwards. The port came in the tiniest little glass stemware. The sweet liquid warmed my throat. I had to raise a pinky to drink it. I couldn't have just one. I couldn't resist swirling the alizarin crimson liquid in my cup. Unfortunately it slipped over the edges into my hand. I did that twice and then finally washed my sticky hand in the kitchen sink. I recognized many of the people in the room from the days when opera thrived in Orlando. Besides the exclusive residential productions, the show will be staged at the Orlando Repertory Theater on December 3rd at 7:30pm and December 4th at 2:30pm. You can get tickets at floperatheater.org or call 407 718-4365. Opera is back!