Our seats in the third row were about 15 feet from the performers.
A handsome MC with a German accent welcomed the 150 people, many of them tourists and students, with a synopsis of the story and its composer. Lights were dimmed. A pianist took a bow and then his place behind a grand piano. Then began my best entertainment experience in years.
No amplification. Five human voices. One piano. That's all it took as I was riveted for an hour and 45 minutes. We were in the hands of professionals.
I did not need to understand the words they sang (I hear that it's better not to know because the writing can be over the top). Yet my stomach and chest cavities heaved with the emotions projected by the singers: anger, frustration, confusion, joy, love and many others. It was impossible to look away from the performers' faces while they commanded my attention. It occurred to me that it was a good thing the walls were made of stone and concrete, in order to contain them within the performance space.
The music of the human voice filled the entire space, projected while they inhaled and exhaled, modulated by turns of the head and tremors of the lips. At times the voices blended into one as the characters in the story argued or agreed in unison. I never heard the like. I felt the emotions projected my way and felt tears come involuntarily to my eyes, not out of feeling for the story or its characters, but for the primal beauty and power of the human voice at its very best.
No recording of the event could ever have the same impact. Just being in the presence of greatness (the great ones make it look easy), live and in concert, made all the difference. It was a pleasure to stand up and cheer at the end of my first ever night at the opera.