My first live experience at the opera came years after I fell in love with the genre through enjoying the recorded medium of my home stereo system. Hours were spent with Maria Callas long after her death.
Some of my favorite recordings were vinyl treasures I had amassed over the years, my favorite being Marie Callas’ rival, Renata Tebaldi, on a London release of La Boheme. Oh my, I still swoon from the memory. The recording was great, the orchestra perfectly positioned, the singers natural and as if live.
Imagine my surprise when I went to my first opera only to find the orchestra appeared non-existent. I could hear them but could not see them.
I slapped my forehead. Duh. Of course, the orchestra pit. Same thing for musicals (and I had already been to many).
For some unexplained reason, I had always imagined the orchestra on the same playing field as the actors because that’s just how it sounded on those lovely recordings. But, of course, that’s absurd because the orchestra would block the view.
Yet, still, every time I listen to those great recordings I wipe from my mind the image of musicians deep in the pit.
It just doesn’t sound like that.