Friday, June 29, 2012

Non-Musical Annoyances

I've written before about the ways that non-musical events can affect my reactions to a musical program. The other night's Magic Flute, well, it was one of those nights.

For a mid-week evening, the shuttle took an unusually long time to get from Mountain View to SF; it seemed like forever even though I napped for part of it. It was around 6:35 when I disembarked, and the curtain was at 7:30, meaning I really could not do much other than grab a sandwich someplace. I picked the opera house to do this rather than stopping by the Market St. Starbucks, and I'd already decided that a dash up to Arlequin was out of the question.

In the future, if I'm worried about this, I'll get myself a sandwich or something else at work. My impression is that Patina's selection has gotten worse and worse over the years. At the moment, they have maybe four sandwiches, a chicken caesar salad, and an antipasto plate. The sandwiches are not all that appealing, owing to the particular combinations of ingredients. The antipasto plate looks boring and overpriced. So I had the salad.

I realize that certain persons strongly prefer starting times earlier than 8 p.m. If you're coming from anywhere farther than SF, Oakland, or Berkeley and you need to eat before the program, well....let's say that the extra half hour would have been very welcome this week.

Here we get into The Seating Problem. There aren't that many tables downstairs outside the main dining area, which is reserved for restaurant patrons. (Anyone ever eaten there? Is the food any good? I last ate at the buffet in the 1980s some time.) So I went up to Dress Circle level. There are tables, but they're mostly for two or four people, and I don't like to either keep larger parties from using them or to share. There are chairs without tables and I sat at one of those. Yeah, it's awkward for eating a salad, but at least I got to be alone. (Thanks to the nice person who offered a spot at her table, but....I really wanted to be alone.)

I think that there is a solution to this problem: someplace in the house, there has got to be a wall with room to install a 12- or 18-inch-deep shelf where individuals could pull up a chair or stand and eat. (Or pairs could sit or stand next to each other.) And I am also sure that Patina could figure out some better/more interesting sandwiches than the ones they're currently serving.

Then there was my seat. I haven't been in the upper reaches of the opera house since last fall, and haven't sat in the Dress Circle in a long time, and....while the view is better, the particular seat I was in was about as jammed as the Balcony Rear seat I've had the last couple of years. Maybe I should have renewed my subscription in the orchestra instead of Dress Circle? I supposed I can trade up on a case-by-case basis.

The audience the other day was unusually chatty. People talked over the overture and whispered to each other during the performance. I shushed them more than I have in years; it was pretty distracting. Also, I saw and heard more water bottles and food packages....what are the current rules? I know that food in the auditorium is completely out, but is the opera currently allowing water bottles?

Lastly, I will simply note that if you are a patron with mobility limitations, it is best to sit in the last, more-accessible rows of the orchestra or Dress Circle than elsewhere. Those stairs are treacherous, there are no handrails, and you could take a nasty fall. It is really not good to have patrons climbing from the row in front of their seats because you cannot get up to let them in, and no one should have to ask you to please move your cane so that they don't trip and fall while trying to get past you at intermission time.


Dr.B said...

Balcony / balcony circle now have hand rails. They're very nice. I was shocked to see that Grand Tier / Dress Circle still don't have them when I sat there for the dress of Nixon.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh - maybe that is since last fall? I'll see them on Sunday when I see Attila.

Sibyl said...

I eat in the opera house every time I go; to get to a 7:30 curtain I need to leave Santa Cruz by 4:30, so no dinner. Despite leaving that early, it's somehow never early enough arrival to eat at a restaurant, so we just do the Patina grab-and-go stuff. The fare is uninspiring, but it's fast. There are places you can sit and eat upstairs, places both sanctioned (tables and benches on the Grove street side) and un. Last week, for Nixon, I had mistaken the curtain time (I never go on a Friday, and did not notice it was a later curtain), so my friend and I had table service downstairs. I had a tomato sundae with burratta mozzarella and it was delish, but it was also about 4 ounces of food for $15. My friend had a salad she said was excellent, but it, too, was $15 for a bread-plate sized portion. I am not too choosy about what I eat on an opera night, partly because I just need something to get me through until I get home, and partly because I just plain don't get out very often, so I'm just happy to be eating food I haven't made myself. You can take my comments for what they're worth, given that. As for water bottles/food containers, I am almost always reminded by ushers as I head to my seat that there's no eating or drinking in the house, so the policy must be as it has always been? Having said that, I used regularly to buy a dozen Citizen Cake cupcakes to bring home, and would hide them first under my coat and then under the seat. I, then, am as bad a scofflaw as those seated near you.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I sympathize -- lots of non-musical issues pretty much demolished my attempt to enjoy the Symphony's season closing concert last night. One of those issues, of course, is the 8:00 start time. I wasted most of the evening just waiting for the concert to start. I can understand a preference for 8:00 if you're traveling a considerable distance. But how many people actually do that during the week? (How often do you actually do it? And you're hardcore.) I think those people are much more likely to go on weekends when they have more flexibility. Does the number of people who can't realistically get there before 8:00 balance out the number of people who don't go because of the time wasted beforehand or the exhaustion the next day when they don't get enough sleep? (Also: I've never said all performances should start earlier. But I don't see why some performances shouldn't start earlier -- not the silly thing the symphony tried with the occasional Friday 6:30 with less music, but one day a week during a run when the performance starts at 7:00 or 7:30. Lots of theaters do this already.) Sorry if I sound cranky -- it's the lack of sleep. . . .

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, Sybil, for the confirmation on food and beverages in the house. Good to know about the restaurant (which I might try at some point). And hahaha, re cupcakes. I would not be the one telling on you.

Patrick, I do better on less sleep than you do (note the week I went to six evening concerts in three days...and could still function well at work), and I can nap on the shuttle, both of which make the later starts less of an issue for me than for you. I have no problem with SOME concerts having an earlier start time.

I have no idea of the answer to the question you ask. I wonder if any of the surveys SFS has done address the starting time question at all.