A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gorgeous Crystal Chandeliers

Opera is all about spectacle. Listening to a recording, or even a live concert of the music, can never convey the whole multimedia experience of attending an opera. Part of what you're watching is occurring on stage, while another big part is happening all around you.

When you go to the Met, one of the things you see is the hall itself, jewel in the Lincoln Center crown, splendid in its own modern way. Built in the 1960's in the International style, it's all travertine and glass, the largest building in the complex, with seats for almost 4,000 and cavernous storage spaces. The first thing you see as you approach the building, even before you enter, is the glittering expanse of Austrian crystal dripping from the ceilings, mammoth futuristic chandeliers built like Tinkertoys with nickeled brass rods, twinkling lights, and gobs of faceted crystal and crystal pearls.

The opera house chandeliers were designed by Hans Harald Rath and made by Lobmeyr of Austria. The largest one measures over 20 feet across, is lit with 260 bulbs, and weighs one and a half tons. Over three hundred others are scattered throughout the Met. Satellites orbit around the big guy, more large and small chandeliers hang over the orchestra, under a ceiling of gold leaf. Crystal sconces ring the balconies and light you up the curving staircases.

The carpets are crimson. The walls are crimson velvet. The banisters are crimson velvet. The ceilings are gold; the mosaic murals are Chagall. The literati, the glitterati, and lots of poor students from Columbia lounge in the lobbies. Just before the curtain rises, the lower tier of chandeliers in the orchestra rises slowly to the ceiling as the lights dim and finally extinguish. Before the opera even begins, you've gotten your money's worth.

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