Riga: A Night at the Opera

Riga: A Night at the Opera

Riga: Die Fledermaus

Thursday, January 5

Not my photo… obviously.

Because life loves me sometimes, I was given the opportunity to attend the Latvian National Opera. If you ever go to Riga, this building is one of the landmark treasures that you see any time you go to Old Town or walk through the main parks. It looks beautiful and majestic from the outside, but I didn’t think I’d see a show there.





Opera at Night



This is the view I saw most of the time as I walked by at night. That is a big Christmas tree.




No matter how much space I put here, it won’t layout correctly…


Back to the story… I had just had my beard trimmed.

New Beard
Old Beard

After a satisfactory beard trim (14 euro), I walked to the mall where I was meeting my ticket benefactor. Rita said to meet at some restaurant called “Dada.” I still had some time, and as I was walking down the street, I started thinking about dancing for no reason. I texted my good friend Susan Martens to tell here that I was doing the Bachata on the streets of Riga.

Nothing displays right in this post. Lots of empty spaces.

Cat Shrine

Then, I just had to go to the Kakis Cafe (Cat Cafe) to see what it was like. The wonderful barista had a shrine to cats on one wall, and I ordered a shot of balsam with a cup of coffee. As things seem to happen for a reason, I sat and listened to the music, and i was amazed to hear Latin tunes… and the very song that was playing… it was a Bachata. Tell me the odds of that?

not enough spaces…

another empty space… 

The Mall

Checking my watch, and seeing it was almost 17:00, I ran over to the mall. I walked around for awhile looking for Dada, but no luck. I asked  guard, and he didn’t know. So the information lady told me that it was closed. No more Dada. So I texted Rita to tell her that the place was closed, so she told me to meet her at the big Christmas tree. Which tree? I thought she meant the one in the town square, so I ran over there and bought some hot wine and balsam. She wasn’t there.

She called and said she was at the tree in the mall. Doh! So now she wanted to meet at this coffee house by the opera which was in some book shop with a complicated name that I couldn’t understand. I walked to the Opera House, and looked for a nearby coffee shop. Aimlessly spilling hot wine and balsam all over myself. I was so calm and collected before, but now it was getting late, it was freezing cold, and I was lost. I had nowhere to set the drinks down to get my phone out… it was not quite a nightmare, but it was a bit more harrowing than it needed to be.

Oh, why wasn’t I using GPS, you might ask? Because I was out of wi-fi megabytes, so each time I used it, I had to pay for it. Only in emergencies! which this kind of was, so out came google maps. I finally found the bookstore/coffee shop. Lovely place, but no real time to enjoy. She got me a cup of coffee and handed me the ticket. We had a toast with the wine and balsam, and said our goodbyes quickly, as I had to run over to the theater for the performance.

Drama on top of drama.

Well Dressed Man

I am glad I packed my suit jacket. I wasn’t sure if I was going to need it, but it was nice to have it for the opera. Everyone was dressed really nicely, and I almost felt like I belonged there, despite all the strange looks from the patrons. I had this notion that I was beginning to really understand the native Latvian features. Someone said that after awhile, it was easy to tell Latvians from other people living in Latvia who weren’t Latvian by blood. Interesting. The sharp features, narrow noses, with high foreheads and fine hair. These seem to be pretty typical. Oh, and most of them are Eurothin. I am not Eurothin.


The opera was sold out, and I found my seat in the 2nd balcony in line with the beautiful chandelier. Seat 13. Uh oh. The orchestra began the overture, and I was just a bit enraptured by the sound of this unseen orchestra playing an almost familiar tune. The curtain opened to reveal this modern house set with hues of pink and a checkered floor that looked just like the bathroom tile in my Ashland house.

Die Fledermaus is a comedy, and it was honestly a bit hard to follow. The spoken lines were all in Latvian, and the songs were in the original German. There was a screen with subtitles, but it was partially hidden by the beautiful chandelier, so I just kind of got the gist of what I was watching. But, because it was just kind of a fun show, I don’t feel like I missed much. I was just enjoying the beauty, pageantry and performance. They all had beautiful voices, and the staging was very interesting to me. The song that sounded just like “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins got stuck in my head. Now I can’t really find it, but this will give you a taste. 

When Act II began, the woman to my right did not return. So, as it is my nature, I wondered if it was me? Probably the chandelier more likely. The set was now a balcony and ballroom floor. It was the Prince’s big party with dozens of performers dancing and singing. There was a lovely waltz interlude with these professional dancers flying across the stage. The song that sounded just like “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins got stuck in my head. Now I can’t really find it, but this will give you a taste.

After the 2nd intermission, two more women in my row didn’t come back. It was getting late, but I really had to wonder. Two older people in my row were getting their phones out, and the kid in front of me got his out, and I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Ne.” He didn’t get it out again. This is OPERA PEOPLE! The final curtain opened to reveal the prison courtyard. It’s going to end in the prison?

And it all came together with each of the main performers entering the scene. There was a wonderful slapstick sketch with the drunk guard. I think he was the audience’s favorite based on final applause. The show ended with this bizarre, “It was all a big joke!” finale where they sang about champagne. It reminded me a bit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Farcical fun without much depth. I kept waiting for Die Fledermaus to appear, but it was just a part of the joke. I did find one version of the finale online that had the guy show up in costume… so it has been done

Then, after the finale, the applause literally went on for twenty minutes. I hadn’t really had anything to eat all day, so I was just wondering if anything was going to be open… but each performer had his own entrance, and applause, and then they did it all a 2nd time, then the director came out on the stage for more applause. The Latvian crowd kept it up, but I felt like by the end, when the flowers were presented, we were all pretty much ready to go. You can only clap so long. Am I right?

I had planned to walk the kilometer or so back to Bruno’s flat, but when that ice-wind hit me full in the face, I hailed a cab. The driver, speaking broken English, told me that this was his first day driving, and he wanted to use my phone for GPS. I just cannot pronounce Ausekļa street. It’s that darn dipthong “ļ” thing. We figured it out, and 5 Euro later, I was safely home.

Bruno’s stairs

Bruno, despite being a little under the weather, was waiting up for me on the sofa. “Would you like anything?” Sure! He brought out the wine, cheese, bread, chocolate… everything he could find and kept offering me more stuff. “I”m good, Bruno, thank you!” We exchanged some stories about our visits, mine to Latvia and his to America. He had some interesting observations and questions. I told him that my biggest pet peeve is pickups. Everyone has to have a pickup or SUV. “They want to be Big Man!” he said. “Look at me! Do what I say!” Again, brilliant observations. We had a really nice talk, and then he excused himself and went to bed. We agreed to be up by 5:45 to leave by 6 a.m. I spent the night not sleeping again, and it was okay because it was my last night in Riga, and I wanted it to last just as long as it could.

Some photos…

Half Panorama Selfie
Theater from Below
The Coat room

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