The few times we've gone to the opera previously, we've only been able to afford the seats that are so high up in the building that Jon Krakauer is writing a book about our trek up the stairs (contrary to the rumors, we were not short-roped) -- what a treat to be down on the main floor where the oxygen is so thick and water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit! It's a totally different scene on the first floor -- the lines for the bathroom are shorter, women wear sparklier dresses, and -- who knew? -- there's a cafe in the basement! We looked for Sean Wilsey's stepmother in the audience but the program said that she usually sits in Box O.

Rodelinda is a Baroque-era opera written in 1725 by George Friederic Handel (you may remember him from such hits as "The Hallelujah Chorus"). Rodelinda is the queen of Naples, who has just been told that her husband, King Bertarido, has been found dead. Bertarido's rival, Duke Grimoaldo, will take the throne in his place. Turns out Grimoaldo's been in love with Rodelinda for years (despite being engaged to Bertarido's sister Eduige) and threatens to kill Rodelinda's son Flavio if she doesn't agree to marry him. Tough breaks! Making things more complicated, Bertarido's not actually dead, he's just escaped back into the kingdom. Will Rodelinda marry Grimoaldo to save her child? What about Bertarido? And why is the sinister hitman Garibaldo always lurking around?

The Opera also made one of those "controversial" moves in the operatic community and shifted the setting of Rodelinda from 18th century Italy to the 1940s, and designed the sets with a modernist, film noir-type feel. So instead of the usual (faux-)ermine robes and scepters you think of when you think of Baroque opera, the women wore snazzy vintage suits and the men wore bow ties and tuxes. And the "kingdom" consisted of city buildings and bridge underpasses, instead of the usual moats and turrets you'd expect.

After the jump: a mezzo writhing on the floor, molls and gangsters, and -- was that booing we heard when the set designers took a bow?

Picture from the SF Opera

SFist Ced graciously allowed us to take a break from alt-weekly-reading and political-junkie-ing for a lovely evening out at the Opera -- thanks, Ced!