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Operatic bicycle anachronism

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Operatic bicycle anachronism

Old 01-23-23, 07:57 PM
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Operatic bicycle anachronism

I'm just back from a visit to New York to visit my son and his family, in the course of which I took in an opera a the Met (The cheap seats, at less than $40, suit me very well). The show was a verismo thing called Fedora, which was pretty good. I won't go into detail about it, since I doubt that there are many opera enthusiasts around here.

But--and I had not known this going in--bicycles figure as a minor plot device in Act III, because a bike ride serves as an excuse to get two people offstage so that two others can be alone. Half an hour after the happy cyclists set out, the distraught title character (played in this production by the excellent Sonya Yoncheva) remorsefully poisons herself for having (inadvertently) caused the deaths of her lover's mother and brother. Hey, I said it was an opera.

The bicycles themselves are left leaning up against a railing for maybe five minutes, so I was able to get a fairly good look at them with my binoculars. Offhand, I would say that the Met dropped the ball here. I am no historian of bicycles, but both they appeared to be much too new for setting of the story, which I think, is supposed to be sometime between 1880 and 1890. The opera itself (I just looked it up) was published in 1906.

The only picture I could find online only shows one of the bikes. As I said, I'm not a historian, and don't even know what you call this style of frame. But it looks to me like a 1950s or 60s Schwinn with a cheap Chinese-made leather saddle. C'mon, guys! All the bike nerds in New York, and that's the best you could do?


From left to right, that's Lucas Meacham, Sonya Yoncheva (who--although you can't see it behind the collar of her dress--is wearing a ruby-studded cross that contains a vial of poison), and the excellent and wonderfully-named Rosa Feola.That's Meacham's bike that you see; Feola's open-framed roadster is out of the frame at stage left.

Or am I completely off base here? Were people riding frames like that in 1885?
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Old 01-23-23, 08:08 PM
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pretty sure frame like that are 1940's (post war)

1885 would more likely be a diamond frame IIRC
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Old 01-24-23, 04:09 AM
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“Artistic License”.
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Old 01-24-23, 04:44 AM
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The saddle clamp atop the post looks to be reversed, with the post behind the clamp and the saddle shoved all the way forward; if so, they got that period detail right.

That said, the seatpost looks oddly vertical, as if it's bent forward where it exits the frame.
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Old 01-24-23, 05:31 AM
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We usually go to the live Met broadcasts, but missed Fedora. But overall while the Met scenery shops are excellent and seemingly flawless in such things as clothing and weapons, they’re sometimes more clueless! But, I bet the scenery properties budget did not include a search for actual antique, rideable bikes with non-trashed saddles and which hold air and roll. If the director says “Paint it,” you destroy value when you paint an antique. So you don’t necessarily want an antique bicycle as part of the Prop Room equipment.

I agree that bike is probably 1950s. I think the seat tube looks too steep for the saddle position. I’m not student of Schwinn, but Britbike roadsters geared or single seem to have frames around 69 degrees in the 1930s through 1940s, at least. Sometimes pictured with saddle clips pointing forward. But one of the considerations is, what was Lucas Meacham able to ride? I assume they pedaled across the stage?
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Old 01-24-23, 06:56 AM
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FWIW, I spent my 20th and 25th wedding anniversary's at the Met ( Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Don Giovanni, I do love my Mozart).
I would like to se the Vegas 'Rat Pack' Rigoletto.

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Old 01-24-23, 07:07 AM
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Wasn't that a Frank Zappa album?
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Old 01-24-23, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
But one of the considerations is, what was Lucas Meacham able to ride? I assume they pedaled across the stage?
No, they just walked the bikes offstage. The stage itself is sloped toward the audience--something like a low-slope roof--for visibility. So it would be really risky to try to ride a bike across it. You'd be likely to lose control and end up in the orchestra pit, possibly impaled on a cello bow.
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Old 01-24-23, 08:04 AM
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pretty sure that's a Schwinn chainring. The name for that frame style escapes me right now. Cantilever?
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Old 01-24-23, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
...the story, which I think, is supposed to be sometime between 1880 and 1890. The opera itself (I just looked it up) was published in 1906.
1880-1892: Penny farthings (highwheelers)
1885-today:'safeties', chain drive with equal-sized wheels, however, what we would recognize as a 'diamond frame' was rare before the early 1890s.

RBR (Rideable Bicycle Replicas) builds a reproduction 1891 New Mail which would have been appropriate for the opera:

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Old 01-24-23, 08:18 AM
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I've filled my boots with lots of operas. My wife was a coloratura soprano for the Canadian Opera Company but she can't hit the high notes as we age gracefully. Her Queen of the Night was awesome.
Her bike would have been much better fit.
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Old 01-24-23, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
...I'm not a historian, and don't even know what you call this style of frame.
'Cantilever'. See: Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary.
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Old 01-24-23, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
...actual antique, rideable bikes with non-trashed saddles and which hold air and roll.
Pneumatic tires: Dunlop, commercialized ~1890, Michelin 1891. It took years for these to catch on - George T. Loher's 1895 transcon ride was still considered somewhat novel for employing Dunlop pneumatics.

Our characters would most likely have been on solids - well, it is after all a tragic opera.
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Old 01-24-23, 09:06 AM
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Watch for these on stage:

Bike Shop the Musical - Elizabeth Barkin
Il Postino - Scarpelli
One Bike Opera - Scott Betts
Spokesong - Stewart Parker

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Old 01-24-23, 11:42 AM
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-----

there was also a feature film entitled Fedora which starred William Holden

IIRC it was from about MCLXXVII

ah, har she be -

​​​​​​https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077539/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0


-----
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Old 01-24-23, 12:03 PM
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The handlebar looks especially modern, yikes.
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Old 01-24-23, 12:19 PM
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Several years ago I answered a request from a film maker for a couple of classic bikes from the 1960's. I answered his ad and included two photos - one was a Rollfast cruiser and the other was a Sears 3-speed.
He liked the bikes and asked about the price. I offered them for free, as long as he made a refundable deposit against damage or loss. I heard crickets.
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Old 01-24-23, 12:44 PM
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This is quite shocking, especially since everything else in opera is so highly realistic and accurately portrayed.
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Old 01-24-23, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Pneumatic tires: Dunlop, commercialized ~1890, Michelin 1891. It took years for these to catch on - George T. Loher's 1895 transcon ride was still considered somewhat novel for employing Dunlop pneumatics.

Our characters would most likely have been on solids - well, it is after all a tragic opera.
Reading a little further, I see that the play on which the opera was based came out in 1882. The Met just says that the setting for the opera is "in the 1880s." So that would seem to suggest solid tires.

On the other hand, the opera was published in 1906, and the librettist quite possibly just introduced the bicycles as a plot device because they were sort of a hip thing at that point. Or not--didn't the original bike boom taper off pretty quickly after the turn of the century? I suppose I could learn more about this by going back to the original play, but I'm not that crazy, thank goodness.

Possibly the properties department introduced the Schwinn frame as an homage to old Ignatz Schwinn, who started making bicyles in Chicago just about the time that Fedora appeared as an opera.
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Old 01-24-23, 01:32 PM
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OT but for those that say opera = ick..... personally i never appreciated opera until I went to one live

Just listening to opera does not give the true experience, go have to see the entire thing the music, the acting, the setting live to really get it, .... so if you have chance, go to one

it can be almost as life changing as learning about opera from bugs bunny
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Old 01-24-23, 02:39 PM
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It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for all that horrible "singing."
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Old 01-24-23, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Watch for these on stage:

Bike Shop the Musical - Elizabeth Barkin
Il Postino - Scarpelli
One Bike Opera - Scott Betts
Spokesong - Stewart Parker

What about Rockaria! - ELO?

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Old 01-24-23, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
--didn't the original bike boom taper off pretty quickly after the turn of the century?

USA - yep, pretty much, more or less.

"...the opera’s three distinctive settings—a palace in St. Petersburg, a fashionable Parisian salon, and a picturesque villa in the Swiss Alps."

Cycling going strong. Fun fact: Czar Nicholas & most of the Romanov family were cycling buffs.

https://www.adventurecycling.org/blo...ith-the-tsars/
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Old 01-24-23, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Cycling going strong. Fun fact: Czar Nicholas & most of the Romanov family were cycling buffs.
Yeah, and where did that get them?
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Old 01-24-23, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
Reading a little further, I see that the play on which the opera was based came out in 1882.
Guess: If the two characters who left the stage to ride were both male, then: highwheelers. If they were a male & a female, the librettist introduced the bikes in 1906 as a plot device/audience hook.

1906 Rudge-Whitworth ladies' No. 2 Aero Special, courtesy the On-Line Bicycle Museum:
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