Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Meet me in Verona

Sig Other loves the opera.  He loves the music, he loves the voices, he loves the drama.  So when we found ourselves in Vienna for a night, staying at a hotel directly across from the Opera House, he immediately went about securing tickets to that evening’s performance of Rigoletto.  As it was high season and tickets were scarce, he was unable to find four together.  But the concierge did manage to find two pairs of seats in boxes directly opposite one another.  And so it was decided – we’d dig into our suitcases of shlubby travel clothes, put together an acceptable outfit and attend the opera as a family in style.

The Vienna Opera House is stunning and if you’ve never had the opportunity to sit in a box at the opera it is truly a special feeling.  Just inside the door to our box was a red velvet anteroom with its coat hooks and bench and mirror and imagined myself in the 1800s having arrived by horse and carriage and hanging my long coat on hooks before fishing out my fan and opera glasses.  Child Two and I took our seats in front, I showed him the little pop up translator box and changed the setting to English and we settled in.  He made it through half the first act before passing out on the balcony railing, heads in arms.  I poked him periodically to make sure he wasn’t snoring.

Rigoletto, Sig Other had warned me, has a complicated plot with twists and turns that are difficult to follow.  He’s wrong, of course.  It’s incredibly simple and sort of silly really.  It’s about betrayal and revenge and the love of a father for his daughter.  Sig Other tried to taunt me with his knowledge of plot as the end approached.  “Its so tense,” he said, “you have no idea what’s going to happen.”  “She’s going to die,” I said and he looked sort of crushed.  “Her father said that thing about dressing as a boy.”  “But its tragic,” he continued.  And of course she died.  And of course Sig Other wept and clung to Child One.

The thing about opera is this – its structure is antithetical to how I life my life (and how I do my job for that matter).  Opera takes something very, very simple and makes it very, very complex and overwrought.  Subtlety is thrown out the window.  It’s a teenage fantasy really.  A thought as basic as “You’re pretty” can turn into a ten minute aria and “I’m going across town to tell the baker” becomes high drama.  I suppose Shakespeare could be accused of the same.  I suppose a sonnet is really just a long, drawn out declaration of a simple thought.  But the truth is that the music of Shakespeare’s language is just easier on my ear.  The cadence of the well-written word is a rhythm I find more enjoyable. 

This is not to discount the EXPERIENCE of going to the opera. I will happily escort my husband on special occasions and when we find ourselves in cities boasting phenomenal operas.  I enjoy the architecture and the feeling of being thrust back to another era.  And the idea of attending La Scala in black tie is truly marvelous.  Its just that I find my editorial instincts taking over and wondering why “I love you” couldn’t be said in a shorter amount of time.  I find myself thinking a truly complicated plot could justify three full acts and my mind drifts to how those women sing in those tight corsets and why all opera singers are a little hefty.  And then to this: when the man says, “dress as a boy and meet me in Verona” you know bad things will happen.