An Afternoon at the Opera

Daughter and I attended the live streaming event of Maria Stuarda today. She wanted to see what an opera was like, and we were only going to stay for a little while, but we were riveted. We stayed for the entire 3 1/2 hours. There was an audacious insult throwdown between Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth that had us delightfully appalled. Daughter loved that Elizabeth sang in a sweet, beautiful voice, “If you betray me, I will kill you!” When the mezzo-soprano Mary Stuart sang, daughter was moved to tears, just like the NPR reviewer.

This event streams operas live to movie theaters across the country, which is great for us folks in fly-over states. Before the show, we saw the extras mingling on stage. At intermission, they interviewed the singers, still breathless from the stage. They showed the crews backstage hammering the sets together. And they lingered on the audience and seats in the Metropolitan Opera theater for the remaining minutes of the intermission.

A flood of memories came back. I told daughter about the time I dated Daddy in college and I hoped he would invite me to the New Year’s Eve rehearsal of Der Feldermaus, and he did! And we saw it there, in that very theater. I told her about the time after college that a co-worker passed along her tickets to a concert at Lincoln Center, and we sat in those balcony seats on the right.* It was a special event for Kurt Masur and the entire orchestra company assembled to play Ravel’s Bolero. It was so overwhelming that the guy next to us leapt to his feet and nearly hurled himself over the banister, shouting, “Bravo!” And he was right, it was that good! I told her we saw Madame Butterfly in grad school (in a different theater in a different city), but we left at intermission because we’d just adopted a stray dog, and we were so worried that he’d be worried being left all alone. That dog became known as Otis, beloved Otis who died, loyal to the end, a few years ago.

I’ve lost a lot of memory in the trauma of these past eight months, and the last years of my husband’s life were not always admirable, due to his illness. How gratifying it was to sit with my daughter and tell her about the man I fell in love with, to let her know that we had good times, and to be able to recollect it again. I had a good life with him.

*It later occurred to me that there is a Met Opera theater and a Lincoln Center theater, and I conflated the two in my story. No matter. The balcony seats are similar, and what’s a family oral history (with Irish-American roots, no less) without a wee bit of embellishment?


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