A night at the opera.
Neither a Marx brothers film nor a Queen album. I had been unable to find an opera buddy until ED moved to Arizona and agreed to join me one night. We shopped for clothing to fit the occasion without being overly elegant. ED was pregnant with Mowgli at the time, so her selection was limited. I bought the tickets; she paid for dinner. We promised to make this an annual event.
Love that dress!
One of the highlights of the Saturday night performance is the women who dress formally. Most often they are young adults and often attend in group. Occasionally one of the women is accompanied by a man dressed in tuxedo or black tie evening wear. The opera venue provides a backdrop for photos. There is often relevant entertainment in the lobby, perhaps dancers to match the mood of the opera. Jewelry and scarves by local artists are offered for sale, as well as opera appropriate paraphernalia such as opera glasses, CDs, and books. There is a sense of celebration not experienced at a symphony concert.
15 years and still going strong
We attended our first opera 15 years ago, and we have attended every year except in 2021 when the pandemic kept us away. This year, ED and I were joined by Little Sis and her friend to view Carmen. Preperformance publicity warned us that vaccination cards would be required or a recent negative Covid test. No drinks would be allowed inside the auditorium. Food is no longer available. Masks would be required unless drinking.
We no longer shop for opera clothing, instead donning whatever we have on hand. We wear makeup as a nod to elgance. The number of women wearing long gowns was down this year. Other than the photo booth and gift items and, of course, the bars, the lobby hosted no other displays. The feeling of gala was subdued.
We carried our plastic cups of wine into the auditorium, unchallenged by the ushers. My sister’s friend, already uncomfortable mingling in crowds, was disturbed by the number of audience members who removed their masks during the performance. In my section of the auditorium, everyone remained masked.
ED and I enjoyed the performance, grateful that Carmen did not prolong her death as had Mimi in La Boheme which actually led to giggling in the audience. But the glitz was not there. We were disappointed in the lack of color of costumes, a flattened energy of performance. It is quite likely that we carried within us the stress of the past two years, expecting more than a night out can provide.
The lead singers were unmasked, but the chorus members wore masks. I can’t help but consider that they must feel some restriction. As an audience member, I experienced my mask as a barrier to connecting with the cast.
There’s something about live performances
Musical recordings cannot replace live performances. Talking through a phone cannot replace face to face interactions. In either case, the visual sense enhances the auditory. Observing a singer’s mouth preparing the next phrase and the eyes expressing passion is limited when the singers are masked. The audience is crippled in conveying their response to the performance.
I agree with the mandates. The performers expose themselves to hundreds of audience members and need to protect their health and livelihood. Thus, I am vaccinated, boosted, wear a mask, and stay away from unprotected crowds. That said, I can’t wait to see another live performance, when we share the same air, communicate visually, and the sound waves travel freely. When the audience and cast are partners in performance.