Tuesday night we waddled from Columbus Circle up Broadway on slippery slate sidewalks in silly fancy shoes with no traction. If I’m not good in this life, I’m coming back as a ghost in heels forced to walk the city’s slick sidewalks for all eternity. Meanwhile, my hot date strutted along in those men’s looks-like-a-pump-feels-like-a-sneaker shoes.
We turned the corner and sighed the sigh of knowing we were going to enjoy the next three hours of our lives. Guaranteed. That’s what it is to go to The Metropolitan Opera. Now that they sometimes offer $25 tickets, we go more often. Our seats were two rows from the very highest back, but there are no bad views at the opera.
Though there’s love and sacrifice, macho men being dumb, the narrative’s driving force is vengeance at all costs. I skimmed Il Trovatore’s summary and went in expecting a tragic love story, but it’s much more complex. I was tempted to turn off the subtitles in front of my seat to see if the experience is better without a glowing screen, but after the first number I succumbed to the urge to know the plot.
The only thing I didn’t love was the set. It’s quartered and rotates on a massive lazy Susan-style platform, but all the greys and browns and dingy costumes make for a dreary sight. Granted, it’s a time of bloody war, but I’m a sucker for artistic sets that add something. No need to transport me to a massive wall.
On paper, the melodramatic plot front-loaded with backstory didn’t seem big enough to fill this stage. Wrong, wrong, wrong. With opera, the whole is always better than the parts. Every time Angela Meade opened her mouth I closed my eyes and forgot about the subtitles. The emotion behind whatever the lyrics are stirs and fills you. The range of their voices reminds you you’re a human capable of pure emotion, which is welcome when delivered in the form of an aria. Leonora’s first song is what yearning sounds like. Later we get fear, passion, hope, desperation, and it all lingers in you for days because everyone on stage sings their heart out.
And they’re not the only ones.
So somebody in our section joined in a few times. First I heard a faint humming and thought No. People don’t sing along with the opera. This dude did. Someone shushed him and I felt bad because he actually knew the words and didn’t sound bad, but singing along at the opera is not something I can get behind. But going is. Now that they’re making it more affordable, I hope everyone goes at least once. Those plush seats are too comfortable to be empty.
Sitting at the Lincoln Center fountain at night was something my sister and I loved to do when I first moved here. We’d get eclairs in Little Italy, grab a cappuccino around the corner and picnic/people watch from the fountain as people arrived for their shows. Surrounded by Broadway and three grand theatres, you can’t help but dream. We’d stay till after intermission when audiences would float out to the terrace, champagne in hand. Then we’d walk home, swept up in a sense of possibility.
On this night, my boyfriend and I ran into a friend on the subway who proceeded to describe a rat that walked onto his train car that morning. “I don’t want to have this conversation,” put a stop to that reunion and I retreated to the lovely voices still singing in my head. Rats be gone.
Happy Year of the Monkey!