Should You Go to the Opera?

Weeks ago, a text flew around about whether I wanted in on a Girls’ Night Out. It was a dinner and opera night in the city — Cinderella at the Lyric.

“Yes!” so many of us texted back. “Sounds fun! Thanks so much for putting it all together!” The honest truth somedays is that anything new sounds exciting and worthwhile even if a little voice in the back of your brain is piping up with, “Do you really want to go to the opera?”

I’ve only been to the opera once, while in college. I don’t remember much about it other than it felt long. I remember it feeling special, though, too. But I haven’t had the desire to see an opera again, not the way I regularly have a soulful need for a broadway musical. I was young, though, at the time of that last opera, and I thought, when I said yes to this opera date, that surely I’ve matured a lot since the first time around; we evolve, right?

Well, here we were — seven girlfriends who’d left our children at home for a night of culture. We found our seats in the balcony section and settled in as the lights dimmed. We hurriedly typed out our last messages on our phones and then turned them off; we were, now, at the opera, as I’m sure we had relayed to everyone in our last texts because nothing makes you sound more like you’re somebody than saying that you’re at the opera. 

We somebodies lasted two acts. In the intermission, I hesitantly explained that I’d been up since 5am, had worked all day, and though I loved what I had heard and had enjoyed the experience thus far, I was ready to conclude my night. It was Cinderella, after all, and I knew how that ended, I explained. I couldn’t read the rest of the group, though; were they digging it?

I was interested in it, the way you are in a show for a couple of seconds before you flip the channel. It wasn’t holding me, and it certainly wasn’t going to hold me for the next two acts.

I said what my plan was for the rest of the night and waited. Turns out, half an opera and being in our pajamas before midnight was what everyone in the group wanted, though most, like me, were afraid to admit it. Everyone hedged, “Well, if it’s ok with everyone, I might just head out with you,” the first woman offered until every last one admitted laughingly that while we enjoyed the experience, we were all done with it; our culture level, as low as it was, had been reached.

So, do I think you should go to the opera? Well, of course, you do you. If you’ve never been, I’d still say go. Why? Because you’ll understand references and have background knowledge and when someone says, “Have you ever been to the opera?” You can say, “Indeed.”

But if you’re at all hesitant? Then, maybe, this review is for you: Operas are long. Like, so very long. I felt like I was listening to my young children tell a story, in song. Can you picture that? That long. And, I know I’m giving up the level of culture I have, the point at which my evolution as a cultured human has stopped. I’m ok with that. Even though every review I read raved about this opera performance, I think there are more of us out there like me who like it, but are not three-hours-gonna-like-it.

Cinderella took 10 minutes to leave at midnight. I was like, “Drop the damn shoe already and go!” And also, she didn’t drop the shoe. I’m not sure about how that went down because, of course, we left.

I knew I wouldn’t know what they were saying exactly — it’s in French, and then with the operatic annunciation — but they put the words up now on a computerized banner sign high above the stage. It felt like reading subtitles, which I hate. Again, zero culture here. Do I watch or do I read? I’m watching. What are they saying, though? And now I’m reading. It’s too much for me. I like my books in my hands and my shows without printed words.

It’s all very theatery; I could picture these actors backstage. I bet they’re fun in the way that theater people are — extra and energetic. But it felt boring for me on stage. I (gasp) wanted to check my phone. I did not. I was a proper opera goer.

I have not, as I had hoped, matured in the way I might have imagined since I’d last been at the opera.

Though, perhaps I had. That first time I was just as ready to leave, I remember now, but I’d never have done just what I wanted then. I would never have told a group, without knowing where they stood, that I was going to leave. This time, I did.

And, interestingly, we all felt the same; every last one of us didn’t have what it takes to be an opera fan, it turns out. I drove all seven of us home in my minivan and I was asleep by 11pm, which makes me want to aria and, actually, I do understand that that’s not the way to use the word “aria.”

Anne FlavinComment