Last night, a lovely friend and I had the opportunity to exhibit our "culture vulture" sides. As Leah put it, "We are TOTALLY cultured."
And it was BEAUTIFUL. Just the atmosphere of the other opera-goers is enough to give anyone that tingling of anticipation. Although we brought the average age of the audience by a solid 20 years, it was spectacular.
From the first whispered strains, before the curtain even rose, I was hooked. The entire production was sheer opulence. All of the costumes were to DIE for, and all the scenery was lush in every aspect. One of Violetta's dresses nearly brought tears to my eyes- and not from being so emotional ,but because it was SO SPARKLY. SHINIEST DRESS EVER. Which in this girl's opinion, makes it the awesomest ever. And the physicality required of the actors/singers/operalias was so impressive. Having no microphones to speak of, and reaching every single ear in a packed house of hundreds just gave me goosebumps- let alone the soaring high "c's". Being able to not only sing like that, but to have to ACT it well enough so that hundreds of people who don't understand the words you're saying can emote along with you? It's just amazing. I guess there's a reason that its such a prestigious artform. Not a major shocker, but its still nice to be able to appreciate it.
And you have to love ANY artform that has an ending like this: Violetta, who has just been reunited with her life's love while on her deathbed, seems to get a burst of strength, leading us to believe that perhaps she can be healed and go on living and loving. She stands on her own, singing of her newfound strength, sings "OH JOY" (in Italian) at her happiness, hugs Alfredo, then dies in his arms (insert cartoony sound of deflating balloon in my mind.) Now I was already crying at this point, but I was waiting for the cathartic song after that where Alfredo perhaps mourns her. Maybe he would find new purpose and promise to love again, or perhaps grow bitter and carry on his days in agony without his love, but Opera, apparently, doesn't give you that. Just "Oh Joy!" **pfffffffffft.** I was left wondering "what is the message of this? Don't get tuberculosis? It was worth it to die for honor? God is an unjust jerk? Love is fleeting? She deserved it because she was previously a courtesan?"
The more I thought about it, the more my need to tie all of the strings up seemed a product of modern entertainment. For all of its over-the-top melodrama, and beyond realistic emotion, maybe Opera is closer to real-life than I previously gave it credit for. Sometimes, drama or tragedy just happens, without rhyme or reason; without catharsis. In the real world, like La Traviata, sometimes the Violettas truly just die. And I was sad to see her go, but you've got to admit, she went out with style.