Sunday, May 18

Mrs. Wells Goes to the Opera

Last night I attended my first opera, Puccini's Tosca. Eric bought tickets for me, his mom, and his sisters for Christmas. I'm always up for a new cultural experience, and I'd never been to an opera--plenty of plays, but never an opera--so I looked forward to the experience. However, as the day approached I ran into that ever present issue for a woman: What to wear? It's not as if I'm a regular opera goer and we were going on opening night, so I was sure that up'ed the ante as far as wardrobe was concerned. So, I did what I usually do in those situations. I asked Eric. He advised me to wear my black dress. Since there was no other criteria to consider, I agreed. Wouldn't you know it, we showed up to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on opening night and practically every woman I saw was in black. It's like Eric has a female sixth sense or something--how does he do that? I mean, his daily wardrobe includes cargo shorts and t-shirts with cocky designs. (For instance, he has a t-shirt with a picture of a bride and groom cutting a wedding cake with a caption below that reads, "Big Mistake.") But I digress.

To return to the opera: I took advantage of the chance to dress-up a bit and did the whole nine yards--hair, make-up, pearls, etc. Erin always makes fun of me, but I must have done a decent job because Eric approved. I don't wear make-up that often, so he took advantage of the blue moon and preserved the Kodak moment. So, dressed to impress, we met up with his mom and sisters and headed for downtown L.A. I'm pretty sure we were the only opera goers arriving in a Dodge Ram pickup (again--and Eric says my family's redneck!). The opera was set to begin at 7:30 and I worked all day, so we didn't have time for dinner. Instead we grabbed soup and sandwiches at a little stand outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and ate standing at the bar. It was a bit busy, so I was stuck next to the condiments and people stepped in front of me every now and then to get napkins and whatnot. Eric told me later that at one point when a woman stepped away he started to check me out and then realized it was his wife. ...He said that in a way that suggested his thoughts went from a definite interest to "Oh--nevermind." Thanks, sweetie.

It's too bad pictures weren't allowed inside the auditorium. It was pretty impressive. We were up in the balcony and as we walked down a surprisingly steep stairway to our seats I discovered a newfound fear of heights. It really felt as if one false step would send you tumbling down onto the seats below. Fortunately there were no false steps, so there was no tumbling. The opera began a few minutes late, as is customary. Wish that was a policy in my line of work.

Considering Tosca's libretto is in Italian, I wasn't sure if I would even be able to comprehend what was going on once the action started, but there was a screen mounted above the stage that presented the lyrics in English, each phrase fading in and out. Even though I had never seen an opera before, I was expecting it to be melodramatic, but I found it to be much more so than I ever expected. The music was beautiful and the singers' musical talents were amazing, but some of the lyrics reminded me of Harlequin romances:

Oh, at your side to listen there
To the voices of the night
As they rise through the starlit,
Shadowed silences:
From the woods, from the thickets
And the dry grass, from the depths
Of shattered tombs
Scented with thyme,
The night murmurs
Its thousand loves
And false counsels
To soften and seduce the heart.
Oh wide fields, blossom! and sea winds throb
In the moon's radiance, ah,
Rain down desire you vaulted stars!
Tosca burns with a mad love!

No offense to you romance fans out there, but that kind of stuff just isn't my bag. At one point one of the characters sings of the "enrapturing"scent of roses. That word made me wonder if I'd ever been "enraptured" by anything... The best I could come up with was an image of a warm brownie fresh from the oven with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over it. So, to a certain extent the over the top emotion took me out of it, but I was undeniably amazed at Puccini's skill at musical expression. In a way, I think the words are distracting--the music was so directly emotional I think the words were superfluous. The music had an epic quality and swept you along on the emotional roller coaster ride of the story. The plot, of course, is full of intrigue. I can do no better than the L.A. Opera website's description of this "action-packed psychological thriller":
"Political power and its abuse intensify the tragic love triangle between the fiery diva Floria Tosca, the handsome painter Mario Cavaradossi, and the sadistic police chief Baron Scarpia. Obsessed with the tempestuous singer, the villainous Baron plays a cruel cat-and-mouse game with her and her lover. Tosca strikes a bargain with the diabolical Scarpia only to experience horrifying consequences."

What I enjoyed also was the idea that I was seeing a production that originally came to the stage in Rome circa 1900. To think that Puccini composed this opera over a hundred years ago and it is still being performed in opera houses across the world today is amazing.


  1. i dont think im a redneck!

  2. Wow, I just went to Tosca this last Sunday and I loved it!