Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

If the younger generation doesn’t get into opera, then guess what? NO MORE OPERA!


If there is one adjective I’d use to describe myself, it’s sophistimicated. To wit:  I sometimes put my pinky out when I’m drinking tea, I never burp in staff meetings and I always eventually correct myself when I notice my elbows are on the dinner table. I am practically the physical embodiment of Miss Manners.

Knowing this, it seemed only natural that my friend Kerri would approach me about sharing an evening at the opera. Also, it makes sense that she would ask me since I put it out into the universe (blog-o-verse?) that attending an opera was on my NYC bucket list.

lincoln center

So she booked four tickets for herself and her husband Nick, and me and Vinny to see La Boheme. You know La Boheme even if you don’t think you know La Boheme.  It’s the opera that RENT was based on. (It’s amazing how city life–whether it’s set in Paris or New York–remains the same. Here we are, generations later, still complaining about the rent being too damn high.)

I had some time to spend outside the Met while the others parked. I was delighted to see that unlike Broadway shows, where people roll in wearing ratty jeans and carrying bright yellow bags from the M&M store down the street, people still dress up for a night at the opera. It’s the kind of place where young girls wear stoles over bare shoulders, and old men wear fedoras and bow-ties. (It’s amazing how little city life has changed. Here we are, generations later, bringing back fedoras and bow-ties.)


^^^That’s some bold pattern-mixing, bro.^^^

Finally it was time to move inside. If you’ve never been to the Met at Lincoln Center, it’s worth the price of admission just to be inside this place. I usually cringe at real fancy-pants joints because they always feel pretentious, but the Met’s decor, despite its flash, is pure, opulent elegance. Red velvet lines the walls and the cascading stairs, the ceiling is painted gilded gold, and the chandeliers are spectacular and damn near blinding. It’s special and it’s beautiful. You feel privileged to be there.

Weeks prior, we had joked about wearing opera-length gloves and binoculars, but when I saw beautiful Kerri on the plush red velvet steps, that girl was wearing the cowboy boots she bought while visiting Texas for our wedding. I thanked her for bringing some real culture to the place.

We continued climbing the stairs until we got to our $37 seats. We knew we were in the right place when the altitude sickness kicked in.


 ^^^What time is it? It’s SHOWTIME!^^^

So here is a complete layperson’s quickie synopsis of an opera. So, wow. These people are like, reallllly melodramatic. I guess everything sounds dramatic when  you’re singing instead of speaking, but if this show had been performed in English I would have laughed my ass off. The opera was set in France and performed in Italian, so thankfully the opera house has these nifty little ticker tapes on the back of each chair so you can see the English translation. The arias are so incredibly full and beautiful and powerful, that reading the English translation made you realize how banal some of these conversations were.

In Act I, a man sang so beautifully I almost cried. I looked down and read the English translation and realized that he just said “I need to finish my article for the Beaver Times. I’ll be finished in five minutes.”

And then there’s the pace at which romance blooms. Two people meet for the first time, and ten minutes later the chick is like, “Tell me that you love me.” We had to hold ourselves back from yelling “Pump the brakes!” from up in the cheap seats. I mean, I guess you gotta move fast when TB is sweeping the country, but still, a little hard to get never hurt anyone.

 And then there’s the sets. Holeee cow. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more impressed by a set before. The stage was the size of my entire neighborhood. In one act there was a horse, a donkey, a few carriages, an entire city block and about 200 people on stage.  Then, out of nowhere, a full marching band tromped across the stage. It’s difficult to imagine any space in Manhattan being able to hold that much. I can’t even fit a tall bottle of olive oil in my kitchen cabinets.

^^^AP photo by Ken Howard for the Metropolitan Opera^^^

I’m not going to spoil it for anyone by revealing the ending, but let’s just say it ended in pretty dramatic fashion, which should come as no surprise. And then came the bows, which lasted so long it was an almost an act in itself. But these performers deserve every minute of applause. Their talent is humbling.


 ^^^Photobombed by a glum statue. PS: I’m not pregnant. This was a bad angle.^^^

The curtain dropped, the crowds parted and we headed toward our own carriage (ie: Honda) to head back to Queens. And in the spirit of the evening, I shall sing what happens next in Italian:  Mio marito ha spinto a un ristorante per ottenere un Hamburger al Formaggio.

Loose English translation: Vinny drove to Burger King for a Whopper deluxe.

Now that’s a buona Friday notte.

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • RheelDaze
    This was a fantastically genuine depiction of what it is to attend the opera. I always love your down to Earth take on things. I too have a habit of pointing out how dramatic things are when their sole purpose is to be dramatic. I watched Gone With The Wind for the first time two nights ago and was like “Jesus! Is this not a little over the top?! I’m going to be hearing background violins in my sleep!” I cracked up when you nearly cried at the guy writing a piece for the Beaver Times. Still, you make it sound like something to be experienced at least once. I went to the ballet after years of wanting to see it two Christmases ago and loved it. This was really funny. I want to go to the Opera now.
    • Jenn from much to my delight
      You absolutely should go! It’s definitely one of those things that we as New Yorkers should really take advantage of. I’m not saying I’m getting season tickets or anything, but I’d totally go again. I hear Madame Butterfly is great. But yes…totally got a kick out of the drama. And the last time I watched Gone with the Wind I basically spent the entire movie diagnosing Scarlett O’Hara. How that many men fawned over her, I’ll never understand.
  • Jason
    I had a similar thought about how opera would be experienced if it was in English. It amazes me how mundane banter is translated into an immortal, hyperemotional Italian tune. The first five minutes of Carmen is basically: “Have you seen the corporal?” “No. His shift hasn’t started.” “Want to wait here, girl? We’ll be nice.” “No, thanks. I’ll come back later.” Do you have any idea how Italian-speaking folks experience the lyrics in opera? I’ve meant to ask.
    • Jenn from much to my delight
      That’s a great question, Jason! I’m guessing they can just have a great appreciation for the actual signing, and not be as distracted by having to read an interpretation while they go. I actually found it a little difficult to be fully taken in by the beautiful singing because I was busy trying to figure out where the story was going.
  • chefjamielevine
    So I actually saw La Boheme at the Met years ago, I went for my birthday. I didn’t have the English translator on for the first act, and thought I was going to walk out, but It got better when I knew what they were saying. I have to agree that the picture you have up from the third act is–to this day one– of the most incredible sets I’ve seen on live stage. That being said, I didn’t rush to get season tickets.
  • Meg
    The opera has been on my bucket list for a while, too, but two separate entities — my parents and a cousin — both went on separate occasions and . . . fell asleep. Dead asleep! They were embarrassed and laughing when each told me their stories, but that didn’t bode well for me. I like to think I can get down with some good cultural experiences, but I am rather sleepy about 80 percent of the time. :) Glad you had fun, and I enjoyed your recap!