Who would have thought, after all the years of giggling at and making fun of opera singers, that I would become an opera fan?
My younger brother, Jerry, used to imitate the sound, as he heard it, of an operatic tenor. In his most sincerely serious mock voice, the eleven year old made up a heartbreaking aria, using self-invented words that sounded somewhat in the area of Italian to him. In his self-written masterpiece of operatic music, he put on his most painful facial expression and sang his famous leading aria,
“Ah cha pa TAT-IO!” As he belted out his big performance to his audience of one: me. I pretended to emit a sad, soulful sob at the start of the song.
How odd that I would remember that song after all these years, but I do remember it with great clarity. Today, over fifty years later, I anticipate with great excitement, my husband and my opportunity to see the opera “La Boehme, ” in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera House. What a thrill!
The theater is imposing: five balconies high. Tickets in the 4th or 5th balcony, since they are so far from the stage, are referred to as the “nosebleed section.”
As in many large arts institutions the attraction on the first floor is the gift shop. It is stocked with clever, if overpriced items like long rectangular note paper to leave at our telephone to jot down phone messages. The notepaper’s heading is, ”Chopin Liszt.” And if you would like a special pen with which to write your phone messages (on the Shopping list), try the ball point pen styled to resemble William Shakespeare.
The restaurant in the theater, The Grand Tier, offers a unique treat; enjoy your lunch and head back to the theater. But first you may order and pre-pay for dessert. At intermission simply return to your table to miraculously find your dessert and coffee (or tea) awaiting your return.
We reached our seats. The curtain rose to the stage setting of a Parisian garret, home of a young, poor artist. I was surprised that there was no overture; the conductor advanced immediately to the scene of young artists preparing their work while suffering from the cold and from very little food. The voices of the performers filled the auditorium with the beautiful, melodic sounds of Puccini’s opera. The music is glorious, the acoustics superb, the stage setting spectacular. La Boehme was staged by the film director, Franco Zaffirelli, and is as dramatic and beautiful as the music.
So, on many levels, this afternoon at the opera was a memorable experience.