A conversation with a friend today sent me into one of those flashbacks where you are living a long-ago event so fully that you can almost smell it. My flashback was a year when I bought season tickets to the opera. I had never been to an opera before, and I didn’t particularly like any music I’d heard from opera, but I new plenty of people who loved opera and I respected their judgment. I figured if I were exposed to opera, I’d learn to love it too.
Since I was going alone, I bought Sunday matinee tickets, so the audience was made up of typical Sunday matinee people. Meaning old. The seat directly behind me was held by a stout elderly woman whose love for opera was obviously enthusiastic. She was accompanied by her mother, who was approximately two hundred. The mother was a tiny, wizened woman who wore a ratty fur piece around her neck that she’d probably had since the 30s. The fur looked like squirrel tails, but was probably something else. The mother had not come to the opera willingly, and she made her displeasure known as loudly as her daughter made her excitement known.
After the third or fourth week, I knew I was never going to be an opera fan, but I was hooked on the tragi-comic drama behind me. The mother was near deaf, and didn’t see too well either, which led the daughter to bray the on-stage action to her every few minutes. Like, “THE SOLDIERS ARE COMING, MAMA!” to which the old lady would grunt. At least once in every opera, the daughter would shout, “ARE YOU HAVING A GOOD TIME, MAMA?” The mother would say, “Well, I can’t hear it and I can’t see it, so what do you think?” Oblivious, the daughter would say, “THAT’S GOOD, MAMA!”
Now that operas have English subtitles so rubes like me can understand what’s going on, I might give them a try again. But I doubt that any will ever entertain me as much as the weekly drama of a good daughter wanting to share something she loved with her mother, and a mother suffering through weekly boredom to show her daughter she loved her. That’s the stuff from which operas are made.