Monday, March 13, 2006

Recitatives and Rednecks

The first year I bought season opera tickets Andrew was curious. “You want to get tickets? Okay . . .” After his first three-hour production he was decidedly less enthusiastic. Why, if he had to sit through three hours of Verdi, couldn’t he at least get a good hot dog to help him through the trauma—a decent concessions stand was what the Anchorage Opera needed to boost tickets sales—that without nachos and a Coke opera didn’t stand a chance.

Things did get better until half-way through his first Wagner I turned to him during intermission and asked, “So now that you’ve had more of a taste, do you like it?”

He got rather serious and after considering the question replied, “Well, you know it’s kind of like eating vegetables. You don’t want to do it at all and might even avoid it most of the meal but after you get it down you know it was good for you.”

Great. An evening with me at the opera is right there on his jolly list next to eating vegetables. Next he’ll say going out to dinner is a trip to the dentist. But he’s been a good sport and has sat through Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Rossini and this weekend’s Madame Butterfly, or as those who carry real opera glasses instead of camo-patterned binoculars say, “Ma-DAM-uh Butterfly.” I anticipated a lovely evening of music and culture with my dear husband suffering along in silence. Well . . . not exactly silence.

The story is of a geisha who marries an American naval officer. She’s deeply in love with him but he’s merely toying with her, planning to trade her in for a “real American” wife whenever the urge strikes him. When he leaves she kills herself with her dead father’s sword.

The music was wonderful, the soprano fabulous and Andrew and I were enjoying ourselves—yes, even Andrew though he whined a bit about missing his cold cereal night cap—when the final scene began. In despair Madame Butterfly turns her back to the audience, draws her sword and as a giant American flag—no make that
giant American flag, the biggest I’ve ever seen, large enough to stretch from wall to wall and ceiling to floor—descends like a curtain, blocking her from view, a spotlight shines on her from backstage. It shines onto the giant flag—did I make it clear that it is the biggest flag on the planet?—projecting her vivid shadow within the circle of light. Arms outstretched, she stabs herself in the heart and her shadow staggers around, dying in a ghastly display of flying hair, robes and swooning. She collapses and the flag drops, crumpling in a heap over her dead body. A brutal funeral mound remaining as a testament of the evil empire that brought such misery. Curtain drops.

Hmmmm . . . .I have to say I was a little uncomfortable with the whole thing, it was in poor taste and made me raise an eyebrow as the audience widely applauded but I had rather reservedly and politely joined in when suddenly from my seat on the absolute back row of the balcony I heard a loud, “BOOOOOO!” More accurately, I heard it as, “BOO-URF!” because in the microsecond it took for my brain to register the sound, I turned to my left and saw Andrew with his hands cupped around his mouth, letting go his uber-conservative-apple-pie-eatin’
-Republican-votin’-Rush-Limbaugh-lovin’-sensibilities. I saw in that half-instant where it was going and in a scene that plays in slow motion in my mind I threw myself into Andrew (most particularly with my elbow) and cut him off right there.

He stopped with his hands poised, wind all knocked out, and looked at me as if I might be insane but I looked at him and
knew he was. He shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect that he wasn’t going to sit still while they threw their liberal anti-American ideas in his face but I wasn’t buying it. Like I said, I thought the display was in poor taste but had he even looked around? There were more Birkenstocks in that theater than at a John Kerry rally and he wasn’t going to get any sympathy for his patriotism from his fellow theater-goers.

Confused at this point, he started to explain that he had a duty to make his moral position heard but I assured him that should he wish to do that he could walk out, refuse to clap, write a letter, cancel his season tickets, heck, he could even picket the opera’s downtown office dressed as a geisha but he WASN’T going to embarrass me.

“But—” he protested.

“Do NOT embarrass me!” I hissed and continued my restrained clapping.

Don’t kid yourself, your typical Anchorage opera audience isn’t the classiest crowd, you’ll see everything from tuxedos to tee-shirts but white trash or not I wasn’t going to let him boo the soprano. He was a little shocked that I didn’t care to take up arms in the matter and began grumbling about liberal agendas and how Madame Butterfly was probably a metaphor for Hilary Clinton but it wasn’t going to fly.

I should have brought the tranquilizers but somehow I elbowed through the crowd and got him outside where the rush of the moment began to wear off and he felt rather sheepish about his sudden burst of national pride. But the damage had been done, so much for my season tickets. Andrew’s convinced there’s no trusting the Anchorage Opera and that next season’s production of the
HMS Pinafore will surely be ravaged by liberal ideals until the “Post-Modern” Major General is likely to end up a very effeminate affair. So much for music soothing the savage breast.


local girl said...

Wow! For someone who didn't even like the opera to begin with, he sure got involved! I think it's great that he stands up for what he believes in!

Thank you for sharing this with the Carnival of Family Life!

Stephanie said...

Tim performed this is college. I can't remember how that scene was staged, but I am pretty sure it was not like that! Sometimes it is hard to be a conservative in the arts world! :)

Good story!

Lara said...

What a bizarre way to stage that scence. Though I wouldn't have been as vocal as your husband, I think I would have booed on the inside!

Here via CFL.

Lisa said...

Great story. Sounds like Andrew really ended up getting into the opera after all!! Too bad it ended up being a little embarrassing for you.

Here via the carnival of family life.

Mert said...

Oh my, too funny! Err, well... now it is, right?

I really liked the part about it being a metaphor for Hilary Clinton. *snort* Here from the CFL.

Kerri said...

Are you sure it wasn't like the kids breaking a plate so they don't have to do the dishes? "If I boo and embarrass her, maybe she won't want me to come to the opera anymore..." Hmmm... :D

Here vis CoFL

karen lynch said...

So I guess Andrew won't be going to the Opera again?
Great story. Glad I found it on the CFL

Binoculars said...

This is a nice story.Thanks for the blog.