Last night in an attempt to become a more cultured and well rounded person, I accepted the extra ticket my friend had to the opera. I strapped my body into a far too short dress I found at the back of my closet, because it had a collar and I figured that would look refined, put my glasses on in case we were in the balcony, and made my way downtown.
Outside the front door I was greeted by a gentleman wearing a full length cape. I paused, expecting him to break into song, or at least check my ticket. But his entire purpose was to stand there in his gorgeous black cape and say in the most dignified of voices “Good evening, miss.”
I met my friend at the table she was working at. Her coworker was seated next to her, shellacking a handful of beautiful indigo fingernails. She was wearing a fuchsia jacket with a collar a full six inches larger than my own. When my friend told her this was my first opera she replied “Well, this is a good one to lose your virginity to.” And by that I expect she meant opera virginity, because who the hell would want to bone to an opera?
They explained to me that this opera was an easy one to follow along to. The story was funny and sexual (not my words) and that even though it is a four hour show and all in French* I was sure to love it.
I was like, Hold the phone. I’m about to sit through four hours of people singing words I don’t even understand? In true opera fashion is there time to fake my own death before this gets going? But alas, I was already there and my excitement was only slightly deterred so I headed into the theatre to find my seat.
It took me a good full minute to get my coat to lay flat against my seat while I simultaneously tugged at the bottom of my skirt, and balanced my program and cell phone in the other hand. The seats were covered in a rose gold velvet that would give the latest iPhone back a run for its money. The ceilings were enormously high with gold embroidered balconies jutting out into the air. White haired patrons gathered in the rows ahead of me like a decrepit sea, the aroma of which was like a spicy venison and Vicks Vapor Rub.
The curtain pulled up on two women in bed together, and I was immediately confused. They began to sing a love song to each other in French*, as they romped in the sheets. The one in a ponytail was apparently supposed to be a boy, but seeing as the role was played by a Soprano, it could have fooled me. For all I knew, this was an opera about French* lesbians.
Luckily, there was a bar on top of the proscenium translating the songs into English. But if I wanted to read the words, I would miss a bit of the action on stage, so after a few minutes of live bobble heading, I fixed my gaze on the characters. There were characters dressed as other characters in some sort of tom foolery, but I was too busy trying to figure out if the images painted on the back of the set were nude or not to really care about who was who.
The costumes and set were lavishly over the top. The walls were stretched tall, and the skirts were puffed out. It looked like a page out of Cinderella. In one scene a market takes place inside of one woman’s bedroom, which I will just trust is historically accurate and not question it. She is sent a singer as a gift (bring that back, I want to be serenaded on the reg while I’m doing my work) and presented with feathered hats, and decadent foods. Then, the most incredible and dramatic part of the entire thing happened. I can only sum it up as the greatest thing to ever happen ever during a live performance that I was in the audience for.
A man walked three tiny little puppies onto the stage. They were like three little puff corns, prancing through the velvet clad ensemble. And like that I was completely engrossed. They were delicate, graceful, and handsome. They made their way across the stage the way I imagine three cotton balls sent from Heaven might perform a waltz. Their energy was palpable, even from where I was sitting, but they made no noise. Oh no, they were well-behaved. Then, there was a startle of commotion! In a flurry two of them tangled their leashes together, one got away from the actor and ran backstage, and a single tear fell my eye as I lightly applauded their magnificent performance.
I can’t tell you how the opera ended because I have horrible etiquette and no morals and left during the second intermission. I entered the freshly snowed streets of Chicago a new woman, finally penetrated by the kind of culture that can only come from sitting through three hours worth of a high society activity that one really does not understand. With my nose turned up slightly more than normal I made my way back to my apartment, unzipped my dress right in the foyer, sat on my couch with uncrossed legs, and ate a slightly stale bagel while Law and Order played on my laptop.
*The opera may have been in Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish, or Old Timey English. I really couldn’t tell, and don’t actually remember what they told me.