I didn’t expect to like the opera. I was actually dreading the thought of sitting through two and half hours of Rigoletto. I grew up hearing Opera, my mother loves it and would play her records or listen to it on the radio on Saturday afternoons. But I never really thought about it, it just was.
I went to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time when I was in my twenties. I was open to it, wanted to like it. And I went many more times after that, mostly with my mother. But the last time I was there, probably about five years ago, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t really like opera. I listen to music with my emotions. So it’s a totally personal experience, no matter how good the music is, if it doesn’t touch me emotionally, I’m not really interested in it. I can appreciate that it might be good, or important in a historical sense, but it still doesn’t make me want to listen to it.
But the Opera was coming to Hubbard Hall, the theater and arts center in Cambridge and I thought my mother might like to go. She’s 86 years old now and is horrified at the way the Met has set many of her favorite Operas in contemporary times. The last time she saw Rigoletto on Live from the Met on TV it was set in an elevator in Las Vegas. If you want to see a pissed off 86 year old woman, just ask her about it. So I told her they didn’t have elaborate costumes or sets at Hubbard Hall, but I heard the Opera was good and she was eager to go.
I was already concerned about getting drowsy during the performance but when Jon got us seats in the front row on the floor, thinking it would be easier for my mother, I started to feel a bit panicky. But then, a miracle happened. The performance began and it was simply amazing. At times the singers were standing a foot away. I could feel the vibration from their voices coursing through my body. I could feel the emotion. I could see and hear that the voices were actually coming from the people singing. There’s often so much distance between a musician and the audience. Whether it’s physical distance or over production, even using a microphone alters the experience. At the Hubbard Hall Opera, the singers were standing right next to us, not understanding the words made no difference at all, their beautiful voices were power and emotion. There was also a live orchestra and the space was so intimate it was as if we the audience was part of the performance.
I was awed by this performance. Glowing from experiencing it. In all the years growing up listening to the Opera, and all the performances I saw at the Met, I have never experienced anything like this. My mother had a smile on her face for the whole two and half hours of it. I could always appreciate my mother’s love of the Opera but for the first time I think I may have experienced it the way she does.
After I drove my mother home, I thought of how I never would have gone to the Opera that afternoon if not for her. I was really just going because I thought she would like it. I don’t see my mother as often as my bother and sister do and don’t get along with her the way they do. So I thought this was something nice that we could do together. I thought it would make me feel good to do this for her. But what I found made me feel even better was that she did as much for me, just by being who she is and loving the Opera, as I did for her by bringing her there.