Going to the Opera with Mom

Shadow self with Lulu
Shadow self portrait with Lulu

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.

8 thoughts on “Going to the Opera with Mom

  1. Maria, thank you for this. I am so glad you took your mother, but more importantly, that you were able to share this love of hers. That was your greatest gift to her and to yourself. What a tribute. Thank you again.

  2. So, what is it about mothers and opera? My mother studied singing for years. Like your mother, she loved opera. I was never crazy about it, but every Saturday morning when I was a little girl, I turned on the radio to listen to NBC because they carried performances from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I liked the stories; they were exciting, sad and romantic. My mother had many leather bound scores from operas that she studied and when she died I gave them to a friend who was an opera singer. I am sad to say that the friend died and I don’t know what ever happened to the scores. I wish that I had them. I do have my mother’s piano and have started taking lessons again. The nice part of this story is that even though I still do not love opera that much my mother introduced me to music, musical theater, classical music and music in general. I will be eternally greatful to her for that. She gave me something that soothes my soul, brings a smile to my face and fills me with joy. So, I guess that is what is what’s with mothers and opera. It is a lifelong connection to them. Enjoy your day in the peaceable kingdom of Bedlam Farm.

    1. I think the Opera is my mother’s only passion that belongs just to her Jane. The rest of her life is centered around family. So did you get to hear your mom sing?

  3. Thank you for sharing these feelings, Maria. I had a very close relationship with my mom my whole life, but later when I was losing her to dementia, we had special times laughing and pretending that gave us a different bond. I recognized that they were treasures and appreciated them even more. As I get older, I understand her much more deeply and am so grateful. You may find yourself touching the memory of your opera day for many years and be warmed by it.

  4. What a sweet question, Maria. Yes, I did get to hear my mother sing.
    My brother and I found an old LP that she had recorded; I don’t know what for because she never worked for a record company. We listened to it and it didn’t sound as I expected; actually I don’t know what we expected. I always wanted to sing and took private lessons when I was studying acting in New York. I wasn’t very good and had a hard time carrying a tune.
    The best part is that my mother never criticized my singing and she would often accompany me on the piano when I wanted to sing. So, you see,we had something special that we could share, something that we both loved. I think of her often when I play the piano and I suspect that she would be pleased that I put her eighty nine year old Steinway to good use. I guess you could say that we are still sharing and what more could I ask for. Smiles for you and all that reside in that peaceable kingdom known as Bedlam Farm (you can see from my emails that I love that idea).

    1. That must have been wonderful to hear Jane. And how good of your mom never to criticize your singing. She gave you the confidence so you can still enjoy playing.

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