I enjoyed yesterday's matinee production of La Traviata at Chicago's Lyric Opera. To my non-critical ears, it was wonderful. Renee Fleming as Violetta and Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo got deserved standing ovations, and some of the arias carried my thoughts into the stratosphere.
Although I've attended operas off and on for many years (I'm down to a four-performance matinee series now), I'm no opera expert. At the risk of sounding like one of those people who say, "I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like" as they admire Elvis on Velvet, I'll say that I love beautiful operatic melodies, and La Traviata has many of them. I'm a fan of Verdi and Puccini and Wagner for different resons, but all have that mind-transporting effect on me.
Opera demands a certain suspension of belief, with its time-honored traditions of convoluted story lines and people constantly singing at each other, as well as its monumental-sized singers of old (rare today; Fleming looked lovely). I guess I've always been torn between my desire for artistic realism and my love of tradition.
During intermission, I noticed (again) that the average age of the matinee audience is over seventy. That's my age group, so I don't know why that fact made me uncomfortable. Am I still denying that I'm old, or is it just that I fear opera has become irrelevant to the younger population? Actually, some of the young probably can't afford the ticket prices (although that doesn't seem to affect attendance at rock concerts, etc.), and many people are at work on Thursday afternoons. Still, I don't remember evening opera audiences being much younger.
I noticed the many senior residence buses from all over the city and suburbs lined up outside as I entered and left the opera house. How nice that seniors have such opportunities, but should I look forward to being hauled around like that? I'm not sure.
Considering the trouble I had getting home, perhaps I should look forward to such senior bus trips. It took me nearly an hour, plus much walking, to finally hail a cab. Chicago is full of taxis, but during a cold, snowy winter evening rush hour, someone always gets to them first. Talk about pushy! I guess it's a man thing.
I finally got home, cold but otherwise unscathed. So what's the point of these musings? I've concluded that opera is worthwhile, but that growing old, especially alone, is not for the weak or timid. Still, I'm not ready to give up opera yet.
Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne