The Suitcase Lady


August 10, 2007, 10:29 pm

I have a lifetime goal of learning to appreciate opera. The quest got off to a rocky start.

My mother listened to opera on the radio, and, as a child, I asked her, “Who is Carmen?”

“She’s a bad girl who works in a cigarette factory and breaks men’s hearts,” was her reply. I didn’t believe a word she said. My mom was prone to exaggeration. Surely, no adult could compose an opera about a cigarette girl.

Well, it turns out they did. I’ve learned since that the storyline is not the main event in opera. The singing and spectacle carry the show.

My scheme to become opera educated is beautiful in its simplicity. Go to New Mexico every August. Buy tickets for the Santa Fe Opera which is performed outdoors on a mountaintop. Listen and look. If the opera proves inscrutable, the scenery and sunset are worth the trip.

This summer will mark our 28th consecutive summer in attendance. I’m making some progress. I know the The Magic Flute is, indeed, utterly magical. Papageno and Papagena, the birdman and woman, are completely delightful with deliciously human failings. My all time favorite character is The Queen of the Night. Talk about a screwed up mother-daughter relationship. But the Queen’s big aria is totally thrilling.

I’ve also figured out three things that should never happen at the opera. First, Madame Butterfly should not have the heft of a Valkyrie. Second, The Queen of the Night must never, never wear a white costume. (Was that a PC gesture on Santa Fe’s part?) Third, Carmen should not be sung by a blond. Actually, I’ll amend that. If a blond sings the role, she needs a dark wig and a stint at a tanning salon.

Give me another 20 years at Santa Fe, and I might be ready to tackle The Ring Cycle.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Anonymous

    I think you must have done something right, because I really like opera! But I also like musicals a lot, and I know you are not quite as fond of them Really, I don’t see a lot of difference…singing in lieu of dialouge, great costumes, cool sets. How can you go wrong? It is all good stuff. I recently picked up a Maria Callas CD that, well, ROCKS!

    Thanks for keeping lots of music in our home, and have an excellent time in Santa Fe!

    Love, Jenny