Monday, March 16, 2015

An Afternoon at the Opera

“What I want to know is why all these damn women get their fucking way at the end of the opera? I mean, I’m starting to notice it now: They always get the guy they want. And in this case, it wasn’t even really a guy!”

It had been an afternoon where reality—never in abundance at the opera—had been completely shredded, and though the music was great, the plot? Well, even Joyce DiDonato admitted it: It was more than a little off.

What there was of it, which wasn’t much. Here’s what we had to work with, or endure, as Montalvo might have said, since we had taken him to go hear Joyce DiDonato sail her way through Rossini’s deservedly obscure opera La Donna del Lago: Elena (DiDonato) is the daughter of Douglas, the deposed king of Scotland. So Elena meets somebody-or-other who is pretending to be a lost hunter but is actually the new and deposing king. Then Elena takes the lost hunter / real king to her humble but love-filled home, where she gives him wine and guess what? He falls in love with her, which is a problem because she is in love with a man who is played by a mezzo soprano who is pretending to be a man—all the while hitting those brilliant high Cs, which might, had this not been opera, be a clue: A kilt does not a man make. Anyway, the second problem is that Elena’s father is dead set: She’s gonna marry Rodrigo-or-somebody, and that makes sense because the guy is rousing up the troops to go fight the usurping king. So he gets bounty, in the form of Elena, see?

However abhorrent, it was the only thing that made sense in the opera. Nor did it help that the usurping king was Juan Diego Flores, and here, to brighten your Monday morning, is the goods:

Right—and put this guy in a king’s costume, and he becomes mouth-wateringly sexy. So the mezzo-soprano who had conquered Elena’s heart? Well, it must have taken 100 or so spinning wheels most of the winter over there in foggy and peat-smoky Scotland just to provide enough fabric to cover the poor mezzo, and however wonderful she was vocally, well, she made Eleanor Roosevelt look sexy.

“So why the fuck was she wantin’ to get it on with that,” Montalvo was wanting to know at the bus stop, and I have to remind him: This is opera, where a heroine quite naturally can ignore a sex god and go off with a cow impersonating the male sex.

“So what would you have done,” I tell him, “if you were writing this libretto?”

Montalvo is just minted 22, so he has the answer: “I woulda killed everyone of those guys, starting with that bitch Elena.”

Match in the rum factory, “How dare you call Joyce DiDonato a bitch?”

“I’m not calling her a bitch, just that Elena chick. And she’s a complete cock tease, too.”

OK—even I wondered, as I watched the darling Elena innocently invite the dashing Juan Diego Flores to repose in her humble abode…well, was that quite wise? But parenthood brings the need to champion innocence, so I tell him, my young son, “Surely you don’t believe that dear Elena will be ravished and tarnished by the first king masquerading as a lost hunter she encounters in the Scottish woods!”

His look could have started a forest fire….

Then we go on to discuss the ending, which did nothing to get the derailing train back on track. Because the usurping king wins the battle, and thus Douglas is vanquished again, and decides to go offer his life if the others will be spared.

“What the fuh? He’s gonna offer his life? The king fucking owns him! The king won! The king shoulda offed his head then and there, along with that other Niggah, who that bitch Elena got killed. But no, Elena sails in and tells the king to spare her father AND allow her to marry the fat cow, and so what does the king have to do? Look, any real guy would tell her, “listen bitch, you’re spoils of war, you know that? And your father and betrothed? Toast, baby!”

Right—Montalvo grew up in a slightly less refined neighborhood than either of the kings involved. That doesn’t mean, however, that his view of reality isn’t a bit more likely.

In fact, Montalvo’s reality was already significantly absent, since we had watched most of the crowd disembark from subtle black cars driven by chauffeurs: I suspected they were chauffeurs because how many white ladies over the age of 75 have black guys in their thirties as husbands / lovers? So we had taken the bus, which was fairly non-conventional, but Montalvo? Well, he arrived carrying his conveyance into the opera, since where could he park a skateboard?

“This is going to require massive amounts of Coke and popcorn,” I told him, since we had arrived at intermission, and after one and a half hours, what had happened? Not much, except for endless arias about the Highlanders’ love of Scotland, and the eternal love of the new king alias lost hunter for Elena. You try to make an hour and half out of that!

So we munched through the second and final act, and even though I told him, “WAIT! There’s more!” it was clear: What else could happen after the King had pardoned the life of Elena’s father and blessed the union of Elena and the mezzo? Presumably, in an act of complete self-immolation, the king could give up his first-born son to be raised in the simple and humble abode of Elena and the mezzo, and would return to gaze upon his son secretly and anguishedly, as he herded the goats and scratched his open, pus-oozing sores.

“It’s over,” cried Montalvo in a voice every bit as loud as Juan Diego Flores’ voice, and what else did he do? Right—I should have known that he was saving that last round of popcorn for the finale, and if it had only been us, showered as he heaved the contents of the bag heavenward? That would have been OK, but remember that crowd I was telling you about? The kind that get driven to the opera, and the kind who find it quite amazing that that little girl would want money for their sushi and bottle of wine, since at home, well, the girl gives them that for free. So it’s always a little problem at the theater since really, it takes these lovely and elegant ladies about ten minutes to grasp the situation, and then they have to peer into their purses, and locate what they dimly remember to be money, and then isolate it, peer at it again, smile sweetly at the girl, re-examine the money, inquire as to the price again, smile sweetly, turn to look and see if anyone in line is seeing this degrading spectacle, kiss two or three friends or acquaintances or just anybody who is obviously the same social status as they, recall that a transaction is taking place, smile again at the girl, hand the money—didn’t think we’d get there, did you?—to the girl, move away, spill some popcorn, be recalled by the girl, proffering money in return, look at the change uncomprehendingly, be explained that the popcorn and soda was $5:99 and the change is $14.01, since the elegant lady had presented a twenty—“that should do it, don’t you think?”—to the girl, never imagining that she might actually make change, since the girl at home never does, so why should this one?

Right—that was the woman, or her better-heeled sister, whom my young son had chosen to popcorn-shower / blitz at the end of three hours of simpering Elena!

“You can NEVER do that again,” I hissed, from underneath my seat, and who knew that a 6’3” guy could cower under a movie seat? Wonderful, what man is capable of, in times of danger or terror.

Well, I’m happy to say that the lady acted considerably better than anyone in my neighborhood or—especially—Montalvo’s, and more since the popcorn landed on what was the cotton-candy equivalent of hair: Heated and spun and twisted and colored into something so unnatural, and yet so lethal, since it had stopped being soft as hair but instead become a kind of razor-sharp helmet, which could have slashed us mercilessly had she charged. But she stalked away—the popcorn glistening like artificial pearls on her hair; she looked improbably like Elizabeth I as she stormed out of the theater.

So we deconstructed what little there was of the opera at the bus stop, and then the bus came, picked us up. Montalvo tails us, making faces at us through the window as he glides gracefully on his skateboard. And that’s when I realize that the social conservatives were absolutely right about the need for a two-parent environment for raising children, since how else could I have said had it not been for Mr. Fernández, my co-parent in crime?

“Your side of the family,” I tell Mr. Fernández, and we both gasp as Montalvo expertly shoots past a car intent on slaughtering him and sails over a pothole that would qualify, after the next heavy rain, for the sixth Great Lake. So we gasp, and clutch our lace handkerchiefs to our breasts, and Montalvo--operaed and Rossinied but still intact—sails into the distance.


Right--check out the king, and tell me he's not dreamy….