Thursday, May 21, 2009

Crying at the opera

Today I was listening in the car to Wotan's Farewell in "Die Walkure" and it got me thinking of all the times I have cried at the opera.

That is funny because I have not been to the opera that many times in my life. We do not have an opera company in Buffalo. We are working on it though! It would be funny if at the same time opera companies are folding in other cities we get one in Buffalo. Could happen!

But I digress. I have been lucky enough to go to a bunch of operas up at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and at the Metropolitan Opera a few times and a dozen or so operas at Chautauqua. And I have also been to operas in Vienna and Munich.

Twice I have seen "Tosca" and twice I cried during "Vissi d'arte." There is something about that aria that gets me. This woman backed into a corner. What do you do, where do you go, you thought you did everything right and now this.

We have all been there, in one way or another!

That part where she talks about bringing the flowers to the altar and bringing jewels to the mantle of the Virgin. That kills me.

So that is one opera I have cried in, "Tosca." Then there was "Tannhauser" at the San Diego Opera which I went to with Leonard Pennario when I was with him for those months in California. The reason I cried in "Tannhauser" was not all because of the opera, it was because of a whole lot of stuff, most of which will have to wait for the book. I was about to go home. That was one thing. Also Leonard was sitting next to me, and for months we had been talking about going together to this opera, and now here we were.

The part where she sings, "Dich, teure Halle." It felt as if we had reached the end of this long road. Here is a picture of the production.

The biggest cry I ever had at an opera was during "Die Walkure." I went to Toronto to see it, with my sister. We cried and cried. I have probably written about this.

All through Wotan's Farewell we were thinking about our own dad whom we had lost in an accident some years before. You know how you have complicated relationships with your parents. That is what that opera is about. It is what Father Owen Lee, who used to do those opera commentaries, wrote. Those Ring operas are not about gods and dragons, they are about us.

Would we have cried watching this recent "Star Wars"-like production by the Los Angeles Opera? I cannot be sure!

Well, the Canadian Opera Company production was not exactly attractive either. They had ladders and construction materials and stuff lying around everywhere on stage. I mean, I could have designed something better. But still. As Wotan put Brunnhilde to sleep with the Magic Fire Music, my sister Katie and I cried and cried. Sitting there passing this soggy Kleenex back and forth. When the opera ended we could not get up. We were just huddled there exhausted and devastated. I think we were the last people to leave the Hummingbird Centre. Finally we pulled ourselves together and went and got a glass of wine and something to eat.

And Wotan and Brunnhilde were eating at the next table! I will never forget that. They were eating Buffalo wings, too. Wow, that was funny. We went and talked to them.

What a night to remember!

I wonder if Katie and I are the only ones who cry at operas.

I somehow doubt it.


  1. I'm reminded of a story about Liszt and the Countess d'Agoult. Liszt was pretty centered, she was a hysteric. He came to the dinner table one evening and said "Are we dining or are we weeping?" I don't know what her reaction was, but I can imagine ( at a later time, she called him a Don Juan parvenu).

    Ned Rorem reviewed the Cosima Wagner diaries when they were first published and mentioned that there was a lot of weeping at Wahnfried.

    Either something was in the air or they all needed massive doses of vitamin D.

    Now that I think of it, vitamin supplements might have prevented two world wars.

  2. oh my goodness! right now i'm watching la boheme on youtube to prepare myself not to completely bawl my eyes out tomorrow night when i see it at the COC! i searched "crying in opera" to see if i'm a freak of nature because "che gelida manina" & "si michimano mimi" make me sob bucketfuls and i'm so relieved to find i'm NOT ALONE! thanks for writing this wonderful blog post, i can't tell you how much it means to me!

  3. Wotan's F'well 1 of most moving moments - Morris/Jones at ROH 1992 had me in floods of tears. Rosenkavalier trio anyone?

  4. The Rosenkavalier Trio, that kills me! Prof. G, that "Are we dining or are we weeping" sounds like something Howard would say to me. (After I was watching Wotan's Farewell!)

    MizG, I cannot get over the idea that you looked for "crying in opera" and there I was! That was meant to be. Thanks for the nice words and please report back on your experiences with "La Boheme"!

  5. Yoo-Hoo, Mary,
    In Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in North Tonawanda is an Icon of the Virgin Mary, whose clothing is completely covered in sparkling jewelry. When we lived in Kenmore, I used to go over there from time to time just to enjoy that icon. It's soo cool. I imagine it's some folkish thing, maybe collecting jewels from parishioners.

  6. Christine Brandes' Susanna singing "Deh vieni non tardar" with Figaro melting with longing across the garden, brought me to tears in Seattle's Nozze di Figaro last week. Such tenderness and heartbreak into one aria...
    Love restores the heart in little ripples, the world is silent...

    1. I always weep during "Deh vieni non tardar." I wish I had seen this comment earlier!