One of the best parts of New York City, however obvious, is the art scene, of which I haven’t even scraped the surface. I had always been told of New York City’s often-cliched though nonetheless legendary, ballets, operas, art shows, fashion shows, art museums, bad standup, and of course, theatre. Never turning down an opportunity for any of the above, I went with my Italian class to see another opera at the Met.
Like last time, I dressed to impress, which came in the form of a solid gold sheath dress that touched the floor and has an open back. This time, we were able to eat some snacks before we went to the opera, which consisted of cheese, grapes, and cookies. Having just rewatched “Ratatouille” earlier in the week I couldn’t resist the urge to bite into a piece of cheese and a grape at the same time, like he does in the movie. I sat at the table where they were serving the food and kept on slipping my hand into the box of cookies. I stuffed my face with so many chocolate cookies that when people asked which ones to try, I could actually give them recommendations.
Since we still had time to kill before the opera, I drank some hot chocolate outside of the Met with my friend Hannah, as we stared at the moon. Then, it was time for us to usher into the theater, which had a scrim covering the stage with a large dew-soaked flower covering it.
The opera that we were going to go see is called “La Traviata,” otherwise known as: the fallen woman. For those of you who don’t know “La Traviata” is an opera about a man who falls in love with a prostitute. It therefore was the opera that they watch in “Pretty Woman,” which is both clever and on the nose. They tell us that she is going to die from the beginning of the opera, even though they don’t really need to pregame us for the death of the heroine. It’s an opera; we know that the woman is going to die.
It all begins with a down-pouring of snow onto a bed in the middle of the stage. Violetta, the fallen woman, emerges from the bed, wearing a puffy-sleeved nightgown that looks the way snow angels are supposed to look. She wakes up but no one else in the room notices. The music starts to play, initially beginning with a singular violin and then dramatically swelling into an overwhelming and awe-inspiring overture. She is dragged out of the room, reaching out in front of her, being literally pulled from a world that she isn’t ready to leave. The people make up her bed, as if she was never really there in the first place, and the opera commences.
The whole set looked the way that the live action “Beauty and the Beast” should have looked. The actress who played Violetta looked and sounded immaculate. My throat hurt just listening to her. The whole opera was slick and gorgeous, taking place in aristocratic 19th century France, so the characters filed onto the stage wearing colorful but potentially anachronistic costumes. Her bed never leaves the stage, a friendly reminder of how she makes her money and that she will soon be needing it as a death bed. There was a dance interlude with the gypsies, who looked like the woodland fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The whole stage was bathed in a sensual orange glow as one of the dancers was tossed from one dancer’s arms to another, moving so lightly that they might as well have been tossing around a rag doll.
Violetta staggers around stage for the entirety of the third act, flopping around against her bed, singing her heart out as she dies for several minutes, because why die quickly when you can die agonizingly slowly while singing about how you’re dying agonizingly slowly? When it comes time to finally die, she spins in her bed and collapses perfectly into her lover’s arms only for the scrim to drop down immediately and flash the audience the watered flower one last time before curtain call.
As New York culture shuts down for a bit, one thing remains: women always die in operas.
The Tragic Queen,