Hard to Swallow

Hard to Swallow

Warning:  this is my second opera post in a row,  but it’s not as much about opera as it is about weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Today was yet another high definition simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera –   an opera called “La Rondine” (which means “The Swallow”) by Puccini, the same guy who wrote “Madama Butterfly.”   I was pumped to see this,  especially when I had fought my way through the ten and a half inches of snow that had fallen in the last twelve hours. . . and especially because this opera is very rarely done . . . and because this is another of the operas I sang in back at the Lyric and it was going to be fun to revisit.   (It’s the very first opera that the Lyric did with supertitles,  an experiment so incredibly successful and popular that supertitles are now commonplace in all major opera houses around the world.)

But something went wrong at the Met today, and dozens of theaters across the country apparently were unable to bring in the Met’s signal at all, while other theaters which receive it via another format had much poorer sound than usual. Racine’s theater was one of them with no sound whatsoever.    The picture was clear as a bell (the photo above is of what we were seeing at 12 noon- a shot as a camera panned over the audience seated in the Met) –   but there was no sound at all.  Not a blip.  Just silence.  That and the sound of about twenty five opera fans quietly weeping into their popcorn when the theater manager finally came in to announce that they had to cancel the showing because of technical difficulties.   (We were offered a refund of our tickets as well as for anything we purchased at the concession stand, which was might nice of them.)

What was even more maddening is that because of all the snow,  Kathy agreed to drop me off so I didn’t have to take my little  bucket of bolts onto the roads – which was nice of her – but it also meant that I was stranded there.  (Had I driven myself, I might have hopped in the car and driven myself down to Kenosha in the hopes of seeing as much of the opera as I could.)  Kathy eventually got my message that the simulcast was cancelled and picked me up as promptly as she could,  but by that time the opera was almost half over and I decided to just give into the curse once and for all, and call it a day.

As it turns out,  the curse extended beyond the wiring of the Met broadcast booth to include the soprano singing the main role.  Angela Gheorghiu was feeling ill and an announcement was made on her behalf, asking for the audience’s understanding.   (She sang and she survived.)

The only person not cursed today was Marshall,  who called this morning from Whitewater to say that he was not coming over after all because of the bad weather.  I shudder to think of how unbelievably frustrating it would have been for him to drive an hour and fifteen minutes (and today, the trip would have probably been more like an hour and forty five minutes)  and have it be for naught.

I’m thinking of a line from “Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption” by Christopher Kennedy Lawford.  (His dad was Peter Lawford.) His book is about his long road back from severe substance abuse. One of the most important events in his life was the assassination of his Uncle Robert.  In the wake of that tragedy, he said,  no one in the family was allowed to wallow in insignificant troubles because whatever you might feel like complaining about could not begin to compare with the tragedy that had once again befallen the family.  He said that when something like that happens,  you very quickly learn that most of what feels awful in your life is nothing more significant than Burned Mashed Potatoes.  That’s what my experience at the movie theater was-  (and I almost called it an “ordeal,” which would be a rather ludicrous case of over-statement.)   It was Burned Mashed Potatoes. Not Fun.  Unpleasant for sure.  But not a tragedy.

But if something screws up the makeup simulcast on the 21st,  THAT will be a tragedy.