When I was in grad school, I stumbled upon a class called “Performing Community and Subjectivity” while looking to fill my class roster for the fall semester. Intrigued, I read on, and discovered the class was about opera, and the way that community and social change can be affected through performance. Since I was a little girl, the opera had seemed interesting in a far-off, fuzzy way. I suspect that this initially mostly had to do with the costumes I saw in books and online, and the delicious opera scene shared by Professor Bhaer and Jo March in the film adaptation of Little Women. The idea of going to an opera – of buying tickets and showing up and finding a seat and sitting through hours of performance in a foreign language – was terrifying. I am the person who will eat at the same crappy restaurant every day because she knows how to operate there rather than branch out and try other, potentially amazing restaurants nearby. So attending an opera, with all of its high-brow, fancypants history and associations, seemed sort of crazy to me.
Luckily, my professor was wonderful, and she treated the opera as a totally normal thing. And the best part of the class was that we didn’t have to buy textbooks, but instead purchased tickets to 3 operas over the course of the semester, which we attended together and discussed afterward. Knowing that I had my fellow students, many of them opera-n00bs like myself, as a crutch made all the difference. I loved the operas I saw, and found them flickering and glowing behind my closed eyelids for days after each performance.
I dragged E to the Live in HD Festival outside of the Metropolitan Opera House in the summer of 2010, and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside in Lincoln Center on a warm summer night and watching The Magic Flute on a big screen. For Valentine’s Day this year, we finally went to an opera together. We saw Aida, and it was a grand spectacle, with a huge chorus and horses on stage (HORSES ON STAGE) and an amazing set and costumes to die for. And the singing — oh, the singing! E was immediately hooked, and so we found ourselves back in the opera house last night, 3 weeks later, to see Don Giovanni. Another lovely performance, though not my favorite. There’s something so exciting about seeing people right there in front of you belting out these amazing songs, wearing awesome stuff, and performing works that have been around for several hundred years.
The Metropolitan Opera has a wonderful program that we have been lucky enough to take advantage of, through which they sell students tickets throughout the house for 25 dollars per ticket. The day of a performance, they sell any remaining seats to students at that rate, and for certain performances, you can buy student tickets in advance, as well. For Aida, we ended up in $320 seats in the Grand Tier, which provided a magnificent view of the stage. Last night, we sat in the Orchestra, in seats that were valued at $120, and got a different perspective on the performance. Many of the cultural organizations in New York offer similar student discount programs, and it’s a wonderful way to get out and enjoy some of the city’s world-renowned performances without breaking the bank. If you’re no longer a student and have lost that old student ID, the Met also has a rush ticket program for $20 orchestra seats. Even if the opera seems scary, like it did to me, or boring, I suggest finding a shorter performance (some of these shows are 5 or 6 hours long, but there are plenty that are 2 or 3) that looks interesting to you, and go see it! It’s worth the investment to find out if you might love it.