There has been much talk (and screaming and shouting and general drama) about the plight of the New York City Opera over the past year or so. I’ve heard musicians and singers debating hotly about it during rehearsal breaks, FaceBook pages and groups have been set up at which people write angry and pointed statements about whether City Opera should continue, and there has been much written about it in the press, as well. As one of the many American singers who got an early break on the New York City Opera stage, I care very deeply for the company and the people who have devoted their lives to it.
On Valentine’s Day, I journeyed down to Brooklyn to see the company’s production of La Traviata, going not only show my support for the company, but also my dear friend Laquita Mitchell, who after years studying at the Manhattan School of Music and in the Houston Grand Opera Studio together, has become like a sister to me. As I rode the train to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I felt a bit of the usual resentment that it takes so long to get to Brooklyn from Manhattan (and, yes, I realize that I’m offending many Brooklyn-fans by saying that out loud…I just have yet to fully embrace the boroughs…forgive me!), and I tried to pass the time by listening to music on my iPhone, and watching the other subway riders around me. Glancing at the time as my train rolled into Atlantic Station, I realized that I was a bit late, and sprinted up the stairs and around the corner to the theater, opening the doors to mass chaos. BAM was so crowded, I could barely find the box office let alone the entrance to the theater. People of various young ages and in various states of dress-up were milling around, desperately trying to find the end of the Will-Call line, jostling each other impatiently in an effort to get to their seat before the curtain rose. I felt suddenly as if I was at something that was hip, cool, and vibrant, and despite my irritation at being pushed about in a crowd – I was overjoyed to see that there was a crowd there. I took my seat, and I saw that the house was packed – there was barely an unoccupied seat anywhere to be found. As I settled into my chair, waiting for the show to begin, I thought about all of the shouting and screaming about trying to shut the City Opera down, and how the Opera is a shell of it’s former self, replaying all of the debating and infighting that I’ve observed from afar this past year in my head.
Just as the house lights dimmed, and the conductor made his entrance in to the pit, I heard the young couple behind me whisper to each other:
“Have you ever even been to an opera before?
“No – I haven’t.”
“Neither have I – and I’ve always wanted to go…I’ve always been curious to see what it’s like.”
“Me too – this is exciting!”
“It sure is!”
And then I thought – THIS is all that is important. THIS is why we need a City Opera. No matter where the show is.
The conductor raised his baton, and the violins began the show…