Today was a sad day. The MET opera, watched live in a quiet and safe place, Coquitlam east of Vancouver, BC, was Aida. Yet the national tragedy of the twenty-eight deaths in Connecticut overshadowed the tragedy of the opera.
We reveled, happy in the first act and that amazing music. We applauded Roberta Alagna as a great actor and singer who is utterly believable as Radames. Give us more of this type who can capture our evil emotions and follow him to kill the Ethiopians invading Egypt. Give us more credible singers carrying a perfect note and expressing the emotions of love and violence of a military leader. For we feel with him the invasion, the battle, the victory, the death of enemies, the captured, and the humanism of a plea for freedom for the captured slaves.
And we grieve with him for a love that cannot be; for devotion; for denial of fatherland; for being a traitor; and dying with his beloved.
Our party remarked on the ability to sing of the ladies—alas too fat to be credible as lovers and attractors of Radames. And all the innocence and make-believe of opera was shattered at interval when one of our ladies told of the deaths in Connecticut. We had not read thereof. Yet a cold chill descended when we contemplated yet another mass shooting in America, a seemingly oft-repeated event.
We felt sick as we chattered about the gun people in America who will bleat that people kill, guns do not. We felt despair as we chatted about the violence of real life in America by comparison with the peace and safety of Coquitlam. We faced horror at our own revelling in the deaths of opera and our entirely different response to death in real life.
“Do we like death? Do we enjoy the death of others? Do we delight in seeing many die? Do we get pleasure killing?” were questions that arose as we ate an after-opera meal at the local Wendy’s.
We descended into an examination of death in opera.
“At least Aida does not die a virgin.” I have often wondered on this issue. In the face of the death of so many young, the plump lady at Wendy’s captured the essential dilemma of love, death, and sex. Was Adam Lanza a sex-starved madman getting a high shooting innocents?
The lady making this remark on dying a virgin has four kids and many grandchildren. I have three kids and many grandchildren. We both emphasized at the death of children and grandchildren and shuddered for the deprived. And here we record our deepest sympathy and empathy with those parents and grandparents today deprived. We know of no way to grieve for and with them. It is beyond human capacity. Yet we do.
What to do about those who are mad in our midst? This past month I have entertained old friends one of whose grandchildren has Asperbergs, the affliction that may be at the heart of Adam Lanza’s acts. They are distraught. They despair. And now they are devastated.
I have helped such kids. In a rich house in Irvine, I consulted on mould. And while I did this, the afflicted kid circled and watched me. Not knowing of his condition, I swung him around in play.
“Stop!” shouted his mother, a powerful lawyer. “You never know when you can rouse him to irrational response.”
They are beautiful people: so innocent; so out-of-touch; so artistic; so violent in response to tiny provocations. I have been with people this week who help the innocent and mad of East Vancouver. “It is a Provincially-funded program; but I earn so little. That is why I meet with you.”
“What are we to do with the mad?” I asked.
“What is mad?” the reply. “We are all afflicted. We could all fall to their despair. We only hold on to sanity by a fine thread of silk.” Thus the insightful reply. And so we took yet another drink, smoked yet another stick, and bedded in primal lust.
So maybe that is why we love opera. It is primitive; lustful; violent; death and despair; virgins dying in tombs with traitorous lovers; priests of insight, vengeance, and blind justice. It is loud, soft, belligerent, tearful, exciting, and soothing. Somehow the good die innocent at the hands of the tyrants, the jealous, the afflicted, the marginally & totally mad. Yet we can sit back in our comfortable seats and dream of perfection in the face of the terrible as the music and singing overwhelms us.
That is why we applaud Alagna and hate the fat ladies who overwhelm us as exemplars of over-indulgence and absence of self-control.
For as one of our party, over a basic hamburger in Wendy’s remarked: “Those fat American cannot control their eating, their adulation of fat, lascivious ladies in low-cut dresses, their guns, or the killings. It is a society that has taken the stage of opera as it reflects the worst and best of human failings and made it real in a gory celebration of independence.”
And so tonight I poured a stiff drink and watched Don Giovanni which is surely the most animal, lustful, violent, and death-fulled opera. I cannot say more, other than to pray that gun control will come to be and all places will be as safe and peaceful as Coquitlam as we indulge in primitive human violence via opera.