A Night at the Opera is one of my favorite Marx Brothers movies, but that’s an essay for another time. This essay is about a very different experience.
It is opera season, and since we are opera fans, Best Friend and I anticipate evenings at the theater with enthusiasm. We had tickets to attend a presentation of Georges Bizet’s Carmen and for days on end, “Habanera” and “El Toreador” played repeatedly in my mind, their melodies twisting together into a singularly odd song.
Finally, the evening arrived. We dressed up – I wore a black dress with a lacy shawl that glittered in the low evening lights. Best Friend wore a patterned dress shirt and printed tie. Before heading into town, we ate a light meal of sandwiches and tea.
The night air was cool, but warm enough to have the car windows open. As we drove into town, we saw that the streets were exceptionally crowded, and it was difficult to find parking near the theater. Nevertheless, we found a spot many blocks away.
We walked in the cool evening air. Along the way we enjoyed nature and seeing people eating and drinking in restaurant windows.
Then we turned the corner where the theater stood. It was a large white brick and plaster building with a tiled covered exterior entrance, built in the 1920s. At the door, we handed our tickets to an usher, and we made our way past the crowd in the lobby. It seemed that everyone was on the main floor buying drinks and opera themed paraphernalia. Uninterested in drinking or buying tchotchkes, we walked up the red carpeted staircase, through the second-floor lobby, and sat in our usual seats. This was a sold-out crowd – and what a crowd it was!
There were patrons dressed in suits and ties and long gowns and sequined handbags. There were those who wore sport jackets and street-length dresses. Then there were those patrons that really stood out in a way that just made us smile and admire their uniqueness.
They were the ones dressed in flapper-style dresses with fringe and beads, 1920s headbands, period sequined handbags and makeup, too. They wore 1920s style: suits, ties, slicked hair, and fedoras. It was pleasing to see them dress in an unconventional, yet classy, manner. And what made this all the more fun to see was that they were all people somewhere in their 20s and 30s.
Best Friend and I enjoyed Carmen, too. It was sung in French, with projected supertitles. The story was timeless, the orchestra was live, the singing was superb, and the costumes were magnificent. During the intermissions (There were three!), we talked with some of the people sitting near us, sharing our thoughts on the opera.
All this made for a grand time.
And I have a new appreciation of how patrons express themselves as they dress for a night at the opera.
Lady Susan Marie Molloy
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