Sometimes life catches up with you!
Just because you’ve been around the block a few times doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been counting. I’m into culture from time to time and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see big time opera just down the street so I found myself attending a meeting of the El Dorado Hills Geriatric Society down at the local multiplex. Well, actually it was a simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera beamed into the hinterlands by the wonders of modern science. They’re been broadcasting live performances for years now but I’m lucky if I make it to one each season. This was the first time I managed to get to one of the broadcasts this year and when I took a good hard look at the audience, it caught be by surprise. They were all old. I was embarrassed at the association.
Of course I blended right in although I tend to forget that I am no longer the apple cheeked, brown haired stud that I picture when I think of myself. Checking myself out reluctantly in the mirror of the washroom confirmed that I belonged to the crowd of old men with sagging jowls and bulging guts relieving their overloaded bladders at intermission. There was not a youngster in the crowd. I wondered if culture is dying.
Attending opera has never been so easy
as today when the Met beams its simulcasts into 10 or 15 venues in Sacramento alone on eight Saturdays each year. Since the Met is anything but a philanthropic organization, I assume that they must be finding an audience and filling the coffers. After all, if the Met is available in Sacramento, it is surely available anywhere because cowtown is no culture mecca. But if they want to make a killing in El Dorado Hills, they had better be quick because judging from the audience in the theatre; it won’t be many more years before they expire.
Opera wasn’t available to me growing up in Kansas City. My first live opera performance was the Lyric Opera in Chicago when I was in college. I don’t remember what opera I saw, just the difficult trek from the Southside to the Loop and then walking across town to the venue. It was clearly high value to cause a small town boy to brave the Chicago streets at night. Clearly I had cultural aspirations. The way I saw it, opera was the holy grail of classical cluture, combining theatre, music, dance and spectacle in one glorious package.
Still, as life continued,
opera remained only an occasional pleasure. For many years, there was no opera company in Los Angeles. Later family pressures and the fact that my wife doesn’t like opera kept me from subscribing for the season and made attending even one or two operas a year a guilty, solitary pleasure.
Early on, after I started working in Sacramento and commuting home to LA each weekend, it was easy to attend performances at the Sacramento opera on weekdays but when my wife and son moved up to join me my weeknights were no longer so free. Who would ever believe that opera would be so accessible that you could drop by the local movie theater to take in Aida or Madama Butterfly and snack on popcorn all the while?
The contrast between the availability of opera everywhere and the general lack of culture displayed in the media or normal life is disconcerting. It doesn’t help one bit that the opera goers down at the multiplex are easily as long in the tooth as yours truly. While I can’t say that my love of opera was nurtured at home, neither can I say that that I nurtured a love of classical music in my own children who wouldn’t be joining me at the opera even if I paid and bought popcorn. My only comfort is the knowledge that I wasn’t the only lone opera lover in the theatre. Nobody else was joined by children and grandchildren to enjoy the culture of opera. Opera may be alive and well right now but the future looks ominous, if the audience last week in El Dorado Hills is typical.