Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
My cielo says this verse from Psalm 90 is a demand to the Divine: You have to give us joy. For every day we suffer You have to give us that many days of joy, too.
She reminded me of this verse as we wandered through Central Park on Monday afternoon, coming from our self-guided tour of the Met and me still rather overwhelmed and breathless. I think I said, “I can’t believe I can’t stop crying.”
Make us glad. Make us joyful, it could also read.
You see, I’ve not really been ok since last June. Since Orlando. Since Orlando and so many days in June and July in the streets, and so many days since then, protesting police murders, protesting trump in our city, protesting protesting protesting, sometimes in the face of police but always knowing the threat of the police could be around the corner, because it’s Denver. Because I know in my body what they are capable of.
I have not been ok, and it has felt like a daily grieving ever since, watching the truth of who we are as a country be laid utterly bleeding and bare, so much harm being done, what has been hidden being unleashed anew, with fury, against people I love. Such a moment of opportunity, to change things for the better, once and for all, but will we seize it? Do we even know how? Do I?
Will we survive this? Do we deserve to?
I’ve cried every day, pretty much, since June. Even if not wet tears down my face, I’ve carried an aching, weeping heart, pretty much every day.
Perhaps that it not what you were expecting to read, to start off with, about our trip to NYC, to the Met, to my favorite opera with my favorite soprano. That context is important though. Important to know that before the NYC trip, I was in DC last week, in front of the White House accompanying children protesting for their immigrant parents, came home, celebrated Easter, then headed right for heart of joy.
Make us glad, for all the days we have suffered.
A blog friend across the ocean, who shares this particular love of white-shirt-opera, and I have had an on-going conversation for months now about the importance of beauty and joy as an act of resistance in times like these. For me, it’s this: I have to remind my heart, my spirit, that I can feel something else besides despair, besides sadness. Not instead of, mind you. In addition to. There is a reason we love life, and it’s the beauty of it all. Whatever makes us swoon. Whatever we find in music, in white shirts, in baby goats, in beautiful fangirling stories, in holding hands with one’s beloved, in herbs and flowers burrowing and unfurling their way outwards towards the sun. Art. Moonrises. Mountain streams. Blue sky. Pure Irish butter. The laughter of friends. Whatever it is for you that reminds you why it is a gift to be alive, which fills you with awe (which really is the whole reason we are here, at all).
That’s resistance. In the middle of a system that wants us to despair, to know nothing but fear, to believe we are nothing but machines to be discarded when we break (and the system wants us to break, we are cheaper to replace than to repair), to believe this anguish is all there is — to nourish joy and beauty in the face of that, I believe, is an act of resistance.
So this first post is about that. About swooning over a place I have dreamed of going to pretty much my whole life. About wandering through Central Park afterwards, meandering towards the Oak Room for a photo op, eyes still burning with tears and all my face muscles sore from grinning.
I can’t believe I can’t stop crying.
And I’m so grateful I can feel joy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I’ve known about the Met for pretty much my whole life. Several years ago (after seeing the 2010 Rosenkavalier, in fact), I wrote about my upbringing in a classical music household and how the Met was a part of that: radio and the occasional TV broadcasts, and when I was 9 a trip to Dallas to see the Met on tour, back in the day when they did that.
It’s been a lifelong dream to go the Met and see an opera. It’s really the only reason I’ve ever wanted to go to NYC, really. But it always seemed out of reach (activist pastors don’t make a lot, turns out). But then this happened, and I thought, “It’s Renee’s last go at this, and a new production, and MY GOD THAT PHOTO, and I have birthday money, and damn: If we can get tickets, we are going, somehow!” And we did!
And we did! Leading up to the trip my excitement grew and grew. If you’ve been reading here long at all, you’ve probably noticed, ha!
So! We arrived late Sunday night. We had already decided we would get up and after breakfast head over to Lincoln Center to do the self-guided tour of the front of the Met house and take our time in the gift shop. This was ridiculously smart of us, because I was able to just be in all my feelings about just being there and enjoy it and not feel rushed to find our seats and still be overwhelmed when the show actually started (which would be overwhelming enough as it is, I was sure).
We walked from Times Square (our hotel was just off here) up Broadway to Lincoln Center. My tears started when we got to the SW corner of Lincoln Center, and we saw this sign:
As we walked up towards the central square, the tears started for real. I can’t believe we’re here, we’re really here, we’re really HERE.
Several photos in front, of course, and then we went in. Oh, there is the chandelier. There is the staircase, and all the red, the red…Breathe, just breathe. I did indeed need smelling salts to get myself back into my body, I was so excited. We went up to the grand tier level, and I could hear music. No way, are they rehearsing?
I could tell immediately: Wagner, and then a few more bars: Flying Dutchman. I stood there for a while, yes, crying, listening. Over at the Revlon Bar is a screen where you can see what’s happening on stage so we took a peek there, and then I listened more. Finally we went to see what else there was to see.
Ohhhh. Who all could I find?
Some of the headshots were too high up to get good photos of them, Kathleen Battle being one. And I know I missed some, I’m looking at them now thinking “How could I have missed Nina Stemme?” But those walls all by themselves were overwhelming. Again, so much excitement my mind kept going blank. I should look for…who again? (but no, not any tenors, haha!).
There’s also a little exhibit down there about the 50th anniversary of the “new” Met. My favorite part was about the productions they did, with original costume sketches by Marc Chagall for Magic Flute, a letter from Benjamin Britten, and a large brilliant photo of Leontyne Price as Cleopatra.
By then we needed a bathroom break. We promptly ran into this:
Basically, if it had Renee and/or Rosenkavalier on it, I was getting my picture taken with it. That’s how gleeful I was. We spent (well, especially me) a while in the gift shop, perusing. It was all I could to not buy every Rosenkavalier DVD they had, but all of Renee’s CDs they had I already own! So, I was pleased to find a live Met recording of Tosca with Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli, from ’62 I believe, which is supposed to be fantastic (how could it not be?). Choosing Price, whose Tosca meant so much to me growing up, felt right.
From there, back outside for a few more photos and selfies in front of the Met, and then the aforementioned stroll through Central Park, still wiping away tears. Eventually we found lunch, caught a breather in the hotel (where I re-read the end of Act 1 in the libretto), and dressed for the evening to come. I made sure to pack tissues.
So much joy. And more to come!