Friday, November 26, 2010


Fall semester in college.
In a humanities class which introduced me to so many things, I was introduced to the opera Carmen, more specifically Francesco Rosi's film version. I dug it. There was a lot of academic work entrenched in appreciating the film/the opera/the music, but I genuinely enjoyed it, and did tend to get caught up in the passion of it all.

It was my birthday. My best friends found a sweet deal on some tickets for a modern dance performance in LA, and we bought them without knowing much about the show. It was called CarMan, and ended up being a modern dance interpretation of the opera Carmen, set in a 1950's mechanic's garage. A little scandalous, the dancing, but a lovely evening.
(Before the performance, standing outside, my friends surprised me by having some street performers sing me happy birthday).

A semester in Spain. Impossible to sum up in a few sentences. It was the first time I really listened to the recordings of Maria Callas. My host family-"hermana" taught me how to listen properly . . . I began to really appreciate opera music in general.
Then. The Royal Opera House in Madrid had this amazing-serendipitous thing where if there was a performance one night that was not sold out, the less desirable seats would be sold two hours prior to the performance for a steep steep discount. Carmen was in town. A friend and I went, amidst the furs and pearls and opera glasses (literally!), and somehow snagged tickets for the equivalent of about six dollars. My seat was in a balcony, behind a supporting beam. My friend was on on the opposite side of the theater (as is oft the case with these last minute seats, few are ever in pairs). From my seat, I couldn't see the stage unless I leaned waaay forward. Mostly, I just stood behind the little row of seats and watched, thinking occasionally about my new grey-blue leather Spanish shoes and how supportive they were. And then I got sucked into the story, and, my goodness, the music. I learned later that the woman portraying Carmen was world-reknowned, that much of the audience had come just to see her. I know my breath stopped a few times. I know I had tears in my eyes a few times. But I don't know how humans could have created such an experience.

It was only in hindsight that I realized not every autumn of relative adulthood would necessarily include Carmen. There were other artsy-ish moments, an obsession with my undergrad thesis, and another birthday concert with a band I may also have been a little obsessed with. But no Carmen that I can recall now.

I was living in Salt Lake and hanging out with my mom more than I had in a few years. It was a remarkable year for so very many reasons . . . in October, we saw that the ballet version of Carmen at a downtown theater. I think she may have humored me, but she was perfect company, and I always-always like ballet. Still.

Missouri. A weird autumn, filled with new friends, a very new place, and a very bizarre daily schedule. 2005 was an excellent year for then-new music, wasn't it? (I think of this often). I spent a lot of time studying and watching the stars. One afternoon, driving back from the local grocery store, feeling wistful and thinking of home, I turned on the radio to one of the low frequency FM stations. Something familiar played. Carmen! I drove on, feeling intensely that the universe knew where I was and what I needed at that moment. Good job, universe.

Like 2003, not every year has its Carmen. Still in Missouri, though, and those new friends were now among my fiercest-bestest.

Another new city. I sort of forgot about Carmen. I may have sort of forgot about a lot of things beautiful that once made me cry in awe. (Not that I was unhappy or not surrounded by love). The bizarre daily schedule of the two previous years morphed into an even more bizarre life-schedule. It was maddening and fascinating. Free time was for physical movement and people I loved. (Forced priorities?)

Same city, better schedule. I'm no longer chronically weary. I have started to re-introduce the idea of hobbies in my life. Paper mache was sort of a bust. As has been kickball (so far!). But running has blossomed into something akin to a new religion. And, the piano. My grandmother suggested I get a piano keyboard and relearn some of the songs I had payed as a little girl. I've been working diligently on a few pieces I loved twenty years ago (omg), but the other day was flipping through the sheet music that came with the keyboard. And yes, amidst the Michael-Row-Your-Boat-Ashores and the Musettes, "Habanera," from Carmen revealed itself. I tapped out a few lines, perhaps tentatively at first, but then, because it's just that kind of music, with a little more confidence, and almost-relief. How nice to know, really, that when one needs her Carmen, she is only a few minutes of effort away.
Still, though, I'm eager to see how she'll grace my presence in the future.


  1. All the women in my hall during first year danced and twirled down the corridor singing the Habanera for about two weeks after that Core lecture. I'm sure this was a common occurrence.

    I didn't know you saw Carmen at Teatro Real, too! I saw it with Nick, and joined you and others at Cuevas de Sesamo (ahhhh!) after. Oddly, what I remember most about it is hurrying to get the tickets at the teatro before a 9am class, and falling and seriously gashing my knee on the escalator while transferring at Canal. But I got those tickets!

    Funny how these shared experiences follow us through life in different, albeit similar ways.

  2. I love all three of you ladies (Carmen being the third, in case it was unclear). I really do.