TO OPERA AND BEYOND
Our topic: pilgrimage. Yesterday, two worlds made a pilgrimage to the same plaza in San Francisco. It’s a heck of a place, Civic Center. City Hall on one side, the War Memorial Opera House on the other. Crowds converged outside for the Pride Celebration, inside for “Gotterdammerung” (Sorry, I don’t know how to get umlauts into this text…), the last of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It counts as one of my fave days of all time.
No way could I or anyone else drive into town. Gridlock. Zero parking. So I got myself to the remotest subway station I could find and boarded with gaggles of girls dressed as fairies complete with giant sparkly wings (difficult to fold inside the closing doors, but they managed). Two of the cutest BIGGEST guys you’ve ever seen (we’re talking Bears, people, but not Cal Bears…), holding hands and absolutely sure (or at least the one in charge was absolutely sure) they were getting off for the right transfer when they were wrong-wrong-wrong and not asking until the one not-asking implored me with a look and I offered to help them get where we were all going together. Out we spilled. Folks wearing rainbow and folks wearing opera. Everybody decked. All walking in the same direction. The Pride folks peeled off at the parade. The rest of us–the ones in low heels and bow ties and even a guy wearing a knit version of a Valkyrie helmet–made our way to the last of the best production of the Ring ever. I sat next to two German ladies whose marvelings I understood (well, it’s not hard to translate “Ach, Gott!” and “Fantastiche!”). They went on about how “psychologische” Francesca Zambello’s stage directing was. The word I’d use is “real.” Real-Fantastical. Which is my favorite place to be in theater. To my other side was the nicest woman who’d come, like many, from a far away city, rented a hotel room and camped out for a week to drink in a Ring that rings. Then there was the guy in a tux in the last-last row of the house. An older gentleman. Such dignity he had, reeling off the 13 Rings he’s seen thus far in his life. In the next aisle, another man so lame he had to use two arm braces to get around. But by god he was there. I saw the same stories out on the street. We Ring-goers emerged weepy from the opera’s last moments, bidding farewell to strangers we’d spent the week with. At the same time, lovers in Carnevale finery kissed and hugged around us.
We all tottered toward the subway through mounds of parade trash, moved and tired, a terrific house mix going atop the last of the stages to be dismantled, partiers grooving with each other in time. I’d spent the afternoon bathed in an over-the-top-beautiful exploration of many themes, including the relationship of love to power, love to betrayal, father-love to lover-love and on and on. The Pride folks had done the same. Collectively, we couldn’t be more different, even among our own tribes. I wasn’t sporting a Valkyrie cap. The guys in Gay Pride polo shirts wouldn’t have been caught dead dancing stark naked like the bearded, sun-charred reveler next to them. But we were inspired by love. Nodding and smiling across our various life histories at each other. A little sad that it was over. We’d come a long way to get there. For many of us at a steep price. We recognized that in each other. We recognized the kind of love that is so strong that it makes you dress up in weird ways. Or write operas. Or ride subways (there were many first-timers on those trains…). The key: love inspired, inspired love. Channeled through sinners and over-doers and twisted anti-Semites (Yes, you, Herr Wagner!), but channeled nonetheless. It was a good day.
Photo Credits: Juan Carlos Pometta Betancour and SF Opera
© i.e. ideas expressed 2011