My dear friend Barbara was an opera aficionado and was so delighted she felt well enough to attend the Ring cycle last year. Barbara had been fighting non-Hodgkin’s B lymphoma for over a year and after chemo and radiation, she was exhausted. Many times, she would tell me about the various operas she had experienced in different cities (New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco among others). We were making plans for me to attend my first opera with her when I developed a retroperitoneal liposarcoma (a large cancerous tumor) that needed surgery on October 19, 2011, and radiation starting in January.
On February 29, I finished radiation and by April 14, when I walked two laps in the Relay for Life at USF, I finally felt strong enough to join her at the War Memorial Opera House. That was not to be as she passed away at home on April 22.
Fast forward to June and I see an ad in the Craigslist Free section: one voucher from a cast member to see the final dress rehearsal of Attila. The price? A poem or paragraph about the opera. When a gauntlet like that is waved at a writer, it provided the inspiration for a poem which I wrote and sent within 15 minutes:
An ancient story turned to opera by the master's hand in 1846;
The premiere was lavish and grand.
Attila, Aquileia, the Adriatic--co-stars all.
Odabella leads the resistance to the approaching wall
Of soldiers and army and dreams of death which
Happens anon while the wily witch
Who loses and wins her love with the art
Of a knife she uses to stab in the heart
Yes, I compared Attila to Achilles because both were only vulnerable once: a spear through the heel and a knife in the heart. [Above: Odabella (Lucrecia Garcia) threatens Attila (Ferruccio Furlanetto). Photo by Cory Weaver.]
I was contacted almost immediately to verify I had indeed written the poem and the generous cast member mailed the voucher to me. I would be attending my first opera and sitting in my walker in the back row of the orchestra section.
Wow. I was breathless and completely dazzled by the sets, the choreography and the brilliant voices. It was magnificent and I appreciated the English subtitles. In a former life, I was a violinist and know enough Italian to get myself into trouble. It was an addition that didn’t distract from the performance. [Left: Attila (Furlanetto) and his army of Huns ravage Italy. Photo by Cory Weaver. ]
I want to thank my generous cast member, the performers and the Opera House staff for making my first opera experience a time I will always treasure. I intend to return to see many more performances as long as I am able.