Alan Rhodes

Love, Death and Great Music

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The news is so disturbing and depressing these days that sometimes you just have to take a break and do something to lift your spirits. We all have our antidotes for despair. Maybe for you it’s a walk in the woods or a bicycle ride or eating an entire banana cream pie. Nothing does it for me like opera.

“You, Mr. Cranky, an opera fan?” you might be saying. Yep, I’m an opera fanatic. I attend all productions at the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Opera, show up for the screenings from London’s Royal Opera House at the Pickford Cinema, listen to opera at home, sing opera in the shower and subscribe to Opera News magazine.

One of my favorite opera experiences is going to the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon for the live HD broadcasts from the New York Metropolitan Opera. The Met is as good as it gets.

As an opera zealot I have a compulsion to proselytize so I’m now talking to any of you who might never have seen an opera and maybe think that you wouldn’t like it. You might think that opera is only for rich snobs in limousines and evening dress. Well, sure, some of that crowd might like opera, but it’s not just for snooty people. One of my favorite writers, the very down-to-earth Ann Patchett, is crazy about opera. So is my favorite Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, and Lucy Lawless are opera fans, along with country singer Tyler Farr and NBA All-Star Pau Gasol. Did you know that the late Freddie Mercury was an opera lover and once sang a duet with the legendary soprano Monserrat Caballe?

Opera is definitely cool, so how about joining me at the Lincoln Theatre on Sat., March 11 for Verdi’s La Traviata? Come on, go for it. This opera has it all: a beautiful, dying heroine, her hot-blooded lover who gets misled into doing terrible things, a hard-drinking, degenerate Parisian society, and an ending that is tragic in its consequences yet uplifting in its affirmation of love and forgiveness. All this unfolds against magnificent music. You’ll want to grab a glass from somewhere and join in on the famous drinking song, and the beautiful arias can make you cry. Don’t worry if you aren’t fluent in Italian; operas are subtitled these days.

Maybe you’re saying, “Well, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot, but I live in Bellingham. Why should I drive to Mount Vernon when the Met Opera also screens at the Regal here in town?”
That’s a fair question, and if the only way you can see an opera is to go to the Regal, do it. I personally avoid the place because the theater looks like a cross between a theme park and a casino, they post irritating signs about searching your bags for contraband snacks, and some of your ticket money could end up supporting unpleasant rightwing causes.

I like the Lincoln Theatre, a classic 1926 movie house that operates as a nonprofit and does a lot of things to support the local community. As a bonus, if you go to the theater a little early you can hear a lecture on the opera by Stassya Pacheco, a walking encyclopedia of operatic knowledge and a very entertaining speaker.

La Traviata lasts for about three hours, but there’s an intermission. Before the show you can even preorder a box lunch from Pacioni’s Market down the street. When the intermission starts, don’t rush right out to the lobby or you’ll miss some of the great backstage interviews that are a perk of seeing the opera onscreen, and that the people back in New York who paid a hundred bucks a ticket don’t get to see.

The show starts at 9:55am, but be there around 9:20 if you want to catch the lecture. Full disclosure: opera costs a lot to put on, so the broadcast tickets are more expensive than a regular movie: $23 for adults, $21 for seniors and $19 for students. Money well spent.

If you decide to go, stop by and say hello after the show. I’ll be in the last row, the guy crying into his popcorn as Violetta sings her heartbreaking aria Addio del passato, “Farewell to the past, farewell to smiling dreams.”

Warning: opera may be addictive. But it’s also very good for your health.

The Lincoln Theatre is located in downtown Mount Vernon at 712 S. 1st Street.

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