A Knight at the Opera
As I finished my sophomore year, I had a mid-undergrad crisis. Was I doing enough with my education? Was I taking advantage of all the opportunities in my life? Is my resume bedazzled and decorated enough for graduate school?
With these questions plaguing my mind, I decided to take 20 credits this semester, continue my work-study job with University Relations, accept a research assistantship with Professor Otieno of the Sociology, Cultural Anthropology, and Criminology Department, and of course, keep up with blogging. So far, this semester has been manageable, but it demands a rather Spartan lifestyle. Most days, I am left with just enough time and energy to scroll through social media before I fall asleep and the cycle begins anew.
While I enjoy being productive, my friends, family, and counselor have been reminding me that it’s important to give my brain a break. So when I received an invitation to the opera from Arcadia’s Music program, offering free tickets to the final dress rehearsal of Lucia di Lammermoor by the Philadelphia Opera Company, I jumped at the opportunity to put my academic demands aside and engage in some cultural downtime.
To prepare for our night at the opera, my girlfriend and I watched Phantom of the Opera (which I have since learned isn’t technically an opera, but a musical) and picked out our classiest outfits. While my girlfriend is an avid lover of musicals, I spent my summer days at a local Shakespeare camp. Luckily for us, Lucia di Lammermoor featured both dazzling vocals from the performers and a dramatic plot which rivaled any Shakespearean tragedy.
We saw Lucia di Lammermoor at the Academy of Music, one of my favorite music venues in Philadelphia. Sometimes called “The Grand Old Lady of Locust Street,” the Academy of Music first opened in 1857, and since then has maintained its historical class and elegance. As someone who has only performed in school auditoriums and outdoor patios, stepping into the hall brings back childhood dreams of being behind those red curtains.
The plot of opera focuses on a forbidden love between Lucia Ashton of Lammermoor Castle and Engardo of the Ravenswoods, whose families war against one another for political gain. Enrico, Lucia’s older brother, decides that Lucia must marry Lord Arturo in order for the Ashton family to maintain their riches and power. This conflict of starcrossed lovers and political battles sets a Game of Thrones-esque scene filled with passion, conflict, and naturally, a lot of murder (it’s an opera, afterall).’
For those unacquainted with the operations of an opera, dialogue and plot are conveyed through song. The lyrics are traditionally Italian. The Academy of Music projects supertitles above the stage, but since these translations do not cover all dialogue, it was recommended that we read over the plot before attending the show. But as someone who has been reading textbooks and academic journals day in and day out, it was pleasant to rely less on written words and instead on the vivid score of the opera. The vocals carried as much strength as the vibrant orchestra in the pit. No one was upstaged by the glamor of the Academy. Every cheer of “Bravo!” and “Brava!” were well deserved.
While I am once again buried in my textbooks, I’m glad I took this opportunity to try something new. Instead of refreshing my Twitter feed for the tenth time in a night, it was much more gratifying to relax while experiencing something out of my musical comfort zone. I never pictured myself as an opera fan, but I fell in love with the moody and fantastical composition of Lucia di Lammermoor. Back to the hustle of school from the fantasy of the stage, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to break out of the daily grind and experience something totally new— for free! (A student’s favorite phrase.)
When I can, I’m going to experience more of Philadelphia’s unique culture—the next opportunity may be waiting in my inbox.