I’m a writer. I love a good story. The stories in operas are not good; Mimi wasting away of consumption in a Paris garret, Norma climbing the funeral pyre, Carmen’s ranting ex… the ending is always the same. She dies tragically.
And to my ears, these gloomy tales us are told by hysterical screechers, their voices grating on my nerves like dry erase on a white board. I spend most of the show wishing they’d stop singing so I could hear the music! There have been some performances I have truly enjoyed, but more for the moment; seeing an outdoor performance of The Magic Flute with the Château de Sceaux as a backdrop (at last, a happy ending… although that high F6 drove me mad for days), or watching Carmen at Christmas, cuddled-up with Mr French over a steaming mug of hot chocolate (spoiler alert; she dies tragically). Someone once told me that it was a question of maturity and that I’d learn to love it when I was older which has only left me dreading the fit of depression I’ll fall into if I ever do start liking opera…
So it was an incredible act of selflessness when I chose to give Mr French tickets to see La Traviata (you know the ending) at the Royal Opera House of Versailles for Christmas. The Royal Opera House was inaugurated in 1770 as part of the wedding celebrations for Louis XIV and his charming little Austrian, Marie-Antoinette. The Opera house was closed for restoration in 2007 and Mr French has had a hard time getting tickets since its re-opening in 2009. In walks moi. I was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice and attend an opera, even if it meant taking the risk of actually liking it and spiraling into a fit of depression as I ponder my mortality.
The sacrifice was large when you consider the sumptuous beauty of the setting; royal seats designed for a king, exquisite chandeliers and ornately painted wood. And we had the entire palace to ourselves, with just 1000 other, well-dressed guests. Versailles at its best. I can’t say that I was suffering.
The show was spectacular, and even if I don’t yet love opera, I do love the music and I could appreciate that the soprano, Nathalie Manfrino, was truly fantastic. The purity of her voice moved even me during her final aria. But I’ll be honest; the best part was spending the two intermissions haunting the wings, watching the sunset over the deserted gardens, and entering the King’s loge, feeling like a princesse as I sat in the royal seats.
MORE INFO/ Opéra Royal de Versailles