Our first trip to the opera was confusing. There were supertitles above the action that translated the lyrics (we had no idea it would be so modern), there were many, many people asleep in their seats that cost hundreds of dollars, and the biggest shocker had to be that there was no death. No death? NO DEATH?!
When the curtain parted for repeated bows, we sat stunned that no one, not even the bald bar wench, kicked it. No man went teats up, and no fair lass withered in sadness. Sure, there were conflicts of love and honor, but where was the keeling over? We've seen Julia Roberts weep at the opera in Pretty Woman, and Cher and Nicolas Cage dribbled a bit in Moonstruck. All the exposure we'd had to the opera before our visit had something to do with death. So we felt a little let down.
We explained our feelings to the Dallas Opera's public relations and communications manager Suzanne Calvin. Her response was, "In our upcoming productions, you could pick from a sickly, sad type of dying or more of a dance-dance-oh-no cardiac arrest kind of death." The first speaks of La Bohème and the second, which is also our focus here, Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujoand La Vida Breve.
In de Falla's double bill, the opera features world-renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves (you'll remember her from her renditions of "America, the Beautiful" at the televised National Prayer Service following September 11, plus plenty of opera stuff) as Candelas in the first story and Salud in the latter. Both operas tell of love gone awry, and La Vida Breve answers our need for drama and tragedy with some sudden fatality. The summary here is brief, but with these short pieces we don't want to spoil anything...you know, except the death part. After all, we want to make it clear that in addition to seeing the amazingly talented Graves, your morbid interest won't be unanswered. As Calvin says, "Come to one of the next shows--you want to see some death, well, we aim to please. "