Grief and Glory at the Opera

Grief and Glory at the OperaLate, past my bedtime, I am dancing with the dog in the driveway. With arms stretched out to hug the universe, I sing to reach the stars. My head is filled with a melody that clings, wrapping itself around every thought. And my heart bursts with love. For everyone and everything in the world. It’s growing greater than my little frame can contain. All this emotion and energy ricochets too wildly back and forth off the walls in my house, so I take myself outside where I can twirl it off into the still night air. This is what it looks like when I come home on Opera Night.

Opera is meant to move us, give us goosebumps. Some think opera is boring. Irrelevant. Silly even, as every human emotion is expressed in song. Imagine though: people get poisoned or stabbed, they crave power or revenge, they die or drown in despair, in desperate love, sometimes forbidden love. There is war, rage, jealousy, fear, hope, joy, … an explosion of passion, all conveyed through a wide range of the human voice. Howling, whimpering, roaring … trilling to tunes that tell a story that is timeless and universal. Always, there’s grief and glory to be found at the opera.

And opera is not just singing. It is a combination of music, drama, visual design and movement. It’s like the Ironman triathlon of the arts, only all the action is taking place at once. In costume, with stunning stage sets. It captivates and thrills us; it drains us. For performers and audience alike, opera is a workout.

Throughout my daughter’s cancer, come Opera Night, wherever we were, I took a break to attend the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD broadcasts offered several Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings at local movie theaters worldwide. I could sit through every tragedy known to man, and witness on the large screen all the churning I felt inside myself. Sometimes the story ended badly. I’d be in tears. But there was comfort in watching the sadness of the larger-than-life characters. Their grief was amplified by the intensity of the music. Magnificence. Even in the midst of catastrophe. Every pain I felt was validated, and became more bearable.

So meet me at the opera. We’ll hike the highest peaks and deepest pits of our emotions. We’ll witness the truth of what it is to be human in this world. And when we laugh or cry at the opera, we’ll know we’re not alone.


What does opera mean to you? What makes you feel like singing and dancing your heart out?


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7 thoughts on “Grief and Glory at the Opera

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well, the dog loves it. And it makes me laugh. I imagine anyone else seeing the spectacle of me dancing with dog in the driveway would be convinced of my craziness. Cheers!

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Where’s the photo of you in the driveway? Maybe you can set up a tripod before your next dance? I loved opera and was raised on it by my spiritual teacher. When Vic was dying, I could hear the voice of a tenor calling, “Mimi! Mimi!” I wanted to call for Vic that way, but didn’t want to be thrown out of the hospital. I can’t listen to Opera anymore. It’s way more than my compromised auditory system can take, but I remember attending and listening with great fondness. Speaking of drama, this is it!

  2. Suzanne Nussbaum

    So glad that opera means so much to you, Robin; I have a feeling that it will mean more and more to us as the years advance (more to appreciate & understand).

    I’m happy that there are still wonderful arts institutions like the Met (and all the teachers of singers and instrumentalists who stand behind them) where this incredible set of crafts–set-making and costume-making not the least of them–continue to get passed down to the next generation.

    Hoping to keep running into you at the opera!


  3. Lynne Taetzsch

    I’m not an opera fan, but if anything would get me to try it, it’s your description, Robin!

  4. Gayle Gray

    Love your story. The only thing missing is a photo of you dancing in the driveway with your dog.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Not easy to photograph myself dancing or doing anything. All these folks who can do great selfies – I don’t know how they manage that. Besides, my friend Corinne volunteered to pose. THAT is a rarity. It’s so much fun to shoot someone else. So I had her be an opera singer for the afternoon and it worked for us both. But yes, Gayle, I think a shot of me and my dog dancing in the driveway will have to be one of my next projects.


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