What is it about the idea of opera that is so compelling, such a uniquely elegant and dramatic happening that one feels an irresistible frisson saying “When I was at the opera” that is planets away from, say, “When I was at the grocery store”?
As someone who has never in her life had any reason for the former phrase to exit her mouth until relatively recently, I have been savouring the past 18 months of frissons, as in “When I go to see Cecilia Bartoli at Versailles in May”, which I have been happily dropping like precious jewels into my regular conversations since the day that I bought tickets a year and a half ago.
How does such an utterly extravagant thing come to loom on one’s horizon? It has never been one of my most comfortable things to discuss, however let’s get it over with: I am the beneficiary of an considerable amount of privilege. I mostly pass this off as “luck”, however unearned benefit is more like it; it forms an important piece of the background to stories such as I am about to share with you.
So here’s what happened.
A couple of years ago my Mom graciously invited me to go to Paris with her. Here is the beautiful story of that journey. In anticipation of our trip, a francophile friend suggested that I look into special events at Versailles. I did, and saw that – OMGoddess! – Cecilia Bartoli was having a recital in the royal opera house while we were going to be there. My Mom loves opera, and so I bought tickets.
Parfait, am I right? A few days before our departure, my Dad became curious about the concert, looked it up and shortly thereafter gave me a call. Did I realize that the tickets were for May 31, 2016, not 2015? Not so much: argh. Math-challenged though I may be, I don’t normally have any issues with the whole 5/6 thing: it just never entered my mind in January of 2015 that the event might be taking place more than a year later.
As sad as I was to have to break the news to my Mom about my mistake, it presented me with an interesting conundrum: what was I going to do with the tickets? Selling them seemed like the obvious thing to do, however I had no idea what might be involved and decided to put off dealing with it until I returned.
We had an amazing time (blog post linked again in case you skipped it: there are some very precious memories here) and then I came home and was talking to one of my all-time dearest friends about the trip. Long story short, by the end of our conversation we had decided to go to Paris to attend the concert after all.
There are a million other background details here, however suffice to say that it was one of those YOLO moments where we decided to say yes to something extraordinary.
And so here we are, my sweet, strong, amazing friend Mary and I, having the absolute best time. (As an aside, for those of you wondering why I did not come with my Mom this time around, again, a million details – however know that she is 100% fine and there is no tragic story on its way on that front.)
We have done a ton of the typical fabulous tourist things, plus a few other random surprises, and even had the opportunity to meet up with yet another all-time BFF. It has been beyond wonderful, precious and stunning; we have been savouring every moment.
We also spent some thoughtful moments at the Place de la Republique, which has become a de facto memorial for the terrorist attacks of 2015. In addition to the obvious sadness of the posters of murdered loved ones, faded flowers, poems and so on, we were struck by how defaced the statues were. Our takeaway was that there is no way to clean up such deep grief, nor should there be.
So… what about the opera?
We have been so excited: what to wear, planning our transportation and so on. Further to my previous 5/6 mixup, I have checked and double-checked everything. The whole “mistake” part of this story has become an amusing dinner party anecdote where I get to have the pleasure outlined earlier of repeatedly saying “opera” in a personal context: I would not be at all surprised if even those who love me most dearly have heard enough.
Due to Vancouver-style pounding rain, we splurged on a cab back from the stunning Fondation Louis Vuitton (more on this place in a later post) and I took the opportunity to have a chat with our driver. I adore speaking French and have been gifted with a not-bad accent and total fearlessness when it comes to making mistakes, which seems to do the trick when it comes to engaging Parisians in casual conversations.
I learned that our driver was originally from Haiti; he had a great deal to say about how wonderful Canadians are (everyone I meet while travelling seems to have a relative in Edmonton: what is up with that?) and expounded, “We are all one, and yet we are nothing. We are but specks of dust in the wind. All that matters is good health.”
Wonderful sentiments at any time, however particularly so when one checks one’s email and learns that, desolee, Ms. Bartoli is not well and the concert has been rescheduled to October.
I look up from my phone to my friend and share the news, and – in case there was ever any doubt about what a positive attitude looks like – she starts laughing and says “Well, we’re healthy and we’re here.” Exactement, as our driver observed when we shared our sudden misfortune with him. This crazy dream had come to a sudden end, which makes me feel a bit sad, but also kind of amazed in a funny way at – well, la vie (as in “c’est la vie”, of “that’s life” fame).
Here’s what the lost opera reminds me of: that I have loving parents, incredible friends, a wonderful business (complete with ass-busting business partner who is holding the fort while I suffer this “misfortune”), an amazing daughter, extraordinary husband, beautiful garden, cosy house, and an able, healthy mind and body that are holding up just fine at the moment. Among a freaking multitude of other things.
It’s interesting to reflect that it’s the top-line item so readily identified by my friend and our driver as ultimately precious that is precisely what’s missing for Ms. Bartoli: I heartily wish her a speedy recovery, remain hopeful of one day enjoying her gifts in person, and in the meantime am grateful beyond measure.