I drove to the Musical Arts Center (MAC) last Friday evening with high expectations. I walked out several hours later disappointed.
My disappointment had little to do with the show itself. A Wedding, Pulitzer Prize winning-composer William Bolcom's adaptation of Robert Altman's 1978 film about a high-society wedding, was first staged at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2004. It's Bolcom's third project with IU Opera Theater. His other collegiate premieres, McTeague (1996) and A View from the Bridge (2005), achieved critical acclaim with IU Opera Theater.
Overall, it was enjoyable, and even though the supertitles ruined every single joke for me, I laughed often thanks to the performers' talent and execution.
No, I wasn't let down by the quality of the singing, because it was beautiful. I wasn't let down with the set, because it was incredibly well done by Robert O'Hearn, with smooth transitions between each scene. I certainly wasn't dissatisfied with the IU Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Agler, because the music was lovely.
I was unhappy with myself. Despite all of these positive factors -- the comedy! The singing! The set! The music! -- I still would have rather been at the movies watching The Kite Runner or Juno with my friends or having a beer at Nick's. To my dismay, I even found myself texting a friend right up to the start of the show and then talking to another throughout intermission.
How typical of a 23-year-old, I thought to myself, as I had no one to say this to because in my certainty that none of my friends would want to spend Friday night at the opera, I hadn't asked anyone to go with me. Of course, this was another reason for my bad mood at the show.
I was alone on a Friday night. What a tragedy, right? But, squeezed in between two groups of friends -- four young women on my right, giggling and nudging each other at every sexual innuendo, and a couple at my left, holding hands and alternating between kissing and making snarky comments about the show -- my loneliness was palpable.
I was also distracted by another couple in front of me who apparently came to the show to snuggle and whisper sweet nothings into each other's ears. While I certainly would never be caught dead making out during an opera ( "You were making out during Schindler's List?" kept running through my mind), it would have been great to have a friend next to me to laugh with and make snarky comments to (about the couples, not the performers).
Ultimately, though, I was annoyed by this self-imposed feeling that to be "cultured," to have good taste, I had to like this one opera -- my first opera, a contemporary one that I assume is a drastically different experience than, say, La Boheme or Rigoletto. I knew going into the show that although the singing would be beautiful, it's not what I'm going to listen to on my iPod any time soon. Luckily, after I stopped being ridiculous, I realized that this doesn't mean I have bad taste -- it just means I have different taste than the devotees of the opera.
I came to this realization as I drove down Jordan Avenue away from the MAC. As I listened to my B.B. King CD, promptly forgetting about the opera I'd just watched and instead thinking excitedly about seeing him in concert the following evening, I remembered something: No one was going to judge me for not liking the opera. I'm open to going again (although I wouldn't be too excited about going alone), I appreciate the hard work and talent of everyone involved, and I was about to see an 82-year-old blues legend in concert. There was no reason to be disappointed.
Alison Hamm can be reached at .
Alternative contributor Alison Hamm is taking an arts writing class with the IU School of Journalism's Peter Jacobi. This first-person account of her experience at the opera was written for her class.