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TraVal Post – The Opera Story

This is where I want to try out some of my travel stories with you. I’d love your feedback.

Opening Night: San Diego Opera and Turandot
I am still humming the tune to nessun dorma. It was a spectacular night. I measure an opera’s success by its power to move me. I was not disappointed. It was right up there with my La Boheme experience.

This one was posted in the travel section of the Union Tribune on December 12, 2010. The travel editor titled it:


During the summer of 2008, my niece and I celebrated her graduation from college with a trip to Italy. I had only one “must do” on my agenda: I wanted to go to an opera. Other than seeing “Phantom of the Opera,” I had little experience with it. I did some research and found out that when we were in Florence, a production of “La Boheme” would be running at St. Mark’s English Church. Little did I know, I was in for the treat of my life.

The church was small and beautiful. The opera company consisted of 4 singers and a pianist. The pianist was also the moderator who explained the acts to us in English during intermissions. The pianist started and the first two singers entered the stage. The opening act has two male characters in their Paris apartment singing about their art and lack of finances. I had never heard anything like this before. I’m sure my mouth was open in perpetual awe. These voices were so pure, strong and deep, they needed no amplification.

Later in that scene, the lead woman, Mimi, came on stage and visited the apartment. My past experience with powerful women singers was hearing Cher and Celine Dion sing live. This was in another league. Here, you could feel the emotions of the words without understanding them. I was transfixed for the entire opera.

The last scene is when Mimi dies. It is opera, it is a tragic story, and I knew she was going to die. But some time during that opera I connected with the story and made it personal. I was losing Mimi. I was overwhelmed. Her death scene was wrenching. I kept dabbing at my tears trying not to miss one moment of it. After the final bows were taken, my niece leaned over and said, “Who are you, Pretty Woman or something?” That magically broke the spell and I could only smile.

Not ready to speak yet, I looked around to see if I was the only one who had such an emotional reaction. I elbowed my niece and whispered to her to look behind us. There, one pew behind us, curled up into a ball, was a young woman sobbing uncontrollably. If I understood Italian and actually comprehended the words of the opera, that would have been me sobbing.

I’ve tried to recapture the intensity of that opera in the small little church in Florence and I haven’t succeeded. I think it is because some moments cannot be replicated. I love travel because there will be those times when you are at the right place, at the right time, with an open heart and amazing things will happen. Whether it is visiting a new city in the U.S. or being a guest in other county, I live for those heartfelt moments. If I am very lucky, there will be many more.

St. Marks English Church