City Pulse

By Amber Roniger

What in God’s name do I know about being a diva? Truth? I’m a complete diva-retard. But I finally realize how I’ve been going about it all wrong all these man-hunting years. What a schmo I’ve been to think that being all miss nicey-nice, honest, goody-two-shoes, trusting, down-to-earth tomboy would snag me a fabulous I-talian lover. Redonculous! Now that I’ve seen TOSCA, and reveled in the venerated presence of the uber-diva, I realize I must adjust my man-snagging tactics post haste and become far more calculating. Apparently famous, tighted Italian painters (Michael Jackson ‘aint the only act doing the man-prance in women’s clothes) fall ever so easily into the spider’s web of love with diva women roiling in jealousy and ready to pounce (meow!). I make a mental note to become that crazy, jealous, operatic woman they all go wild to possess.

How should I know anything about being an Italian temptress? I hardly think ingesting an appallingly watery pizza at the age of 12 somewhere on the top of the boot between Chamonix and the Riviera renders me credentialed. Apparently, I must build up my falsetto (Figaro, Figaro, Fi-ga-ro) if I wish to achieve true divahood (it turns out that singing the high note in Shalom A’lechem in the temple choir doesn’t qualify, in fact, it might be held against me).

Aaaah opera, trés tragiqué! Only in Italian is revenge so romantico, so poignant. I’ve seen opera at Lincoln Center before, but this is my first trip to the Met. On a balmy Saturday’s eve, a languid stroll across the park and a perfunctory cup of coffee later (attempting to avert the most expensive nap in town), I arrive with my family at the mothership like it ‘aint no thing. I encourage my Mom, mortifyingly infamous for sleeping through productions (even heckling, stand-up comics) to share my cappuccino, but to no avail. I must walk this caffeinated road alone.

For my first jaunt into the Met, the grand dame, the Promised Land, I front that I’m a true opera fiend. I mean, how much do I really know about opera? It took me an embarrassingly long time (especially for a writer) to catch on that all tragic operas have essentially the same story line: love, suicide, immortal pain, suicide. But I take pride that I now anticipate how miserably Tosca will inevitably end (not that the synopsis in the Play Bill isn’t a fairly good indicator).

I find the rococo interior of the Met fabulously solicitous. Even the railings are ensconced in bordello red velvet; it just oozes sex and tragedy (and scotch). Our seats hover in orbit stage left of the Milky Way (where Mom is gratefully out of sight of any heckling talent), but hey, I can actually see the orchestra for a change. I revel in the tiniest smidge of pride that we’re in the first row of the official nosebleeds (seat 232, kinda like being the king of the dipshits).

At intermission, I get a hearty kick out of spying my pauper peep down on the regulars dining at the fancy-schmancy restaurant from my Himalayan balcony perch. I eavesdrop on other nosebleed hobos buzzing jealously about the wicked waft of the chocolate mousse. Indeed.

Opera is a true netherworld unto itself and I’m operating at kindergarten level. I take a stab at reading up on the forthcoming season to appear suitably hoity. I am beyond ecstatic to recognize something familiar (besides the recently disqualified misnomer that Tosca is some sort of Sicilian bruschetta) in next season’s line-up, the Met’s 40th. My favorite film director, the brilliant and ballsy, ZHANG YIMOU, will stage the world premiere production of THE FIRST EMPEROR, a historical pageant of ancient China. I am definitely snagging a primo seat for this one, even if I need to take out a second mortgage (can you do this three months into a first mortgage?). If you’ve ever sat mesmerized at any of Yimou’s films (Raise the Red Lantern, To Live, and so many wondrous others), you know this will be an abundant feast for the eyes. Oddly enough, Placido Domingo will sing the title role of China’s great leader who unifies the country, a spectacle not to be missed (I imagine in a similar vein to Ricky Martin playing Evita, but who am I to judge?). And ANTHONY MINGHELLA will craft MADAMA BUTTERFLY, so even ‘lil ‘ole me, an opera-ignorant film geek, can actually relate.

Three acts and two intermissions from its inception, and in spite of Tosca’s inevitable tragic ending, I feel relieved that at least in the afterlife curtain call, the doomed lovers share a post-mortem kiss, proof enough that true love does live forever, at least at the Met. And maybe, just maybe, with a few more viewings and tons of imitation, I too can achieve the grand-master level of high-divahood, the nexus of feminine idolatry, the ballyhoo of the female mystique, the worldly worship by a velvet-clad, baritone man, painting frescoes and cruising Italia for romance…if I’m lucky.

Met Ticket Service: (212) 362-6000
http://www.metopera.org

Originally published May 2006
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