For the opera
tonight my heart is dressed in fitted black —
a mournful and desirous
type of gown that Callas would have worn,
for music is untouchable,
and stages are pandemic-dim,
but I’m still so in love…
I remember my first Met performance —
twenty-one and tortured
by the body language of a Verdi song.
I longed to pour my self into
the lips of starry arias —
tasting all their poetry and sugar. Heat
rising from the summer nights of New York City
made me question why I’d ever leave
when a voice could burn so wild, so clear —
if passion could survive my fears.
Like other mortals,
we singers have our gods:
those ghosts of greats who came before us.
Even when the room is empty,
eyes are felt like gravity
that’s weighing down
like burdened clouds —
like my decisions and indecisions.
With heavy velvet eyelash curtains
these ancients crush with just a blink —
though still we sing,
they tell me that they really see me.
To be seen is what I wanted.
All ivory, polished, keys sung-open?
few know the strings inside
are forged in fire,
nourishing the heart
that does the real singing.
“Most of the time, even when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about legal problems, but when I go to the opera, I’m just lost in it.” – RBG
These poems are, in part, inspired by the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only was she a hero for women’s rights in the United States, but she was, perhaps, the most prominent and passionate supporter of American opera. She was very much beloved by the singing community and rarely missed an opening or closing night at the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan. She was the type of loyal aficionado known to even attend dress rehearsals.
During this pandemic my heart breaks for the performing arts that are immensely struggling around the world. Many theaters have closed their doors, and incredibly talented artists are having to redirect their careers just to survive. In difficult times we turn to the arts to help our spirits through, and I fear for their ability to recover, when it was already challenging enough to find funding pre-pandemic. Supporting your local theater organizations that foster the artists of future generations is more important than ever before.
Writing and photography by: Katy Claire Funke
This is “Addio del Passato” from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata (the song I reference in the first poem). Seeing this production live at the Met was an unforgettable experience for me. In this performance, one of my favorite sopranos, Anna Netrebko, sings the role of Violetta. This aria is sung when she realizes that she is succumbing to tuberculosis and she is mourning the loss of her future with her love, Alfredo, though she doesn’t want anyone to cry for her. Currently, Netrebko is in the hospital with COVID-19, but is thankfully on the mend. ♥️