Sunday, April 10, 2011

a father, a daughter, and a chauffeur

Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verdi, was first performed at Teatro La Fenice on March 11, 1851.  The famous teatro was under construction when Spoke and I were in Venice back in 1999. 

I saw Rigoletto two years later, with my dad.  It was my first opera. 

I chose Rigoletto because I wanted my very first to be an Italian opera.  I didn't know the tragic story of a father and his daughter or that it would, that night and forever, break my heart while giving me such joy. 

That's opera. 

We sat on the eighth row at Dallas Music Hall, the Winspear Opera House still five years from breaking ground.  I remember giving my dad's arm a series of excited pats in anticipation as the curtain rose.  Then there was a jester singing to me and I fell in love. 

I don't think I took a breath until First Intermission. 

The romance briefly ended as I then had to figure a way to get my dad into his wheelchair, up the long incline to the single, handicapped, Men's Room and back, in fifteen to twenty minutes.  Whoa. 

I'll spare you the details; they aren't pretty but somehow we manged to get in our seats in the nick of time.  (You do know, if not, they close the doors on you.) 

For several years, Spoke drove us downtown for every opera.  We'd pick up my dad, he'd inevitably be running late but Mom would still insist on pictures before we left.  (Thank you, Mom.)  I'd cut up, my dad would laugh, Kevin would start the car... 

We'd give Daddy the front seat where he could talk sports with Spoke as we sped south on Central.  I'd be all cozy in the back, the wide, leather arm rest having been set up just for me with champagne or wine.  I'd tune them out as I watched the sun off to my right; a gigantic orange ball, tinting the sky all around as it dropped lower and lower, mile after mile. 

It was dark when we were dropped at the door and after the opera, Spoke was always there like all good chauffeurs, his limo big white car, ready to drive us home. 

Then there were Po' Boys!  I'd have picked them up in the afternoon and while Spoke helped my dad into the house, trying not to wake Mom, I'd pop his baguette (oyster or shrimp) in the oven so once he changed into comfortable clothes, his Po' Boy would be hot, ready to be slathered with tarter sauce, just the way he liked it. 

I do believe he sat, like I sat at home an hour later, reading the Stagebill, the big, fat Po' Boy dripping while Verdi still circled round in his head. 

After a few years, Spoke decided it would be easier to stay for the operas.  My dad was in his eighties by then and Spoke took over the mad dashes to the Men's Room.  (Thank you, Babe.) 

My father never saw the Winspear. 

A couple of seasons he was ill and then, when he wasn't, it was just too hard.  He'd disagree with me.  He imagined himself as young as when he liked to dash across Peachtree to Sal's (Salvatore's) for Intermission martinis.  He saw a lot of operas at Atlanta's Fox Theater and he met a lot of the casts at Sal's.  I'll tell you about them one day.  Met stories too. 

But tonight, I'm savoring the Rigoletto I saw today.  Kevin patted my arm sympathetically as the curtain rose.  I cried. 

That's opera. 

That's life. 

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