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Friday, February 17, 2017

Good morning crew,

'Carmen' is an opera by French composer Georges Bizet. It is all about a Spanish gypsy (Carmen) and her tempestuous love affair with an abusive, co-dependent soldier named Don Jose who abandons the military to run away with her.

Spoiler alert: After Carmen leaves Don Jose for a flamboyant bull-fighter named Escamillo, Don Jose stabs her to death in the final act. What do you want? It's opera.

The opera premiered in Paris in 1875. Oddly, it wasn't very successful in its home country. It wasn't until 'Carmen' started being performed outside of France that it became a huge hit. Since then it has become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon.

The reason for this preamble is that the wife surprised me last weekend by taking me downtown to see a limited performance of 'Carmen' at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago!

It was sort of a last minute thing. Last Monday she told me not to make any plans for Saturday night. When I asked why not all she would say was that it was a surprise.

And surprise it was.

I haven't been to see an opera in a good 20 years, but several times I have commented to the wife that if we were to go to see one 'Carmen' would be an excellent choice. I have never seen it live, but I have seen a movie version on television. It has a lot of good music, it moves along pretty quickly, and it is not completely tragic and depressing (despite the brutal murder at the end).

So like the thoughtful sweetheart she is, when the wife saw 'Carmen' advertised she jumped on a couple tickets as an early Valentine's Day surprise. I didn't even know what we were doing until we walked up to the building and I saw the marquee.

Now, while I haven't been to see an opera in 20 years, I have been to see a lot of live performances, even musicals, and at no live performance has there ever been a restriction on going to the bathroom. That may seem like an odd thing to point out, but apparently at the Chicago Lyric Opera there is such a restriction.

If it weren't for the drink service before the show I wouldn't have gotten into trouble, but we arrived kind of early and I made the mistake of having two whiskey-and-cokes (I wonder what the old bartender from the restaurant a couple weeks ago would have to say about that).

Consequently, by the end of the first act I was already feeling a little uncomfortable pressure. The intermission didn't come until after act 2, but in between the first and second act the curtain comes down for a few minutes while the stage hands change the set. In my mind I thought I could make a lightning dash for the restroom and be back before the curtain came back up.

I didn't quite make it.

As I sprinted back through the marble-tiled reception hall I could already hear the music starting. I would only miss the first 30 seconds or so! But that was too much for the management. They don't like transients wandering in and out during a performance, stepping on people's toes as they negotiate seat rows and muttering, "Sorry, excuse me, sorry," over the performers.

So a kid in a bad tuxedo stopped me at the door to the theater and said, "Sorry. No one allowed back in after the performance starts."

I had an argument on me lips, but then I thought, what am I going to do, knock him down so I can get into the theater? I shrugged my shoulders and he pointed me down the hall to where a small knot of people were sitting on folding chairs watching a 30 inch monitor hanging on the wall. They were showing grainy video of the performance inside while the tinny-sounding music came through a little, six-inch speaker.

So I sat in my suit and tie and watched the entire second act on TV with the rest of the losers who couldn't hold their pee. It was kind of humiliating.

And the worst part is that the second act has two of the most famous arias in the entire piece, in the entire classical catalog; the Toreador Song and the Flower Song ('La fleur que tu m'avais jetee'). 500 feet away from me there was a cast of 50 professional singers belting out, "Toreador, en garde! Toreador! Toreador! Et songe bien, oui, songe en combattant," and I was in the hallway watching it on TV in the 'tiny bladder' section.

Well, at least the wife got to see the entire thing the way it is supposed to be experienced. And I still got to see act 3 and 4. On the plus side, the wife may have finally caught the classical music bug.

Granted, Bizet is no Katy Perry, but it's a start.

Laugh it up,

Joe

joe@gophercentral.com

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"The U.S. Army has officially lifted its ban on soldiers having dreadlocks. This is good news for the Army's elite Hacky Sack Corps." -Conan O'Brien

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"Taco Bell has announced plans to offer a $600 wedding service at its flagship restaurant in Las Vegas. And this is cool - the burritos are conveniently wrapped in divorce papers." -Seth Meyers

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"A new report finds that over 55,000 bridges in the U.S. were found to have major structural problems last year. When asked how they're going to fix them, the government was like, 'Eh, we'll cross that gaping hole when we get to it.'" -Jimmy Fallon

***

Ben Shapiro, an intensely musical individual, was burdened with a brother-in-law who had the virtue of being a successful businessman, but who was undeniably the least cultured person in town. Ben found this very humiliating and labored to introduce the poor creature to the finer things in life.

At last, through much effort, Ben persuaded his brother-in-law to accompany him to a presentation of the opera 'Carmen'. He held his breath, fearing some last minute event would spoil everything, but the day came and Ben and his brother-in-law actually entered the opera house and took their places in an excellent box.

To Ben's satisfaction the opera seemed to catch his brother-in-law's fancy at once. He listened open-mouthed and round-eyed, following every move and absorbing every note.

Ben was absolutely triumphant when, as they were leaving the theater, his brother-in-law was singing under his breath, "To-ray-a-dor-uh, guard-un! To-ray-a-dor, To-ray-a-dor!"

Ben said, beaming, "So you like the Toreador Song, do you?"

His brother-in-law replied with excitement, "Of course I do! And as a practical businessman I'm not afraid of making a prediction, either. I'm telling you, that song's going to be a hit!"




*-------------- Guaranteed to Roll Your Eyes --------------*

As the high school teacher was correcting essays written by her students she read, "Pedro jumped on his burrow and rode off into the sunset."

She wrote at the bottom of the page, "You obviously have problems with homonyms. A burrow is a hole in the ground. A burro is an ass. At your age it's time to learn the difference."

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