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A Night at the Opera

By February 3, 2017 No Comments

By: Mary Davis

Published in Whitney Word – Volume 32, No. 5 – October 2016

There are not only many nights at the opera but afternoons and evenings of opera at local cinemas. These simulcasts have even evolved into Simulcast Encores, popular because crowds of opera lovers have been turned away from the first filming despite the fact that four of twelve theatres have had Renee Fleming warbling bel canto simultaneously. So Eve sat alone at the encore.

Going alone was no longer a problem. When first widowed she had hesitated to do alone anything more customarily coupled than grocery shopping. And even at the supermarket she would often watch couples just to check if they were talking, laughing, selecting fruit, even holding hands or pushing their carts together.

There was still a prized seat for Armida—front row, second tier, an orchestra seat except this twelve-plex cinema never had an orchestra. This front row is easily accessible so it often holds those with wheelchairs and walkers, the limpers and gimpers, of which she was recently one after knee surgery. Eve’s neighbors are an elderly couple: the woman with a walker; the man, a dashing Brit wearing an ascot. The woman, quickly opening a dialogue with Eve, is lovely and lively, her orange-hued hair matching her bright demeanor. Over two protracted intermissions she tells Eve the story of their life together, just seven years long.

They met at the Met! In January of 2003 she, nameless even to him then, was recently widowed and went to the Met with a close woman friend. In row H of the orchestra she was seated next to him, also recently a widower. They chatted a bit between acts of Gounod’s Faust, and he was soon fascinated by her having studied opera and still singing for her own delight. He had long been a fan of opera and was a fine amateur pianist. They met again and again, lunching in picturesque little bistros around Lincoln Center. Finally, he began to cook for her in his studio apartment near Julliard, escorting her back to Grand Central to catch her train to Connecticut. After a time she began to stay over at his place in New York City. By the end of 2003 they were married.

Transplanted twenty-five years before from London, he was willing to relocate again, this time to Old Saybrook, where she owned a grey-shingled cottage near the point where the Connecticut River enters Long Island Sound. They continued to travel to the Met but also added opera simulcasts to their repertoire. On her eightieth birthday, she confided to Eve, he had surprised her with a weeklong trip to Prague, attending opera every day.

Without warning she asks Eve her age, then reassures her: “You’re not too old to find another wonderful husband. I was seventy-three when I met and married mine!” She beams at him in the dark theatre, but Eve is oddly, suddenly shy, declining to fill in the blanks beyond her age, reluctant to disillusion this lovely, loving couple by telling them she has been married three times: divorced once, and widowed twice. Eve has twice remarried happily, each time to a widower who died before reaching the years amassed by this cheerful couple, still virtual newlyweds. Eve guesses his age to be about the same as hers. Maybe eighty is the new sixty-five!

The opera ends late and the impeccable Brit springs up to retrieve his wife’s walker, her jacket, her scarf. She turns to Eve and says smilingly, “Isn’t he just amazing for ninety?” Eve gulps and walks with them out of the huge theatre to their car parked in the handicapped section nearby. It’s raining hard and dark as midnight; indeed, it is close to eleven. With the hour and the weather, they do not linger over their good-byes.

Eve wishes them well and thinks to herself that Old Saybrook, longtime home of another sprightly nonagenarian, Katharine Hepburn, is more than half an hour of driving time east. Then she waves good-bye, watching them recede into the foggy blackness with the dashing Brit at the wheel.

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