I’m in my tiny room, navigating the piles of clothes on the floor as I hurry to put my dress on, put my book and the tickets in my purse, put on a little mascara, phone and keys into my purse and – oh, I don’t really need the book, I won’t read it, so I take it out and drop it on my bed, scarf around my neck, coat on and I’m out the door – but I’m forgetting something, aren’t I? I run back to my room and flip open my computer, nope, I’ve got the right address after all, and I’m off, elevator to the ground floor and out onto the street where night has just fallen. I weave my way down the block, past children clutching their parents’ hands and owners clutching the dog’s leashes, to the street corner where I hail a 152 and join the unhappy crowd, jostling back and forth with the halting starts and stops of the bus. It’s a long ride, so I lean back against the wall of the bus and look out the window, watching the store owners lowering the metal grates over their storefronts and the homeless reclining on their sidewalk mattresses. I run one more mental check of the items in my purse and – no – the tickets – they were in the book, the book that’s sitting on my bed 15 blocks away and I can’t show up at the restaurant without the tickets! I rush out of the closing door of the bus as it begins to pull away from the stop, and what luck, I’m close to a subte stop, and I rush down the stairs as the train is pulling up, it’s crowded but I’m only going one stop, thank goodness, because it’s so hot – always so hot, regardless of the chill above – and I’m sweating but soon enough I’m back up in the cold, and it’s three blocks back to my building, up to my room, grab the tickets, and now I’m running late, 25 minutes late, and Yvette always arrives early, so I take off at the fastest walk I can manage without looking like a complete fool, and even still, I get looks – no one rushes anywhere in this city, it’s just not dignified – and as I reach the end of the three block trek back to the subte there’s sweat on the back of my neck but no time to take my scarf off, I can see the woman at the bottom of the stairs running around the corner which means the train is there NOW and I take off at a sprint down the stairs and the warning bell is sounding but I’m so close and – phew! I leap through as the doors are slamming shut, and try to pretend like I’m not sweaty and panting but I can feel people staring, maybe they’re admiring my fearlessness, or maybe they just think I’m crazy, but no matter – I can finally peel off my sweaty scarf and coat and take a deep breath. Not exactly the way I envisioned my trip to the opera – I feel like it should be more like a tranquil ride in a horse-drawn carriage, but this is Buenos Aires and nothing is ever that easy.
I finally arrive at the restaurant where my cousin sits patiently waiting, a bottle of wine already on it’s way and a menu item already decided on. We have to rush a little to make it on time, but we get there at 8:30 on the dot and climb up the 5 flights of stairs to our balcony – where we quickly realize that we really should have planned to arrive early, because we have standing tickets, and all of the standing space has already been claimed and we’re left with no choice but to stand awkwardly in the space between the rows of seats, behind the stairs, but we can’t stand on the stairs or in the space below them because of fire code, so, here we stay, but oh, who cares because the immense grandness of Teatro Colón envelopes us, 6 stories of rich red fabric and intricate gold detailing, and I completely forget about the stress and the sweat as I revel in the feeling of being transported back to, I don’t know, 1800s high society, and even as one of the peons with the cheap standing seats it’s still enthralling to feel like I’m a part of it all. Moments later the lights dim, and the orchestra begins to play – and the acoustics are incredible, even from 4 stories up every sound is loud and clear (my cousin told me: “Pavorotti said of Teatro Colón that’s it’s only fault is that the acoustics are so perfect that you can hear every mistake”) and then the curtain rises, and oh – the metal framework of a house, 4 stories high, and filled with people, all perfectly still, and then they begin to sing, a huge, deep sound and when they move, the visual effect of the patterned movement over the entire four story set is breathtaking. There’s a spanish translation of the lyrics being broadcasted on a screen above the stage, so I can follow the story – it’s Oedipus, but with somewhat of a modern twist, and although it’s nice to follow the story, with all of it’s dramatic twists and turns, I’m really content to just passively absorb it all, let the music flow through me and the scenes enchant me, and my feet are beginning to ache but I sit down on the floor and no one tells me that I can’t, so there I remain, happily leaning on the railing as Oedipus tries desperately to flee his horrific destiny.
At intermission Yvette and I make our way to the edge of the balcony to take in the view of the entire theater in all of its grandeur. And it’s 10:30 now, and I have class early tomorrow, so although I’ve immensely enjoyed what I’ve seen so far, I make the responsible decision to head home – the tickets only cost US$10, so I don’t feel bad about it – but 30 minutes later, I’m home and sitting down to do some homework, but I can’t shake the experience from my head, and without realizing it I begin to look at what’s playing next week, and in within the hour I’ve recruited a friend to come with me and bought two tickets for next Tuesday, real seats this time, for the full experience. I have been to, I’m sure, well over a hundred theaters in my lifetime – but I don’t think any theater experience exists in the world like an opera at the Teatro Colón, and I can’t rationalize not absorbing as much of it as I can while I’m here.