Thanksgiving is almost here!
Which opera matches your family gathering?
It's that time of year again for turkey and mashed potatoes, travel plans and airline tickets. Here at Opera Memphis we've compiled a short list of Thanksgiving gatherings along with the perfect opera for each of these dynamics. Read through and find your opera for Turkey Day!
1. The Friendsgiving
For this reason or that, family just can't/won't be in the picture this year. So you end up gathering with a group of friends as a way to redefine "tradition." 90% of everyone there will be part of a close-knit social circle, with one or two random friends-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who couldn't make it home and was compassionately extended an invitation. The full meal will be an eclectic assortment of "the dish I always make," leaving you with 5 sweet potato casseroles, 3 green bean casseroles, and enough mac 'n cheese to kill a horse. The host of course is responsible for the turkey, the rolls, the stuffing, the drinks, the decorations, and... Everyone has a great time with plenty of alcohol and games/television to suit any nostalgic need.
YOUR OPERA: La Traviata by Guiseppe Verdi. Act 1, Violetta Valéry is hosting a lavish party for her friends (who bring their own friends) in celebration of Violetta's renewed health! Wine, food, and dancing is the order of the evening, but the stress of hosting such an elaborate party causes Violetta to have a coughing fit and almost faint. All is not lost, as this minor spell gives way to an introduction of a friend-of-a-friend of hers, Alfredo who is at the party instead of being at home with his father Germont. Moral of the story? Almost kill yourself throwing a party; meet your true love.
2. The Pyrotechnics
This group is loud and rambunctious with emotional (and literal) explosions. At least one dish being cooked will set off the smoke alarm this year, or Uncle Whats-His-Face will swear by some new way of frying the turkey that ends with paramedics being called. Very passionate, heated arguments will take place, and it's impossible to get everyone to sit down at the same table at once. This Thanksgiving is eat-when-you-can, and most of the leftovers are consumed in one of the outpatient rooms at the E.R.
YOUR OPERA: La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini. The inspiration for the popular musical Rent, this opera opens with a group of friends (and their nosey landlord who's interrupted their dinner with his presence) sitting around eating and drinking, loudly laughing and arguing, when things escalate and the drunken landlord is thrown out of the room! Then everyone gives up on their impromptu meal and heads to the nearest restaurant for proper nourishment. This opera is full of passion, clamor, and heart.
3. The Jolly feel-good Family
It's Thanksgiving and everyone has a smile on their face. The food is cooked, blessed, and eaten on time. People are wearing coordinating outfits. It's a multi-generational gathering with relatives from out of town driving the 5+ hours just to see loved ones. Hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs, and everyone gathers for a family photo at some point in the evening. As the meal is being cleared, Christmas music is played (preferably on live instruments conveniently kept around the house), and autumnal decorations are exchanged for winter decor to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
YOUR OPERA: Little Women adapted by Mark Adamo from Louisa May Alcott. Little Women follows the story of Jo March, her three sisters, and her parents as they live in 19th Century New England. It's the ultimate feel-good opera that will also break your heart and make you feel empowered as an All-American Girl.
4. The Politicians
For this family, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to come together and go head-to-head on juxtaposing political views. Yes, it's a celebration for being thankful, and this year (like the one before) each member is thankful for being RIGHT in their stance and opinions on the state of the union. The coats come off and the gloves go on as all members go round and round in never ending debates. Even the football game and the holistic attributes of the Kroger-brand turkey become political tit-for-tats. At the end of the day, all the arguing accomplishes nothing except ensuring that it'll be another 12 months before anyone dares get together again.
YOUR OPERA: Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. The House of Lammermoor and the House of Ravenswood are sworn enemies that refuse to get along. Similar to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, two lovers (Lucia and Edgardo) find themselves in the midst of this conflict from which there is no escape. There are duels, grand marriage interruptions, and tragic deaths. But if you can withstand the political winds that blow through the holidays, then this is the opera for you.
5. The Soloist
This individual shuns all social gatherings this day and barricades themselves in their one-bedroom bachelor pad with only a beloved pet (if that) to keep them company. Their mantra is "I don't need anyone this year," as they decide between a microwaveable turkey dinner or Chinese take out. Why waste money on an entire turkey? They are much too practical for that nonsense. They might turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in the morning, but as nostalgia allows a light depression to settle in, they realize they'd much rather be watching recaps of old football games on ESPN or binge watching that new Netflix show.
YOUR OPERA: Werther by Jules Massenet. Loosely based on the novel The Sorrows of Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, this opera follows the young poet Werther. He can't seem to catch a break with love and leads a life full of despair and suicidal contemplation. But don't worry! In the midst of gloom and doom, this opera celebrates the holidays with Christmas parties, carols, and disconsolation.
6. The dinner bouncer
An individual of another sort, this person is the life of the party, and why should they have to choose just one to visit this Thanksgiving? They have their day crammed full of various gatherings they will attend with a schedule that would rival a campaigning politician's itinerary. 9AM, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade at home. 11AM, Thanksgiving mimosas and light snacks with the extended family. 2PM, Thanksgiving lunch with Friend Group A. 4PM, quick stop home to change into stretchier pants and grab their own prepared dish out of the fridge. 5PM, dinner with the immediate family. 7PM, drinks and games with Friend Group B. 10PM, playing it by ear to find out if anyone is hitting up Best Buy for their extra-early Black Friday sale.
YOUR OPERA: Falstaff by Guiseppe Verdi. This opera is adapted from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and "revolves around the thwarted, sometimes farcical, efforts of the fat knight, Sir John Falstaff, to seduce two married women to gain access to their husbands' wealth." Full of wine, parties, and shenanigans, Falstaff's comedy will resonate well with social butterflies. You'll guffaw at the slapstick antics, you'll smile with the light-hearted lovers, and applaud the concluding moral that "all the world is folly, and all are figures of fun."
7. Turkey Prisoners
Thanksgiving may be a time off work and away from school, but those things aren't synonymous with freedom. For these families, it's like being a prisoner chained to the house. "No, you can't go see your friends. You have to help your father clean out the garage!" "No, you can't go to the mall. Your mother needs help basting the turkey." "Honey, you don't need to go out for anything. I already bought all the supplies." "What do you think you're doing?! No phones/tablets/laptops this holiday season! We are connecting as a family." "You've not been excused from the table. Your grandmother is still eating. Engage in the lively art of conversation if you're bored." Forced family fun never seemed so possible...till now.
YOUR OPERA: Rigoletto by Guiseppe Verdi. Remember when Verdi wrote that comedic opera about the fat soldier Falstaff? Yeah, well, he went the complete opposite direction with this tragic opera that follows the hunch-back court jester Rigoletto. This one is based on Victor Hugo's play Le Roi s'amuse. Act 1 starts out nice and easy with a damning curse placed upon both Rigoletto and the Duke. Rigoletto's daughter Gilda is captured by hostile courtiers and carried away before Rigoletto or the Duke (who is in love with Gilda) can find out who took her. Gilda is unable to escape and Rigoletto is unable to save his daughter from a terrible fate. After she is debased and returned to Rigoletto, he keeps her locked away at home, determined to never let anything bad happen to her again. Poor Rigoletto. If only he knew what was to come...
8. The Obligation Family
Thanksgiving and Christmas--every year one is chosen as the obligatory family get-together. No one actually wants to get together, but they do for the sake of tradition. It makes for a quiet, semi-awkward gathering around a small roasted chicken, crudités, and soup. If they aren't watching the television, they're watching the clock, gauging the appropriate time to give the "Gotta head out and beat traffic back home," line. Hard liquor is available and sipped continuously. New significant others or friends are never invited because who needs that exhausting faked enthusiasm for family?
YOUR OPERA: Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. Enjoy a good laugh as estranged relatives are forced together for the reading of the will of their late, exceptionally wealthy relative Buoso Donati. It is revealed that Buoso has written his most recent will to leave his entire fortune to a local monastery. Disgruntled and frustrated by this revelation, all the relatives under the leadership of Gianni Schicchi decide to have Gianni dress up as Buoso (since no one outside of the family knows of his death) so he can call the lawyer, draw up a new will benefiting all the family members, and everyone can get what they want. Although based on a passage from Dante's Inferno, this opera has a more light-hearted ending with Gianni begging the audience's forgiveness for his ruse.
No matter your family dynamic, quirks, or traditions, we here at Opera Memphis wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, safe travels, and a joyous beginning to the holiday season!