Carmen is my favorite opera, and having never been to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, I added this to the list myself. When I did, I had no idea whether it would be performed before I turned forty or not, so it was cool to discover it would have a quick run in November and December. And who better to take me then Andrew Barrett, who is charming, handsome, funny and looks great in a suit? He also lives in New York, which helped.
Andrew was my boyfriend in the late nineties and we lived together in a cute little house in West Hollywood, with a furry orange fella named Otis. We both looked and were very funny together. Looked because I'm 5.2 and he's 6.4, and were, because we were young, carefree and obsessed with making each other laugh with made-up songs, crazy dances and home made accents. Andrew was in the screenwriting program at the AFI, and that's when I first started to think about applying. It took me another 10 years to actually write a script and fill out the application, but he planted the seed, and I'm eternally grateful for it.
Back then, Andrew also started the Young Storytellers Foundation with two other AFI students, an organization that takes screenwriters and other film folk into innercity schools, to teach the elementary and middle school students to write scripts. At the end of each session, real actors come and act out the scripts and it's one of the most rewarding and fun things to watch. This incredible program now operates in 36 schools. And yours truly has mentored a few budding screenwriters and was recently elected to their board.
Andrew and I met in 1997. He came up to me during the break of a seminar we were both at, and we started dating right away. At some point, he told me that he noticed me when I took my cardigan off and stretched, revealing some sort of tight top, in the middle of one of the sessions. Months later I fessed up that the stretch was solely for his benefit. He says it was the first of many manipulations on my part. In my defense, he gave me the fattest years of his life. No joke. After our breakup, which was quite lovely and mature like most of our relationship, he lost a ton of weight, chopped his hair off and became a yoga teacher with the most insanely toned body.
There aren't a lot of places I can show up at 6am after an overnight flight, put PJ's on and crawl into bed, but Andrew's place in Chelsea is one of them. It was a long time ago we were boyfriend/girlfriend but that comfort level and easiness is still there and we talk about everything, like we always have. After a six or seven hour nap, we took a nice walk, got a bite to eat and then went back home to get ready for the Met.
Having been disappointed at Viva Elvis the week before, I was a bit anxious settling into my seat, but my worries were gone the second the conductor came out and the orchestra started playing the prelude. I was mesmerized from beginning to end, as was Andrew. The familiar set made me smile and as soon as "Sur La Place, Chacun Passe" started, the "Forty By Forty warm fuzzy feeling" with its signature watery eyes came back, like an old friend.
Slowly and carefully the story unfolded in the most beautiful of ways, which is the best part of seeing an opera. It's not served on a platter like an action movie or a music video, where fast cuts show you what you should see and feel, removing your ability to connect more personally. It's subtle, so you have to bring yourself into it, which I did. I sat perfectly still and let it all wash over me. Tension, emotions, longing, and of course, lust...all bubbling right under the surface, eager to get out. I was excited, eager, hopeful, jealous, angry, and heart broken. I was in it.
At the intermission, we stepped outside and smoked a joint. The Swede in me is concerned about divulging that sort of information in the blog, but I'm nearing the end so I'm losening up a bit. We were both so affected by the experience, it seemed like the thing to do. As a result, we had one of the most fascinating conversations about life, love and opera. It would be great if I could recount it here, but alas, I don't remember much.
I do remember that we agreed on opera being the best kind of foreplay. It's a mystery that more men haven't tapped into it. Sure, it's a big time commitment, and opera tickets aren't cheap, but it's a guaranteed night of passion, even on a first date. After spending a whole evening with characters who don't give into their passions, or fulfill their wants, you want to go home and do it for them. Opera is intimate, and guys liking opera is sexy.
As the bell tolled, we went back in and quickly looked for something that would disguise our new and very distinct smell, and found the perfect thing; a salmon sandwich. It was super delicious and I thought it worked pretty well, until the couples on each side of us started to sniff, and then whisper. When the opera started back up, I found it very difficult to not sing along, and also to not conduct from my seat like I do when I listen to Carmen at home. I had to force my right hand down on several occasions.
Having not "remembered" how Carmen ends, Andrew was quite devastated when Carmen was knifed outside the big bullfight. He was sure there was more, but alas, it was curtain call time and we applauded and applauded.
Next, we headed to Norwood, a members-only club Andrew belongs to that I love. And not just because one of the managers carefully examined my face along with the rest of me, promptly declared I couldn't possibly be a day over 30, then sending us complimentary Dom Perignon. Well, that's actually the biggest reason. But it also has everything under one roof; a couple of bars and lounges with comfy living room type furniture, a restaurant, a beautiful outdoor garden, and on this night, a DJ.
We went upstairs and danced to my favorite era, the eighties, for quite a while. It made me so happy I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. When we lived together, we used to just turn on music randomly and dance around the house. In fact, we've made up some pretty interesting dances and seeing Andrew's familiar moves was beyond hilarious. Then more drinks, then home, then we sang and played the guitar...the Beatles of course, followed by an even more fascinating conversation in bed, before crashing.
Thank you Georges Bizet for composing a beautiful opera, to acclaimed British director Richard Eyre and Elina Garanca, whose Carmen moved me so...but most of all, to Andrew for being the bestest opera companion and friend an almost forty-year-old could ask for.