by Rick Sherman
My friends decided I needed culture
and took me to the famed Metropolitan Opera House
before it moved into Lincoln Center. The
selection was Wagner's "Lohengrin." The
ticket price seemed a princely sum. I expected
loge seats adjacent to a box where one might find
the Queen or other royalty. I expected to make
opera glass eye contact with some beauty and
signal her for a later assignation.
Instead, we climbed the steps, more
steps, and still more steps. We scaled staircase
after staircase. When we were shown to our seats,
I wondered why, when I refused to go on roller
coasters, I was looking over a precipice for the
sake of a decadent art form. I was higher than
the intermediate plunge on The Monster Cyclone.
With trepidation, I proceeded down
to the first row in what must have been the
seventeenth balcony. Fearing a nosebleed at such
a high altitude, I looked around for the oxygen
Paul draped his camel haired coat
around the seat back and nestled in. Little
Harvey folded his coat and sat on it so he could
see over the railing. Didn't he think we were
high enough? They seemed pleased with their
"The music drifts up, that's
why we like the seats here," Harvey
I knew better. The price of treating
me to my ticket was the reason for their lofty
exile. Then Paul and Harvey opened a large book
with the libretto and score of "Lohengrin"
over their collective laps. I could read music,
but since this wasn't a concert, I couldn't see
how they could watch what was on the stage and
follow along in the book. Besides, there was so
much to see in the orchestra pit, the on stage
action, and particularly the audience.
"I suppose there's no chance
they'll play 'Melancholy Baby,' for us?" I
"No chance, you Rube,"
Paul hissed. "You're here for culture.
Singly and then in clusters,
orchestra members entered the pit. They warmed up.
That was for me. The music truly did rise and the
musicians' talent was overwhelmingly fantastic
even though the Philharmonic considered them déclassé.
The overture began and I went into
ecstasy. When the opera ended, came the dreaded
"What did I think of it all?"
While Harvey and Paul studied
French, I had taken German. I knew the plot gist
as it enfolded on stage. My understanding and
appreciation of music surpassed my accomplishment
in the art.
"I felt the Tenor's heavy
Italian spoiled the nicely built up mood, the
Soprano was off tempo, and the Conductor's
motions were flamboyantly distracting. The
orchestra was fantastic," I said.
"Barbarian!" they said in
unison as if rehearsed. "We'll never take
The Times reviewer didn't use my
exact words but pretty much said the same thing.
Actually what I discovered, beside how
pretentious my friends were, was that there were
two types of music: good music and bad music. I
preferred good, whatever.