You know when you’re reading a book and it’s not bad but it’s not great, and, as you read each page, there’s a debate as to whether you want to continue or move on to something better? That’s how I felt about the opera. I remember taking a GenEd last semester that allowed students to attend cultural or artistic events in Philly in efforts to find the links between creativity and happiness. However, before we got any tickets we were taught how to critique work we saw both subjectively and objectively. Likability does not automatically correlate to quality. I referenced this principle often as I sat high up in Oviedo’s grand Teatro Campoamor this past week, watching months and months of work come to fruition on stage.
My friends and I went to a show called Adriana Lecouvreur. The performance itself was in Italian, but we were provided with Spanish subtitles. That was a really interesting experience: choosing between focusing on the physical scene or concentrating on translating the subtitles. Because of the language barrier, my friends and I took the intermissions to look up the plot points and make sure we knew what was going on. In very simplified terms, the audience is following the timeless love affairs and scandals within Adriana’s various lifetimes. Starting in the mid-1700s, each act introduced a different timeline in the consecutive century. A new timeframe brought a new stage design along with it, made with both clear intentionality and spacing. The costume designs were equally as intricate and fun as the sets, ranging from huge ball gowns to elegant slips. Even without much context, the masterful work needed and executed behind the scenes was evident.
I am not sure if I was wiped out from my lectures that day or I just didn’t have enough to eat for lunch, but I couldn’t stay awake for the first two acts. By all means I am not qualified to give a thorough and educated opinion about this Opera. That’s why I changed the title of this post from an ‘honest review’ to an ‘honest experience.’ Because I can be open about the thought process I had while watching and how the show made me feel. The glimpses I caught of the actors were full of drama and emotions, and I loved how the orchestra worked with their unapologetic voices to create tone and atmosphere, amplified by my vantage point. Before I even looked up the plot, I knew it was a tragedy because of the music and the pain the actors portrayed so well. Yet, while I could see and appreciate the quality of the work, I wouldn’t say I was enjoying myself. It took effort to pay attention. I was less worried how the story would end and more concerned with what time I’d get to leave. I knew that this wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my night, hungry and impatient.
I left the opera early, got some veggie noodles, and treated myself to some chocolate cake in my blue dress and boots. It seemed like the best decision at the time, but I still asked myself if I should’ve toughed it out. Stayed to the end and pulled from the bits and pieces I gathered to share with my friends when they asked me how I liked the show. I told myself that disliking something is still an experience in itself. I told myself to honor that. I loved the idea of the opera: dressing up, loud unapologetic voices, and a fancy theater. But the glittery aura of that fantasy didn’t translate to my reality.
A part of me was disappointed because I pride myself on my ability to be present with art and story and to appreciate small beauties. But then I realized that’s the whole point of traveling – to try new things and not fight against what they teach you just because it may not align with the person you thought you were. Studying abroad is full of unlimited possibilities, but not all of them are going to be amazing, not every day is going to feel like a movie. In previous posts, I wrote about how Spain was a dream that became a reality. But even that statement is full of wanderlust and excitement. As I’ve crossed the one month mark of my time here in Oviedo, I feel more and more grounded in my new normal. Some days are full of surprises while others are simply a part of my routine. I now hold space for the ups, downs, steady days here in my home away from home.
The next day at school I asked my friends what they thought. Nathalia said, “It was a wonderful experience of cultures colliding – studying abroad in Oviedo, Spain and watching an Italian opera.” Sydney agreed, eager to dive deeper into the story and its nuances. Even through our varied takeaways, we all said the same thing: If we could go back in time, we’d make the same decision and enjoy the show for all it could offer us. We have no regrets.