Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The time I was in the opera. No, really, I was.

It was the summer before 6th grade, and I was supposed to go with a group of girls from my Calumet City (south suburb of Chicago) dance studio to audition for something or another. I was sick in a fetal position on the couch, and my mom was getting ready to call one of the other mothers and tell her that I wouldn’t make it to the audition. I was sick in the summer, so my birthday must have been approaching. I was always sick for my birthday. I would get so excited and worked up, that inevitably, I would get myself good and sick with a fever and tonsillitis.

I begged my mom to let me go to the audition. I couldn’t let my best friends go without me. What if I missed out on something fun!?

My mom drove to downtown Chicago, and I auditioned. I remember being in an auditorium somewhere and dancing on a large stage. I remember having to do grand jetés across the stage and my mother later telling me that I looked (or was it sounded?) like an elephant leaping across the stage. Hmmm, bummer, I probably wouldn’t get the part.

Well, lo and behold! Six of us from our dance studio made the cut! We were cast in an opera. Not just any opera, an opera at the Lyric Opera, at the Civic Opera House downtown. Wow.

For the rest of the summer, the six of us were car pooled downtown for rehearsals. I think there about 20-25 girls all together from all over Chicagoland. It was the summer of a lifetime…….going downtown all the time, going to high floors at the Civic Opera House for sweat filled rehearsals. I have always loved rehearsing. Learning the choreography, finding out what we would be doing. It was always so exciting for me. I met new friends; I got an ID card to get me back stage at the opera. It was a yellow card with my name and it said that I was 4’10” (just two and a half years later, I would measure in at 5’10”).

We were cast as demons in the opera: The Love for Three Oranges. The year was 1979. I keep looking for the opera to come back to Chicago. I would love to see it and to hear the music I heard 500 times over the course of a few months.

We were fitted for our demon costumes, and naturally, they were black, therefore, we needed black ballet slippers, and they bought them for us! That was like the biggest deal ever. Someone was giving us ballet slippers, OMG!!

As I recall, we did 7 shows. We also had at least one dress rehearsal. Remember when I said I could get myself worked up and sick from excitement? Well, the night of the first dress rehearsal, me and my gang of ballerina demons were eating our usual healthy pre-performance meal: taco flavored Doritos, some main course meal consisting of chocolate, and this part I am certain of: Orange Crush. The reason I am certain of it is because I was so excited about this performance, that I got worked up, and got sick in the bathroom, with my Orange Crush coming back up and burning my nose as it did. What a freaking bummer! I was sidelined for dress rehearsal. An alternate filled my ballet shoes.

I was ready for the real deal, though. Seven shows at the Lyric Opera! A cast of people that I couldn’t understand (their accents were thick), amazing costumes, a stage that lifted up and down, and a list of experiences that I would like to be hypnotized to remember more vividly.

One thing I do remember, is that the elevator operator at the Opera House’s name was Bruce, and at the time the song, “Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra was popular. You may (or may not) remember that the lyrics were: “Bruce, don’t bring me down.” Can you imagine how much fun a bunch of 11 and 12 year-old girls had getting in an elevator with Bruce, and singing that song over and over (and over)? Poor Bruce.

From what I remember, the leader of us demons was a woman named Fata Morgana (or at least that is the name that I hear sung in my head when I think about the opera). (I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and that name is exactly correct). She was an older woman, but now that I think about it, at the time, 40 years old could have been older to me. She was probably a very famous opera star, and for the first show, as our gang of little demons circled her on stage, one of us stepped on her gown, and it ripped. Whoops.

I don’t know how many shows my mom and dad came to. I would imagine my mom made most shows, and I am sure (as the picture shows) that my dad made at least one show. I am aware that he slept for most of the opera, but that’s okay, I’m sure he was awake to see his little demon dance on the floor of the Civic Opera House.

We were heavily compensated for our roles as demons. I received a check in the mail for $100. It was made out to me! I earned that money and to me, that might as well have been $100,000 because for a 10 year-old in 1979, a $100 was a lot of money.

I still have the program from the opera, and yes, my name is listed in there.
So, there you have it, a little known fact about the time I was in an opera and had the time of my life.


  1. You have that program and I still have your little Love for 3 Oranges t-shirt Mom

  2. Awesome! I was going to write about the t-shirt, but I thought it was long gone. Do you think it will still fit?

  3. It will probably fit Cooper or Carter!! Mom

  4. What a very cool life experience!

    BTW I'm visiting here from Flying Lessons :)