I think adults don't have enough fun. We go to work and the dry cleaners. We shop for produce and pet food. We attend the weddings of our cousins and make conversation with people we don't know. We have so many stupid errands and obligations that when we've finally performed them all, we sit around and do nothing, delighted that no one is torturing us anymore.
I know it's easier to do nothing than to do something. But I suspect it's a big mistake, which could lead to depression and maybe even cellulite.
So I drag myself out of my house from time to time, when I get a Bright Idea to do something fun, just for me. Many of my Bright Ideas suck. Once I bought a bat house that you had to build yourself and paint, which is embarrassing to admit in print. It was like an arts-and-crafts project for the menopausal. I never built it, and my bats remain homeless. Women of a certain age have no business around glue guns.
One of my more successful Bright Ideas was to go to the Metropolitan Opera - in the mall. You may have read about the Met's new program, which telecasts live opera performances to movie theaters. It was way more fun than a bat house. Go. Order tickets online. And don't worry, there are subtitles. Fun subtitles.
It's not like going to a normal movie - it's better. The crowd dresses nicer, as if we were all at the real opera house and not just the multiplex. I share this delusion and wear my contacts for maximum hotness. Wow!
Before the opera starts, the camera pans the gilded Met balconies, and the real-life orchestra tunes up, a high-rent cacophony. The camera takes you into the orchestra pit, close enough to read the score. The musicians look excited, and the female violinist smiles shyly. I like her instantly. The enormous screen spans the actual stage, so you feel like you are there, though you didn't spend the money. By the way, the benefactor of the costly endeavor is Philly's Toll Brothers Inc. (Editor's note: Toll Brothers Inc. cofounder Bruce E. Toll is chairman of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer.) Credit where credit is due.
The coming attractions roll, for Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Puccini's Il Trittico. Not your typical Hollywood trailer - nothing explodes, and there are no special effects. I feel morally superior to everyone watching 300 one theater over.
At the intermissions, everybody in the audience talks to one another, chattering away in a surprising array of languages. The opera I saw, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, attracted a Russian-speaking crowd. They cried like babies at the end of the show, proving you don't have to be Italian to lack emotional control.
And they were extraordinarily polite, unlike the couple to my left, who shook their Milk Duds throughout the entire first act, so I had to get all Riccardo Muti on their heinie.
Eugene Onegin is about unrequited love. The heroine is named Tatiana, sung by Renée Fleming, and she falls for the hunky Onegin, sung by studly Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Tatiana writes Onegin a letter professing her love, sealing wax and all. Onegin spurns her initially, only to come around after she's married. How do you say "intimacy issues" in Russian?
Onegin, based on a Pushkin poem, borrows also from Tchaikovsky's own life, in which he received passionate letters from a woman who fell in love with him. But Tchaikovsky was gay. D'oh! No matter, he married her anyway and later died in a duel. So neither Onegin nor Tchaikovsky ends happily.
But the three-hour production took all of us out of our stupid Saturday errands. We burst into spontaneous applause after the arias, even though Renée Fleming couldn't hear us. We didn't care. We felt like clapping, and we did. I suspect those endorphins added a year to our collective life span.
And while we watched the opera with the real audience at the Met, something magical happened. A crowd gathered, nationwide, and we all began to feel a part of something larger. Or at least I felt that way and projected it wildly onto everyone else.
Like all great art, opera has the power to transport the imagination and to move heart and soul.
So go. Have fun. Even next to Best Buy.