Sunday, October 17, 2010

O for Opulence

Oh the Opera. 

How I have missed you. Going to Salome was what my young bones needed: to be steeped in the with the sophisticado. I remember going about every month or so to the opera from 6th to 12th grade, often watching the same melodramatic stories uncurling beneath my very feet. The reason I love it so much is three fold: 1. the ritual of mentally preparing yourself(or not) for it. 2. the sheer melodrama in the plot itself. And 3. The very primordial word choices that cause me to melt into my seat.
When I get ready for the opera, I love to channel my inner diosa. For
 me, Cariña Frida is invoked. I love the pearls, the gems, the clicks and glides on my wrist. Oh, we haven't even begun without the silks! And its a communal activity. Imagine six or seven girls who become women with the flick of the hand as gentle strokes of kohl rims lids. As they chatter and enthusiastically tie lace strings on their back, they so adoringly forget that they are doing all of this to sit, back straight in black room. Through this process, the identity of the opera is established in the hearts and minds of everyone: the epitome of class. I love that. I love how the opera is loved for a select few of pretentious ones. There I said it! The epiphany was made!I AM PRETENTIOUS. And I love it.Opera brings the best out of us, does it not? 

The opera makes me demonic. I laugh and love the jagged heart wrenching tales of women who are declared whores. Ironic isn't it? I mean I talk about being so foreword for women's rights yet when Salome just wanted to kiss the prophet, a part of me wanted to as well. The opera enables us to identify with extremes. Yes in many ways we women are the essence of Salome: FICKLE. Hadn't brother Shakespeare gotten it right when he vicariously spoke his mind while Hamlet uttered to his damned mother: frailty thy name is women. Breathtaking. You know, I am beginning to accept and embody my chingona status as a woman. We are fickle. It means little to me when people judge that. We just are. And opera is wonderful because its in our faces! We are the violated and the wronged! The only difference is that we own up to it now. We laugh at ourselves. So here it is for the coquetas. To humanity. And its vile nature. And the beauty that lurks in the stickiness in our souls. Oh Salome, you are the prophet! Not the dead lips you caressed. 

Finally, the words. Oh the word. Words are the most rich part of the opera. In the opening scene of Salome, the description the moon was seen in three different lights: beautiful, vile, tired. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Once a man from the state department said that language was his currency in his business. Thats amazing. I love that. Language is the best weapon for anything. Not just to inflict pain but love as well. 

At AU, for a couple weeks, I had been disappointed. I was wondering where the sophistication went? Why didn't people quote Proust in regular conversation? Why do people tell me I speak in an elevated manner? How pretentious right? Well I have the opera. And that's what keeps me grounded. I have found my secret by the Potomac. 


  1. My dear Priyanka,

    You must read my reflection on Salome. As roommates, we are so similar yet came up with entirely different evaluations of the opera Salome and its relevance to women. You argue women's empowerment while I cry out demoralization! I agree that embracing the true fickleness of women is healthy. But Shakespeare's "frailty my name is woman" is another example of this perpetual need to blame female manipulation for men's lack of self control. The classic "Eve and the apple" projection is so pervasive in society and its the primitive basis for so much injustice even today. Perhaps it is helpful to embrace it for a night but I will never accept it for a lifetime. We can argue about this tonight. Besos,

    Your overzealous feminist roommate

  2. Mujer,
    Honey child you know I got a lot to say over this, my love. You know first hand where we lie. Think about *mhmm* the several tantalizing boys we clumsily call men who slip by our door at odd hours of the night. I would love to pull your argument.

    "In the opera, Salome and her mother are portrayed as manipulative and selfish even in their best moments. I agree with you here. They were. But you know what, its melodramatic for a reason. Its something to think about. I mean look at how we react to men? I am happy you agree with the Shakespeare bit, but the way that society uses that information is uncalled for. I agree. But to me, Eve is a role model. Biting the knowledge of fruit was brilliant of her. So we need to be strong. Battle of the sexes, that's what it is! Men re vile. And women are fickle. Yet we can't keep our hands off each other. See, if sex was not as taboo, women would be more integrated into society. From an anthropological perspective, sex is not taboo in rural communities (dare I say it) in Chiapas. And in those communities, women are not as marginalized. I think the more we can discuss issues of sex and the differences of gender will we be able to relish in our bodies again.

    Strong statement.

  3. Hey I responded to you comment on my wall. See:

    Also to comment on a few things you mentioned here.

    1) You mentioned Eve is a role model, that biting the knowledge of fruit was brilliant of her. I don't agree. Granted, it depends on your interpretation of the story of the fall of humankind. We have the traditional (and in my opinion simplistic) view: the act of taking the fruit was disobedience to God's will. However, many more nuanced religious and philosophical scholars look at this as the act as a metaphor for the point in time where human beings decided to become like God and thus become their own higher being. In this case, putting the blame on Eve for this act is dangerous and has terrible implications for gender roles in society.

    2) I agree sex should not be taboo and more open public discourse over sex will result in less female marginalization. However, we can't be starting this discussion by affirming that women are fickle! It will begin what will already be a very delicately maneuvered discussion on very unequal footing.

  4. But men have their flaws too. And I see god not as this higher being. The biting of the fruit was merely an antithesis of this strange and "mighty" power. Back to your argument: men are flawed as well and we need to address both things but censoring a play? I dont think that is necessary. Salome was what it was: humorous and dark. Do you think a play like that should be censored? Plato would agree saying that in chapter for in the Republic that there are some myths and stories that are not good for the betterment of humanity, thus mitigated. What do you think?

  5. Priyanka:

    I certainly do not advocate censorship and I never will. I hope that the opera Salome continues as a piece of beautiful theater and I would recommend it to others. I disagree with Plato in that while I don't think this story betters humanity I would never suggest uprooting it. I am merely suggesting that we don't need to stretch ourselves to make the character of Salome a model of women's empowerment. It may be an interesting intellectual pursuit but in the end its futile. Like I said, there are plenty of female John the Baptists waiting to be unearthed, dusted off, and put on the stage they have always deserved.