“Bring me the big knife; I’m gonna cut my throat!”*
Several nights ago, as we walked in a chilly, blowing drizzle across the street from the Metropolitan Opera, I stopped, even as the crosswalk sign suggested we proceed.
“What are you doing?” asked George Rodrigue, as I explained that I saw Cher in my head, breathtaking, emerging from a New York City taxi to meet Nicholas Cage after sighing that morning, “Where’s the Met?”
“I love two things,” he said (the ‘he’ in my head is George or Cage; take your pick). “I love you, and I love the Opera. If I can have the two things that I love together for one night, I will be satisfied to give up, oh God, the rest of my life.”
The surrealism intensified as we entered the theatre. As the chandeliers ascended into the ceiling, I imagined that I sat in her seat and experienced the Opera for the first time, despite my Viennese immersion during a study abroad program years ago.
“I know!” exclaimed Cher, still in my head at intermission. “I mean, she was coughing her brains out, and still she had to keep singing!”
As Madame Butterfly sings good-bye to her son, portrayed by a Bunraku puppet and three masterful puppeteers, she lifts the knife to her own throat, stabbing herself with both the blade and the pain of love betrayed. The tears covered my face, and I was Cher again, as Mimi and Rodolfo (Puccini's La bohéme) sing of their passionate love, despite Mimi’s wretched illness as she dies of consumption.
(Treat yourself to this short clip, the magnificent Patricia Racette and her son, a Bunraku puppet, in Puccini's Madame Butterfly's finale, linked here-)
Men! I choked out, as though I were Cher, after the performance. If anyone deserved to die it was that horrible Pinkerton!
“That’s the way it was…..” started George/Cage, wisely stopping mid-sentence.
Two days later we found ourselves at The Mudlark Confectionary, a performance theatre in the Katrina-ravaged St. Roch neighborhood, just a few blocks from our Faubourg Marigny home.
Far from the Met, we hurried, sans jewelry, from the dark, abandoned street into the front room of a tiny New Orleans cottage. Looking up, George and I gasped at the sophisticated, awesome puppets, recalling our Lincoln Center experience in the most unlikely of places.
“It’s like Madame Butterfly in the dream sequence,” I whispered to George, who nodded, snapping pictures as we waited between performances.
To begin, Sir Lady Indee removed her clothes, layer by layer, on stage, until I thought surely she would stand naked before us. George grabbed my leg, and I grew flush, as I imagined, prudishly, sitting in a room with a conservative friend, also on our adventure, as we stared at the au natural Indee some six feet in front of us.
Fortunately she stopped at her step-ins, redressing herself from a roll of cellophane anchored to the wall. As she rolled the clear plastic tightly around her skin, she enchanted us all. She spoke of desire, passion, and indulgence, and I thought of Butterfly, confident in her wedding-kimono, even as Pinkerton planned (deep down) to abandon her.
“I ain’t no freakin’ monument to justice!” shouted Cage, in the movie and in my head. “I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride! You want me to take my heartache, put it away and forget?”
Elliot, a woman, seemingly a man, seemingly a woman (not in the least to be confused with Victor Victoria) took the stage.
“Is that a man or a woman?” whispered George.
“A woman,” I said, thinking, Does it matter?
With a bird’s voice, sometimes a lark, sometimes a gull, she sang her own anguished creed, alternating between the banjo, bass drum, classical guitar, and small electric piano.
“I’m from Philadelphia,” she explained.
The audience cheered in support, as did New Orleans artist James Michalopoulos, our co-host with his wife Reese Johanson, founder of Artist Inc, both great advocates of New Orleans theatre. "Rocky!" shouted James, caught up in the moment.
Elliot, consumed by her expression, began her hometown lament a capella.
“This is the most tormented man I have ever known,” said Chrissy in the movie and in my head.
After five songs, we left, passing on the cds but leaving $20 on the table. Although we appreciated the performances and will revisit the Mudlark on another day, at that moment we never wanted to hear such agony again.
“I’m in love with this man,” continued Chrissy about Ronnie Cammareri (Cage), as he shovels bread into the hot ovens, “but he doesn’t know that, ‘cause I never told him, ‘cause he could never love anybody since he lost his hand and his girl.”
(Watch the Moonstruck Bakery scene here-)
Once home, George shook his head and organized his photos, now sprinkled throughout this post. "I'm a little afraid to ask," he said...
“...but what are we doing tomorrow?”
Wendy Rodrigue (a.k.a. Dolores Pepper)
-an outstanding offering of performances presented by Reese Johanson and Artist Inc, all March 2012, linked here-
-for the latest from the New Orleans Opera, including an October 2012 performance by Placido Domingo, visit here-
-announcing the Big Easy 2012 Theater Awards, Harrah's New Orleans, March 26, 2012; details here-
-for more by Wendy Rodrigue find her on facebook
*unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the movie Moonstruck, 1987-