We went to see Orfeo again last week at the Met. We don't usually attend a performance a second time, especially so soon, but this is a breakthrough production so here goes.
Proving once again that there's nothing new under the Sun, the Metropolitan Opera wound down its 2006/2007 season with a spectacular production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Orpheus myth, here's a quick synopsis:
Orfeo is mourning the death of his young wife, Euridice. But he sends everyone away because his grief is so overwhelming even their sincere and heartfelt support sinks him deeper into despair.
Then along comes Cupid, yeah Cupid, suspended from a wire no less, who tells him that all he has to do is follow his beloved's spirit into the underworld and bring her back.
But, she orders, he cannot look at her, or tell her why he can't look at her, until they're back home or she will die. And this time, for keepsies.
Yada, yada, yada... he descends into Hell, gets past the Furies, finds his wife and they start home.
"But why won't you look at me?," she asks, "Am I no longer beautiful?"
"Just shut up and follow me." implores Orfeo, but she's relentless.
"Is it because this dress makes me look fat?"
"Have you found someone else? It's that little tart from Thessalonika, isn't it?"
At this point the Missus turned to me and said "What a wimp. Why doesn't he just grab her by the scruff of the neck, tell to STFU and drag her out of there?"
Why not indeed? But this is an opera.
Finally, when he can't take her nagging anymore, he turns and looks her straight in the eyes and she promptly drops dead... again.
At that point poor Orfeo collapses to his knees and wails: "Che faro senza Euridice" (what shall I do without Euridice). Well lets see... for starters I'll play golf, go fishing and drink as much beer as I want anytime I want.
All Orfeo has to do is threaten suicide and Cupid returns to snatch the dagger from his hand. Touched by his devotion Cupid brings Euridice back to life and she immediately starts nagging him to finish mowing the lawn. What oh what shall I do without Euridice? What oh what shall any of us do?
Well, they live happily every after, have five kids and Orfeo gets a job playing in the house band at Euridice's father's catering hall. They are Greek, after all.
And we can only speculate as to how Orfeo's life would have turned out if he had passed on Cupid's "descend into Hell" offer and just looked around for a younger woman. After a respectable mourning period, of course.
But this is pure fiction. For the happily married among us, thankfully, Orfeo's tragedy is a prospect that few of us (gentlemen) will have to confront. All you have to do is glance at the obituary page or take a walk past your local assisted living center to recognize that we're not going to outlive our wives. It brings back memories of the old Alan King routine, "Survived by his wife." In fact, I'm sure that if we followed the Orpheus legend to its conclusion we'd find Euridice sitting in a beach chair in Boca Raton cashing Orfeo's pension checks from the Amalgamated Greek Lyre Players Union.
Face it, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
So when you're tempted to blurt out, "Why can't you do what I tell for once?", understand that this is a male/female dynamic that's been going on since there have been males and females. Just swallow those words before they jump out and get you into trouble because the odds that she'll do what you say are roughly equivalent to the chances that Alex Rodriguez will hit a bases-loaded homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series while still wearing a Yankee uniform.
It ain't happenin'.
Next week: Wotan, the King of the Gods, chides his teenage daughter Brunnhilde for her disobediance. "You're grounded, young lady!", he shouts. Then he places her on a rock surrounded by a ring of fire for all eternity. Would that it were...