The View from the Other Side

In “Culminations,” I told you I was approaching these big events that were something of an ending for me. I’m on the other side of them, so I thought it was only fair to reflect on how they went.

“The Scarlet Letter” was good— I loved the way they staged it. Stark and modern set pieces, they made great use of shadows, which worked really well for the material. The costuming was traditional, which makes good sense for something as time-specific as that story. The music was good— I don’t know that I know enough about it to speak very critically about that element. It’s not like it’s going to be catchy— all the songs are pretty much about sin and shame.

I felt like it was pretty expositional. Dimmesdale told us he was tortured by his secret shame. Hester told Chillingsworth his deformities were coming from his twisted character. The first act, entirely, I felt like was a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. The second act was significantly better in that respect. It’s been a long time since I read the novel (probably not since high school, which was a time measured in decades ago), so the fact that I felt beat about the head and shoulders with the psychological aspects of the opera seemed like an indicator of overkill. But I went with my mom, who wasn’t following key parts of the story (she missed that Chillingsworth had been lost at sea and then enslaved, and thought he had just abandoned Hester), and I was behind someone at intermission who was pretty lost (he missed that Chillingsworth was her husband and Dimmesdale was the father’s baby, which was why he walked around so guilty), so maybe I’m just really good at this game. I think those people hadn’t read the synopsis or the rest of the program, which I find to be a pretty good way to be lost at either the ballet or the opera. But for my part, I’m not really enjoying something when I’m sitting there thinking “telling, telling, telling.” Like I said, the second act was more powerful.

In all, I’d say they made great use of theme and visual elements, and the music was good but not, in my opinion, memorable or epic.

Confirmation was beautiful. I realized a few weeks ago that my girls were done learning what I had to teach them, and that was confirmed for me (no pun intended) when I got there and found all 19 of them on time and dressed appropriately, ready to go. I had made contingency plans in case any of them forgot a sweater or needed anything, but they were all set. I wept happy tears at meaningful moments throughout the service, right up until the point that the 19th got confirmed. After that, my tears were dried. I could literally feel the weight of responsibility for them removed starting from that moment. It was a welcome weight, but it’s in better hands, now. I still love and support and believe in them as much as ever, but I’m not their teacher anymore, really. They said their thank yous and we took pictures and it was still good, but I was surprised by how definitively I could feel in my spirit (not through their demeanor) that they’re not my girls anymore. I told them weeks ago that I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t come to our last class, this week. They insisted that they wanted to, and we’re having a party, but I won’t be surprised if it’s pretty lightly attended, not for lack of love for what we shared, just that we’re on the other side of it. Part of me is sad that it’s over. My ego is a little bruised at the idea that they don’t need me. But mostly, I’m grateful for having had the chance to know them. I hope one or two of them will drop me a line and let me see some of the great stuff I know they’ll do in the world.





So what do you think?

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