Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ain't It Romantic?

I have a nasty little secret to confess. Here it is:

I like opera.

Yes, it's true. I may listen to KMFDM, Pig, Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein while working out, but in my spare time I've been known to watch Tosca, Nabucco and Carmen. This weekend I saw Aida at the New York Metropolitan Opera.

This blog post was inspired by Act III, where the Egyptian general Radames meets his lover, the slave girl Aida, down by the Nile. He's betrothed to marry the Pharoah's daughter the next day, and Aida fears he's coming to tell her he'll never see her again. She stands by the riverside bemoaning the loss of her love, and declares that if she loses him she will throw herself into the river and drown her sorrows permanently.

This is standard opera fare---in the end the hero and heroine both end up dead---but the thing that intrigued me was a story that was told to me by the lawyer sitting next to me. Apparently he was at a performance of Macbeth in which an audience member jumped to his death from a balcony seat during intermission. After an extended intermission (the performance was also being broadcast) the show was ultimately cancelled while police investigated to determine if the death was a suicide or a murder. After a little bit of googling I quickly found the New York Times story about the incident here, as well as a bit about the man who died here.

Hearing about this man's death put the opera into a new light for me. It got me thinking about culture in general and about the romanticization (if that's a word) of suicide. From Anna Karenina and her train to Romeo and Juliet and their poison, we've got people "proving" their love by killing themselves. The wedding ring and the gun are inextricably juxtaposed in drama and in real life. When my patients talk about their girlfriends and I hear the phrase, "I love her to death," I cringe inwardly and want to blurt, "Please don't."