Monday, October 15, 2007

The Bloody Bride

Roy pointed out recently that I haven't posted in nearly a month. Oops. I like hanging out with Roy and Dinah and I do like the blog, but sometimes you just have to think about something other than psychiatry.

Like opera, for instance. This weekend I saw Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. It was great. The storyline is that Lucia, the heroine, is betrothed to a total stranger in order to restore the fortunes of her family. In order to guarantee the betrothal her brother forges a letter from Lucia's true love (who is off somewhere in a foreign country) telling her that he has found someone else. Lucia marries against her will, then on the wedding night she stabs her husband to death and wanders around in a bloody wedding dress singing a seventeen minute aria about her hallucinations.

This opera was first shown in 1835. Many sopranos have sung the role since then and they all developed their own particular way of portraying insanity. In this particular version of the mad scene, singer Natalie Dessay wanders the stage while waving a knife, looking dazed, screaming, laughing for no reason, thowing herself down and rolling down the stairs. At one point she tears up her veil and cradles the pieces like a baby. Eventually a doctor comes on stage and gives her an injection.

Color me cynical but most psychotic folks I've known don't do a lot of that. It was good drama, but not real. I thought that considering our reason podcast talking about the portrayal of psychiatrists in the media it might be good to mention the portrayal of insanity.

The ironic thing about this opera is that while Donizetti was writing it he was becoming ill with bipolar disorder himself. He ended up institutionalized. Sadly, he died about a hundred years before there were any injections or pills to help him.