22 August

“Rigoletto” On Main Street

by Jon Katz

I confess I was a bit wary of seeing “RIgoletto” at the Hubbard Hall Opera House in town this afternoon. It is a two-and-a-half hour opera, and I first saw it at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I didn’t relish sitting through more than two hours of this dramatic, maudlin and intense of the great old operas.

I planned to slip out during intermission and herd the sheep. I stayed the whole time, I couldn’t think of leaving. The Hubbard Hall Opera Company was great, the lead singers were amazing and I loved seeing the opera in the very intimate setting of this funky old vaudeville house on Main Street in the middle of town.

I am wary of embellishing or romanticizing life  in small town America. My town has plenty of problems – few jobs, snarky people, declining population, the economists have abandoned rural America for the global economy, nobody running for President has even mentioned the struggles of rural America.

Writers romanticize life around them because that’s how they sell their stories, I try not to do that. There is no perfect life, no perfect down. I met a woman from Long Island who said she disliked the country, back home she could get everything she wanted in just a few minutes, she never had to drive very far.

How narrow a definition of the good life, I thought. I have to drive farm for almost everything but a good meal (the Round House) but I love every bit of life here. My town is quite special in so many ways. The people are warm and friendly, we take care of one another.  It is a funky mix of writers, artists, painters, mechanics, handymen, farmers and nurses who work at nearby hospitals (not that nearby.) While almost all the towns around demolished their old theaters and opera houses, Cambridge preserved ours,  it is now the Hubbard Hall Arts And Education Center.

It is, in so many ways, the soul of the town.

The singers were just a few inches from us, we could see their sweat and spit in the lights. “Rigoletto” is a very maudlin, winding opera but the music is beautiful, the singing soaring and intense. It was just a beautiful performance, and I only got drowsy two times in the first five minutes – I get drowsy in the mid afternoon sometimes on warm days. I did not drowse after that, nor did I even think of sneaking out early.

The house was packed, they had to bring in extra chairs for the overflow. It is hard enough for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to fill their performances, there was no problem selling out in my town of less than 2,000 people. Good for us.

I love living in a town that prizes it’s diners and cafes and yard sales and has a big Opera House right on Main Street, three minute from our farm. I love hearing singers that good in such an intimate setting.  Take that, Long Island lady. I love never listening to myself and most often saying yes instead of no when it comes to going out. Maria loved it as much as I did, and she wasn’t sure she would either.

It was a high, it was so good and beautiful, even though I had forgotten it  takes one of the leads a very long time to die.

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