My wife and I recently attended a performance of The Barber of Seville at the Kennedy Center. This turned out to be quite a challenge for me because I have a bladder the size of a walnut. My wife had obtained our tickets at a charity auction, and neither of us had been to the Kennedy Center, or ever attended an opera for that matter.
We arrived early, and my wife kept saying she wanted to visit something called the Russian Lounge. I pictured a windowless, smoke-filled room where oligarchs sat around discussing who among their adversaries “needed to go” (as in, permanently). As it turned out, I was precisely correct. No, no. Just kidding. The Russian Lounge in the Kennedy Center’s opera house is where patrons hang out before performances and during intermission (or, as I refer to it, “halftime”). Here it is –
This picture is clipped pretty hard because the last things these generous rich folks need is a cameo in my smart-alack (yet highly informative) column. Trust me, they were all dressed to the nines, carried themselves with polished demeanor, and had an average age of 107. Just kidding, again! The average age couldn’t have been a day over 91.
The Russian Lounge is where I made my big mistake. I ordered a bourbon. Bourbon, as my wife will tell you with a pained look on her face, is my Kryptonite. I digest bourbon as well as dogs digest chocolate. It never ends well.
After sliding the last drop of that mistake down my throat, we headed to our seats. We were thrilled – forth row, center. I looked back and surveyed the massive audience of 2,700. Here are the balconies.
I would have included the main floor, but too many people were staring at me when I lifted my camera. They all look richer and far more sophisticated than me, so I didn’t have the nerve to include them in the photo.
The first half of The Barber of Seville is about 90 minutes. At 35 minutes, my bladder started to percolate. At 40 minutes, things were tightening up, and it was dawning on me that I wasn’t going to make it to intermission. I turned to my wife and told her I had to go. She shook her head firmly and said, “No.” She was absolutely correct. It wasn’t an event where people wandered in and out. In fact, no one had.
At 45 minutes, I was waiting for a break in the action to make my move. But Opera singers are like those whales that can take a breath and remain submerged for hours. Just as their voices would begin to fade, and I would grip my armrests preparing to make my move, their voices would shoot back up and launch into another verse.
Finally, a song ended, and people began clapping. It was my big chance. I turned to my wife and said, “I’ve got to go.”
A look of horror shot across her face, and she silently mouthed, “Don’t go!”
I didn’t have the luxury of time to plead my case. I simply gazed deep into her despondent eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” Then I turned and dashed up the aisle.
In retrospect, I blame the Kennedy Center for allowing me to attend in the first place. This is the premier center for the arts in entire United States. Don’t they have standards? Even the most rudimentary background check is going to disclose that I am from Alsea. A team of armed security guards should have been waiting for me at the entry to initiate a full pat-down, water-boarding, and, of course, bladder check.
The next time I go to the opera, I’m going to take the same precautions I do when I fly in a single engine plane – It’s liquid deprivation for a minimum of six hours preflight (or in this case – “pre-opera”).