Budapest: The Opera Gone Bad & Spontaneous Dinner Gone Well.

I am no aficionado when it comes to music. At all.

My mum did make me (and the rest of her brood) take up an instrument as "tweens" and force us to participate in middle school band. So despite becoming the first chair flutist and winning awards for my ability, I never took to music and stopped the moment she allowed me to (just before high school).

I think she had hoped taking up an instrument would make us more classy and cultured. And while I can't speak for my siblings (who also had endure this childhood torture), I came out out of it fairly unscathed and appreciating all kinds of arts.

But it wasn't until I went to my first opera around the age of 31 that I really fell in love with singing on a stage (when it's not done by a Spice Girl). That's when I went to my first opera in NYC. And I've been to a few since then over the years, and loved every single one.

"Opera can never be bad," I would think, as I sat in my cheapest of the cheap seats... Way high up in the hall.

But as I learned while in Budapest, that is not true.

It just simply is not true.

Opera can be bad. Even at a world class and gorgeous opera house, like in Budapest.


Because the exchange rate for the USD to the Hungarian currency was so awesome, I sprang for a front row seat. It was slightly cheaper than what I typically pay for the worst seat in NYC at the Met Opera House.

"Finally! I get to roll like the real opera enthusiasts!" I thought. I had somehow equated an awesome seat, right in the center of the front row would make me a more knowledgeable and appreciative opera follower.

"I'll be able to tell people, 'Yeah - I know how awesome opera is. I've been around the world and experienced it in the best and most unique opera houses,'" I said to myself.

Fantasies. Conversations in my head, with people who aren't real that I am trying to impress. Typical for an introvert.

But I was excited! I got to the house early. I got my seat. I watched as the flutist went between tuning her flute and then her piccolo, and recalled that I used to play both and did the same thing before concerts. Then the production began.

And at first, it was lovely. But I started to notice the female lead wasn't quite as powerful with her voice. There were times when she was really drowned out by the rest of the ensemble.

"Maybe that's how it is supposed to be?" I thought. "Or maybe that's a result of the acoustics in here? Maybe if I was in a different seat I could hear her better?"

But it wasn't just the acoustics that jolted me. The blocking of the sequences started to throw me off too. They discombobulated my fantasy of what was happening on stage. I became too aware of every little movement, and began interpreting how "natural" it was or wasn't.

Then came a fight scene. And as I watched two actors being tossed around in a crowd of men, I could see some of the actors (including one of the male leads) squeezing "blood" from sponges in their hands on the men, to simulate punches being thrown and blood being spilled.

"I can't buy into this," I said. 

From that moment on, I understood why I loved the fantasy I get pulled in to with opera... I see it from the cheapest seats. I don't get an up close view of the details happening on the stage to make the production come to life.

It was no longer genuine to me. I couldn't finish it. I left at intermission.

It was all me, I know. While I can appreciate the effort and talent that goes into these productions, I couldn't force myself to stay. And I thought it was just me who felt this way...

I walked next door to a lovely cafe that was quite empty. 


I decided to have dinner instead. I hadn't planned on eating. But since I now had the time, I figured "why not?"

The waiter told me I had to "have the Gypsy Pot Roast."

I figured, "For someone like me? How perfect!"


It ended up being three different kinds of pork with some potatoes. It was awesome.

I noticed, while eating and listening to a string quartet play in the restaurant, that others were there too. I had been the only one eating inside.


When I looked more closely, I saw that three of them were people who were sitting just down the row from me in the opera house!

I immediately felt better about leaving. They were Australian, and they had been talking about the opera non-stop before the show started. They seemed to know a bit about opera.

"I wonder if anyone has noticed that a quarter of the front row is no longer sitting in their seats?" I thought.

But only for a second. I went back to my pork, and vowed to continue to love the opera. But only from way, way, way high up.