Monday, November 24, 2008

Let me clear my throat: An open letter to coughing opera patrons

Dear coughing opera patrons:

Good evening! How are you doing? Are you feeling better than you were the other evening when you were at the opera? You’re fine? Really? Hmm… I guess I was confused about your health due to all your incessant coughing during the duration of Madame Butterfly. I would love to believe that it was a total fluke – that, because everybody who likes opera knows each other and goes to the same fancy cocktail parties, that one person got a cold and (bam!) next thing you know the whole audience for Saturday night’s performance has a little tickle in their throat. But this is not limited to Saturday’s performance of Madame Butterfly. This happens every time I have ever been to the opera - there seems to be this rash of coughers and it doesn’t matter what the season. Why is that? I demand to know!

I hate to be blunt, but is it because you are old? Now, I know it might seem that I harp on old people a lot – but it’s not really like that! You see, I have been told on several occasions that I like things that old people like: mash potatoes, The Golden Girls, Burt Bacharach, opera, voting... See? I can relate to your elderly pleasures! But is it a matter of fact that once you get old, you just cough? A lot? In public at completely inappropriate times during gut wrenchingly, emotionally anguished arias? Is that why you are always trying to give me a Werther’s? Because you eat them all the time in order to keep your cough at bay? Because I like candy, but that is not, in my opinion, a treat. So no thank you.

If it is not age, then maybe it is because you are actually allergic to opera? That may be a hard allergy to prove, but there is federal money being spent as we speak to get to the bottom of far less pressing matters – stem cells and what not. Maybe there is some test that can be done to prove that when certain notes are hit, your coughing reflex is just activated and you cannot help it! Then people like me, who are apparently immune from this threat and/or simply able to keep from coughing for three, full, consecutive hours can enjoy the performance without having to wonder about these things as sad, sad Cio-Cio San waits for a very, very, very long time for a man who will never come back for her. Then in the final death scene, when robust non-coughers like me want to get lost in the moment and wrap themselves up in the emotional tragedy that is Cio-Cio San’s suicide, they would not have “I bet she just couldn’t take the coughing anymore” pop in their head and ruin the moment. Maybe Eli Lilly will soon come out with an anti-coughing pill or elixir for just this purpose. It could be called “opera-tussin.” I think I will write them next.

In the mean time, if you truly cannot, no matter what, keep from coughing for the whole duration of an opera performance, ask yourself, “Is this really for me? Am I really enjoying this?” Because, if you are coughing that much, I can only guess that the time you are not coughing is just time during which all you can think about is trying not to cough because you do not want to draw attention to yourself via all this hacking but you do not know how to make it stop! This is an example of a “cough-shame-spiral.” I do not want you to be in this spiral any more than I want to listen to your coughing. But I also cannot in good conscience tell you to stay home as live performances clearly count on attendance to survive! Oh, what a quandary! I do not know the answers. But I do know that it is not Werther’s. Switch to something stronger – but something that doesn’t come in a crinkly wrapper! Do not make me write another letter.

Thank you,


veldagarcia said...

this is awesome.

Lori-Lu said...

It's gonna take a monthfull of Sundays to solve this dilemma!

Laura said...

Thank you, and yes indeed it is! Also, props are due to Lori for inspiriing the phrase "cough-shame-spiral" by using the phrase "shame-spiral" earlier in the evening - I believe in reference to doggie Prozac. :)

cornelia said...

Nicely done! I have often wondered about this menace. But we do depend on b;ue hair in this busines...

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