Life is a Dramatic Opera

It would be nice if life could always be comfortable and predictable—without arguments, misunderstandings, trials, or tribulations.
But it’s not.
Life is like a dramatic opera, filled with ups and downs, and love which sometimes goes awry. There are times when I would prefer to simply stay in bed, underneath warm blankets with a pillow over my head.
But no—life always requires me to get up once more.
Scene change!  Think fast!
When I was in the Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT) production of the opera “Otello” in 1990, I found this story of jealousy and suspicious love both familiar and unnerving. Fiction closely mirrors fact. In Act IV, Otello strangles/smothers his wife because he firmly believes that she loves someone else. Unfortunately, right after he kills her, he finds out that he is totally wrong. She had never been unfaithful to him. In a vain attempt to rectify the situation, he stabs himself and then gives his wife one last kiss before he dies. Of course, she doesn’t notice his last kiss because she is already dead.

The story is not too far-fetched.

I was in a shelter for abused women during this same time period, and all of the women there were telling similar tales about insecure, jealous husbands who were verbally and/or physically abusive.
—Where have you been, ***? Who did you see this time? It doesn’t take that long to go grocery shopping.
—You’re just like the rest of them. Women are only good for one thing.
—You say there is no one else, but you are lying. You always lie ***
­— If it wasn’t for me, you would be nothing. No one wants you. People are laughing behind your back.
—You’re a joke, You *** don’t deserve to live.

***In the sentences above, I deliberately left out the derogatory 4 letter words. Use your imagination and you will probably be correct.

When two people “love” each other, it makes no sense to destroy that love with constant accusations, physical threats, and abusive language.  Watching this type of abusive scenario in an opera is educational, but it is hell on earth when played out in an actual relationship.

For me, the moral of the story is this: If you want to have a relatively happy life, do your best to avoid getting too involved with insecure, controlling people!

A month after Otello, I was in the HOT production of the opera “The Bartered Bride.”
Although the Bartered Bride also has some negative twists and turns, it does resolve into a sweet ending. I enjoyed this opera immensely. With dancing, singing, and a happily ever after at the end, it was just what I needed. I loved it.

I have heard some people say that opera singing is “controlled screaming.” I don’t know if that is the best description, but singing with full diaphragmatic power does release a tremendous amount of emotional energy. I can honestly say that, during the stressful time that I was homeless in Hawaii, having the opportunity to sing opera helped save my life.  The vibration raised my soul up every time.

Over the years, I have never forgotten my wonderful ʻohana at the Hawaii Opera Theatre.  Thanks for being there for me. Mahalo and aloha nui loa!

About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in Art, Photo Essay, photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Life is a Dramatic Opera

  1. jmgoyder says:

    What wonderful photos! Thanks for the thought-provoking post.


    • Thanks Jim. It’s nice to be able to walk (sing) in an alternate reality sometimes. It puts everything into a slightly different perspective! Emotions are always taken to the max in opera–hence the term “dramatic diva.” Oh woe is me… 🙂
      Remember the old cartoon, where Elmer Fudd was chasing Bugs Bunny and singing “Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit….? Classic! Gotta love it!


  2. jbcamera says:

    I have sung with a concert choir for more than forty years and have always found singing to be uplifting and healing, both mentally and physically. I hope you are still finding the opportunity to sing.


    • I totally agree!
      We are of “sound” mind.
      After I left Hawaii, I sang with the Washington National Opera (WNO) in Washington D.C. for 13 years.
      I also sing with the Rappahannock Chorale Society (RCS) here in Fredericksburg, VA.
      AND if I am ever feeling a little down, I go down in my basement and “howl” for awhile :)…and soon all is well with the world.


  3. What a great post! And lovely photos of yesterday. I truly believe the vibration in singing can uplift the spirit.


  4. dorannrule says:

    I am so sorry you went through that Mary. On the other hand, deeply impressed that you could rise above it and found success and solace in your singing.


  5. Most of the operas are drama the same as life. The only difference is there happy end or not. In the real life all of us have to fight for the happy end. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience.


  6. its not always easy or possible for women to break free from abuse, but I so hope that one day, women and men will act like equals. If we start working together, and start helping other women from heart, that day may become reality very soon!


  7. Amy says:

    I also think that some women believe that “control” is love…


    • I agree. This mistake is sometimes made.
      There are different kinds of control–some are beneficial, some are not.
      The concerned control of a parent over a child, is love. We don’t want our children to get hurt walking into a busy street; we don’t want them to accidentally get burned by fire because they don’t know any better, (etc). We teach and guide them so that when the time comes for them to leave us, they will be prepared to deal with the world.
      On the other side of the coin, when one spouse will not “allow” the other to take college courses for fear he/she might become too independent, or refuses to let the other have any other contacts (even with relatives), etc.—this isn’t a loving control. It is control based on one person’s insecurity and personal needs. The “If I can’t have you, then nobody else will” mentality is dangerous.


  8. It’s good to see you as your other creative self!! 🙂 It sounds very interesting – especially the bit about the ‘controlled screaming’ I can imagine opera could certainly be therapeutic to the mind, kind of ‘letting it all go!’ 😀 I’ve never done opera but I did amateur drama four years up to age of 19 in a local drama group. I was very shy when I joined, but not by the time I left – changed my life and my thinking. Performing on a stage is a wonderful way to discover new pieces of yourself!


  9. Lynda says:

    I lived that conversation for a year with an ex. After I left him I found out that he was the one who was going out on me. It seems to be a very common occurrence in issues of marital trust. How can you trust and believe in your spouse when you are unfaithful yourself: If I am doing it, then he/she must be also. Add the controlling and violent male personality to the scenario and it is a mix for a dangerous and scary relationship. It took me several years to heal after I left him. It was the hardest, and best decision I ever made.

    Mary, I very much enjoyed your reminiscing of your alter (and healing) life on the stage. Your photographs are amazing! I only wish I could have been there to see you back then. 🙂


    • Yes…it is hard! We keep hanging on (often longer than we should), thinking that there must be something that will make it work, something we can do.
      Well….sometimes not. Now I can definitely see that leaving was the best decision that I ever made. It does take a long time to heal, because the negative words (that were said over and over) continue to play on in the mind like a broken record. I went on to sing in the Washington National opera for 13 years, and for weddings and other things.Over the years, those negative words like “you’re a joke,” “you can’t do anything right,” “you’ll never amount to anything,” etc….would pop into my mind at the most inopportune times, creating an ongoing inner battle that no one could see. Easier to heal from physical wounds sometimes, I think.


  10. SPFischer says:

    Mary, I just found this post and am overwhelmed with so many emotions. Sadness, because you had to experience that situation; anger, because someone you thought loved you put you in that situation; empowered, because you found the strength to leave; and uplifted in that your passion for opera saw you through. I am in awe that your performed with the WNO. (Theatre and choral music have been such a large part of my and my family’s lives.) You are obviously a very talented and accomplished woman – that is the thought that should remain uppermost in your mind! Hope you don’t mind if I send you a virtual hug.


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