A Cultural Overdose: Operas, Museums, Exhibitions, Oh My!

This senior is really in “retirement.”

by Michael Sheridan

Arts Deaditor

If you know me at all, you know that I love art. In fact, you may remember as the paper’s art editor last semester. However, with the way the editor positions work, I was forced to leave the position after the final issue last semester. In my retirement, I’ve found that I have more time than I know what to do with. This, combined with the fact I’m only taking three classes, meant that I finally had time to visit as various art institutions across the city.

Thus, I started by seeing Donizetti’s opera, l’eliser d’amore, which I very much enjoyed. On a whim, that very night, I bought tickets for Verdi’s opera, Il Trovatore for next week. It had been so long since I’d seen an opera so seeing two in two weeks didn’t seem like a huge deal.

Not willing to wait an entire week for my next cultural experience, that weekend I went to the Neue Galerie to catch the exhibition Wiener Werkstatte which was closing soon. On the same day, I also stopped by the Met to see Michelangelo Divine Draftsman. Like the opera, it had been far too long since I had wandered around an art museum, and I found the experience to be especially rejuvenating. As an art history major, museums are something I really enjoy. I didn’t even let the massive Saturday crowds deter me from enjoying the exhibition, which was of course stunning.

That Monday, I saw the opera, with mixed feelings, yet still pleased I had gone. Thinking about the fact I had Wednesday off, I decided to walk around the Chelsea galleries to see the new round of exhibitions, which is traditionally one of my favorite things to do. While I did enjoy it at first, I eventually grew tired more quickly than usual, and left after only seeing around 2/3rds the galleries I normally would have visited.

That weekend, as I still had very little homework, I found myself back at the Met, to see the David Hockney retrospective. I had been excited for this show for months and was happy to finally get to see it. However, within the first few rooms, I grew tired and irritated by the massive crowds. Usually I can spend 1-1.5 hours in such an exhibition, yet I’d be surprised if I spent more than 45 minutes. Chalking it up to my expectations being too high, and my annoyance with crowds (especially after one woman kept asking who each painting was by, as if they were all by David Hockney). I strolled through the Islamic Wing after, which is my favorite part of the Met, but even this section failed the capture my attention as it normally did.

Yet, I still wasn’t deterred, and that Wednesday, I found myself back in the Upper East Side, this time at the Met Breuer to see Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed. I stopped by the café first and found myself frustrated that the café, which had once been nearly always empty and my secret haven, had been infiltrated by leagues of old crabby woman and tourists (one of which found reason to yell at me). Worried that this day would be a bust as had Saturday, I nervously viewed the exhibition. Thankfully, I found it quite stunning and expertly curated. I spent my usual 1.5 hours and breathed a sigh of relief, realizing I had been worried that I was growing tired of culture.

The next day, however, for work, I had to attend three gallery openings in Chelsea and suddenly found myself incredibly bored. I couldn’t wait to leave and go home, which is odd as usually I thrive at such events. I even entirely skipped the opening I probably should have gone to Friday to try and detox.

But unfortunately, I could do no such thing as that weekend my parents came down to visit, with plans to go to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway on Saturday, and plans to see an exhibition about a family favorite show Downton Abbey. It was something different at least, and I did enjoy myself. It was here I realized I much prefer opera to Broadway, as snobby as that might sound. And the exhibition was less artistic than the previous ones I had recently visited. But it was starting to feel like too much.

That Wednesday I purposely did not go to the city or do any cultural events, but my friend reminded me that I had promised her to go to the ballet to see Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for Valentine’s day. Thus, that Friday, I bought tickets and that night, I and few other friends were back at Lincoln Center. While I found the production incredibly beautiful and a fantastic experience, that I’m happy I went to, I remembered that in only four days, I had tickets to go see the grandest cultural experience yet: Parsifal by Wagner, which is a 5.5-hour long production sung entirely in German.

That weekend, I felt exhausted, both mentally and physically (as it would turn out I had strep throat). While I started antibiotics on Monday, I toyed with simply not going to this opera. However, the stingy side of me won and I decided I didn’t want to waste the money.

Thus, Tuesday, I was back in a Ram Van, on my way to the Metropolitan Opera House. The next 5.5 hours of my life can only be described as incredible. Despite a month of endless shows, galleries, and exhibitions, nothing can compare to the magnificence of Wagner’s last opera. From the stunning score, the somber yet heroic story, and the stunningly minimalist score (which featured an entire pool of blood during act 2), I have never been so moved by a cultural experience in my life. It still remains unbelievable how fast those nearly 6 hours seem to go. At the finale, I found myself wishing it could continue for even longer. While there are only a few performances of it left, and I somehow doubt I could convince anyone to see the opera, I would can’t recommend the experience enough.

Yet on my ram van back to rose hill, it suddenly hit me that despite the incredible night I had just had, I needed a break from culture. I never thought I could have reached such a point in my life, where I would need a break from art and music, yet after my month of culture, I think it’s time to detox and simply absorb everything I’ve seen and heard the last month. At least until March.

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