RBG, Covid-19, and a Wardrobe Malfunction

I went to the Washington National Opera last night to see Samson and Delilah by French composer Camille Saint-Saens. It was a last minute purchase made possible by a change in travel plans. And, as is usual for me, I did that thing where I was looking forward to it, but then on the day of the performance I start wishing I could just stay home. But happily I fought inertia and got my butt out of the house.

Now that I think about it, the fabulous chandelier in the Kennedy Center Opera House looks a bit like the Coronavirus.
Pathogens Flying Everywhere

Maybe because I have been reading and talking a lot about Covid-19 over the past two weeks I was hyper aware last night of other people’s behavior. (I had been in Italy, quite near the origin of the outbreak, right as it was starting to get a foothold, so for the past two weeks I have worried about becoming DC’s patient zero. At day 15, it looks like I might be in the clear.) Anyway, to wit:

  • The first thing I did was use the bathroom, not just because I had to go, but because I wanted to wash my hands. Not surprisingly for men, as I spent 20 seconds at the sink, at least two people left the bathroom without washing their hands at all.
  • Then I noticed the ticket takers pawing everyone’s tickets despite the fact that they have a scanner that doesn’t require them to touch them at all. I politely made a point of not letting her touch mine and we shared a joke about it, but then I realized if I wanted a program (and I did) I would have to take it from another usher. So with a possibly tainted program, I made my way to my seat.
  • Then the opera. All I could focus on was how much the singers, chorus, supernumeraries, and dancers were touching each other. So much touching, so many hands on faces. I was thinking they should re-block the whole thing during intermission so there would be no virus transmitting action on stage. I hope their union has good health insurance.
  • And speaking of hands on faces, there was no part of my face that I didn’t want to touch. I finally gave in.
  • Oddly, at intermission an older, elegant woman next to me offered me M&Ms from a cup that she had been eating from. In my 30+ years of concert going, no stranger has ever offered to share a snack with me. So why on the night DC confirmed its first cases of Covid-19? I declined and chuckled to myself.
  • It seemed to me, that the older the person the fewer precautions they seemed to take. Uncovered coughs and all sorts. For my own part, during intermission, I executed a perfect, fully encapsulated, elbow sneeze.
Then Ruth Bader Ginsburg Walked In

The orchestra had started tuning when a smattering of applause began. I was a bit confused because the conductor doesn’t walk out when the orchestra is tuning so I didn’t know what was going on. Then I noticed in the aisle two rows ahead of me, a frail, old woman with a friend and a small group of people who seemed to be Kennedy Center personnel and at least two Secret Service agents were crossing the theater. It was 86-year old opera lover Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was walking extremely slowly making her way to her seat as the rest of the theater  (including myself) realized who she was. The applause gained strength until most of the place was on its feet applauding and cheering. It was extremely heartening–and frightening. No one better give RBG Covid-19!

And it made me think how incredibly important the next election is.

An Exploding Necklace

At one point in the final act, with a full stage, with the dancers having completed the main portion of the Bacchanale, there was the sound of something raining down onto a platform. Like big wooden beads falling off of someone’s necklace. And then, seemingly confirming my ears, large gumball-sized objects started rolling off the platform where they seemed to have fallen from the neck of a chorus member or supernumerary, onto the raked stage where they made their way to the front and over the edge onto the screen that shields the orchestra pit from just that sort of calamity.

But then there were a few stragglers, probably falling out of the folds of a sparkly robe. One stopped just behind the foot of one of the dancers. Staying very much in character she elegantly flicked it behind her with her foot where it headed off stage–until it started rolling forward and landed right at the knees of Samson (Roberto Aronica) who was in the middle of singing plaintively about how he had sold out his people for a night in bed with Delilah. It made me chuckle at the wrong moment, but I don’t think anyone heard me. (One couldn’t really blame the dancer for wanting the bead out of the way, there was still lots of dancing to come. Occupational Health and Safety after all.)

A few seconds later, as the the cast was looking toward the back of the stage, another bead started to make its journey forward when Delilah herself (J’Nai Bridges) trapped it under her foot. Sadly, I didn’t see what happened to it after that. That’s a real diva–stop a rogue bead in its tracks while never losing focus.

It was a pretty fabulous night out.

25 thoughts on “RBG, Covid-19, and a Wardrobe Malfunction

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings March 8, 2020 / 10:10 am

    Sounds entertaining in both good and bad ways! My OH is suggesting I go out of the house wearing surgical gloves, but I think that’s taking things a little far…


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 1:56 pm

      What seemed silly on the 8th is now reality on the 15th. I saw many people wearing surgical gloves at the supermarket on Friday.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Su March 8, 2020 / 11:02 am

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t stay home? What an eventful night. Our little town theater can claim a few bats flying into actors’ faces during performances but we’ve never had RBG and I’ve never seen beads explode on stage (but I want to).


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 1:57 pm

      I am glad I didn’t stay home. But on Thursday I had a ticket for Mahler’s 3rd Symphony and decided not to use it to help flatten the curve. But late in the day they cancelled the performance anyway.


  3. Claire (The Captive Reader) March 8, 2020 / 11:08 am

    Sounds like an evening well worth leaving home for! I was at an event last night and concur completely with your observation that the older the person is, the less likely they are to be taking precautions. Lots of uncovered coughs/sneezes, etc. There were some chastising grandchildren out harassing their elders to absolutely no effect. But at least the youth were trying!


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 1:58 pm

      I’m not sure it has gotten much better as the crisis gets worse.


  4. Teresa March 8, 2020 / 11:26 am

    I don’t know what kind of ticket scanners they use at the KC, but the Shakespeare Theatre used to have ones that were extremely finicky, and I almost always had to take patrons’ tickets to get them to work. Luckily, they’ve recently gotten scanners that are much easier to operate, and I only had to grab a couple of patrons tickets when ushering this weekend (usually because their hands were over the bar code or they weren’t holding them still).

    STC is also having ushers wear gloves when scanning tickets and handling programs, and they’re not reusing programs — they even went so far as to pull the program bins from the back of the theatre during the show so patrons won’t leave used programs in them for possible reuse. It’s interesting to hear what other theatres are and aren’t doing. I have shows at Studio and Signature later this month, so I’ll be curious to see what protocols they have in place.


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 1:58 pm

      It all seems like old news now given the way things have progressed in a week.


  5. Grier March 8, 2020 / 1:52 pm

    I’m glad you had a memorable evening but what was RBG doing at the opera?! I know she’s a fan but so many people are counting on her to stay healthy for at least another year. Surely she would be at risk for the virus due to her age and compromised immune system. What was she thinking?


  6. Sidney March 9, 2020 / 12:48 am

    Hilarious! Also, I desperately need to touch my face now.


  7. juliana brina March 9, 2020 / 5:06 am

    This post was a delight – beginning with the chandelier that looks like the coronavirus. I am hyperaware of people’s behaviour everywhere I go and it is good to know that I am not alone in this, but it is even better to be able to have a laugh at it. :)


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 2:00 pm

      I think this situation has brought out lots of good humor and bonhomie on Twitter.


  8. Karen K. March 9, 2020 / 9:08 am

    Sounds like you had a fabulous time! I know what you mean about not wanting to go out to an event — I never want to go out at night and then I’m always so glad I did.


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 2:00 pm

      I had to stop getting season tickets to things because I kept skipping.


  9. Geoff W March 9, 2020 / 9:50 am

    Now, I need you to review all operas henceforth. Thanks.


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 2:01 pm

      I’ve never been to one that had so much going on in between the lines if you will.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lori March 9, 2020 / 9:57 am

    So enjoyed the description of the bouncing beads. Sounds like it was a great night out and then the bonus of seeing RBG!


    • Thomas March 15, 2020 / 2:01 pm

      I would love to see someone explain what happened behind the scenes.


  11. Ruthiella March 9, 2020 / 7:49 pm

    I can only echo Geoff W’s comment. You are so witty.

    P.S. and yes, that chandelier does resemble the coronavirus! My thoughts exactly.


  12. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay March 9, 2020 / 10:15 pm

    Oh Thomas. I needed this.


  13. AnnieD March 11, 2020 / 4:18 pm

    Thanks for this post as I try to maintain some semblance of composure, humor, and rationality in the face of everything swirling around us. I went to a sold out event this weekend (hockey, not opera – a bit different) and felt in an odd way that it might have been the healthiest crowd I have been around in a while – almost no sneezing or coughing at all – it felt like sick people were being sensible (for themselves and others) and staying home.

    I have also noticed a lot of older people on the trains and in places where I might think twice about visiting right now if I were 25 years older. Kind of like the old timers who refuse to listen to hurricane warnings because they have survived them all in the past.

    Also – RBG – please stay home!


  14. Susan in TX March 15, 2020 / 5:23 pm

    Wow. So glad you got to enjoy the concert – you sound so much like me in “looking forward to something and then having to force yourself out the door.” I’ve been on my parents about going nowhere (they are in their 80’s) and am as shocked as you and the rest of the commenters here that RBG was out and about. These are different days…


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