An intense anticipation filled the air, and I breathed it in deeply.

We all need something to look forward to. A date had been marked in red letters on my calendar for weeks, and I had watched each day pass with gratitude.

Finally, the day came for me to take my seat.

Theater lights dimmed, and you could hear a low rustle from the audience. My eyes took in the stage set, anchored by a bed on one side in the rear and a white grand piano front stage. A vanity on the other side held a settee and desk. Voluptuous drapes covered the stage wall, and the image of a large, delicate flower seemingly dropping petals over the bed drew your attention to a woman with long hair sleeping.

“La Traviata” was about to begin.

I took a deep breath in as if I was on a roller coaster and my cart was just about to go down the track. Music began, and I was lost. I felt as if I were really at the New York Metropolitan

Opera House, but in reality, I was sitting in a Fresno theater with the help of wonderful live simulcasts. My four new friends and I, all seniors, were attending due to our shared love of opera.

I felt as excited as a child at a circus.

“La Traviata” is one of my favorite operas, filled with romance, conflict and tragedy. A formula that is so often seen in great operas.

After a bit, I felt a momentary shift in my mind, and I was no longer 75 years old sitting in a theater watching an opera, but I was once more five years old, standing on one of my family’s dining room chairs in the middle of my parent’s living room. 

I was surrounded by what seemed to be a sea of adults. I was once more the evening’s entertainment. My father nodded his head as he put on the instrumental accompaniment. I closed my eyes and began singing several arias from “Carmen.” Afterward, the guests praised my parents, and I felt warm inside.

I grew up listening to opera. I looked up to Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, like my friends looked up to TV personalities.

For years, singing was my safe place. I also enjoyed being a part of the music. I was a coloratura soprano, which means I sang high. Sadly, when I had throat surgery several years ago to remove polyps, I lost my ability to sing. Now I can just sort of croak. Feeling down, it took me a while to listen to the music that had been a part of my life.

Slowly, I let myself listen to classical radio and play old tapes, thinking that my days of being able to go to the opera were far behind me. When a few of my new friends mentioned to me a few months ago that a local theater was showing a New York Metropolitan Opera simulcast my heart jumped a little.

I told myself, with all the changes that have happened recently in my life, maybe this also brought the possibility of change— a new and a different kind, a door opening to something I’d loved but put away. To make it even better, it cost me the same as going to a senior matinee at the movies!

It is great to affirm that life can close some doors on us, but it doesn’t mean we can’t look for another. Different doors can open, leading us to another form of joy.

I pledge that in this month celebrating Thanksgiving, I will try to be grateful for the doors ahead of me still left to open and mourn less the ones that have been closed.

Diana J. Ingram

Diana Ingram has been a columnist for Los Banos newspapers for four decades.