“It’s So Nice To See Young People At The Opera!” — Stern Honors Visits the Opera
The Stern Honors Program had the privilege to see “Florencia en el Amazonas” on opening night at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on Nov. 16, filling up three rows of the Met’s first Spanish Opera. Set in the early 20th century, the opera tells the story of Florencia Grimaldi, a famed opera singer who has returned to native South America to perform in Manaus and seek out her lost lover, a butterfly hunter. The opera ends with Florencia singing to her beloved and turning into a butterfly, finding himself in her and returning to him in her heart. The opera is an example of magical realism, the portrayal of fantastical events in an otherwise realistic world.
After helping a lovely woman take pictures on the stunning red-carpeted staircase, she proceeded to thank us for coming to the opera: “It’s so nice to see young people at the opera,” she said. And she was correct; as far as I could tell, besides us, there were only older men and women! The average age of the audience at the Metropolitan Opera was 57, the New York Times reported in 2020. As a group of 19 to 21-year-olds, we were definitely below the average.
One SCW honors student was stunned by the Met Opera Building. She said, “Stepping into the Metropolitan Opera House is like entering a gilded palace, a testament to the power and beauty of opera.” At the opera, we were surrounded by sweeping red staircases, balconies with a spectacular night view and glittering chandeliers.
“As a singer and theater-lover I was ecstatic to experience the Metropolitan Opera with Stern Honors,” said Tamara Yehurun (SCW ‘26). “The atmosphere was enchanting: the tremendous theater, elegant gowns, velvet staircases … I loved every moment.”
I asked program director, Professor Cynthia Wachtell, about what made her decide that the Opera was where she wanted to take the honors students, and she said that she thought the “premise would appeal to honors students,” and enable [them] to make the most of all that is on offer culturally in New York City.”
Richard Mantle, a general director for Opera North, wrote in an article for The Guardian that opera “offers us a reflection of who we are, how we relate to others, and what it means, collectively and individually, to be human.” As college students, we are deeply entrenched in the battle to discover who we are. This opera, “Florencia en el Amazonas,” provided the lesson that no matter what we choose to do and who we choose to be, we must find an identity that is true to ourselves and will enable us to find the things meaningful to us deep within our hearts.
All this said, there was, as with every event, some dissatisfaction. Operas are not everyone’s cup of tea, so there were some who attended not so enthused with the opera. One student said that she was not so happy going to the opera because “the typical storyline that operas follow adhere to this archaic idea of…what women and men are and what their gender roles are.” She was not so eager to watch an opera displaying the helplessness of people, especially women, against their emotions. As she said, “Where is the resilience, where is the determination, where is the grit?”
Photo Caption: Stern Honors went to the Opera on Nov. 16
Photo Credit: Cynthia Wachtell