Andrea Chenier


This was my first time seeing a production of Andrea Chenier. I had read the libretto before, during my teenage years, and I have also heard the music before. However, I had never been very keen on it, given that the lovers die at the end, and because of some other uncomfortable aspects of the story.

It revolves around a poet and his muse. There is Robespierre in the background and the atmosphere of the Reign of Terror is palpable in the settings. The political parts are more interesting than the romantic plot. Indeed, is it fair to call the relationship between Chenier and Maddelena romantic when it veers close to obsession? There is a degree of placing the muse on a pedestal (and this had unsettled me when I had first read the libretto, for have I not too been guilty of the same, over and over?).

Maddelena, Chenier’s muse, is a lady who falls in love with the mystery of a poet. This frightened me too, back when I first read the story, because how would you separate the art from the person? Is it better to be loved for the art you create than for yourself? Does it matter, at all, when love is rare, and isn’t it better to have a slice than to have none?

Those questions had featured in my thoughts for years. Of late, there has been a renewed interest in sharing my life and my life’s work with those I care about. There is a growing interest in collapsing the barriers I had crafted between the daily and the long-term, afraid to taint one with the other. Earlier attempts in trusting the same people with both had led nowhere, and had caused much sorrow. The daily life I lead, full of equations and code, brings me into contact with men and women who have been bred into the technology sector, in corporate settings, or in university settings. While it is a meaningful life, it contrasts with my other world, where I exist in words and chords.

In my reawakened bid to tie the two together again, to integrate these parts of me that have lived apart for years, to explain to those who love me about the part they were unaware of, I started small, with a friend. It didn’t turn out so well, so I have put this venture on hold, for now. I will have to find a way, because I am getting older and I am tired of keeping the two apart. It is draining. Maybe in a few months, I will try again and be  pleasantly surprised. I do enjoy the company of people in my life right now, without being encumbered by duty or obligation, without feeling that there are expectations placed on me to live my life in a particular way. It is a good start. Everything else will follow, I think.

The Chenier production at the local opera was lovely. It started off the festive season on a decadent note. The orchestra was splendid, as always. My opera partner was quite distraught by the story, until she fell asleep on my shoulder. We had grabbed a bite before the show at the little cafe Sibelius and I had chanced upon one Friday night when in the Theatre district without having had the sense to make reservations. I think the Lomein knocked her out. The drive had been long too: two hours to reach the city. It was cold there; mercury hovered at fifty-two.

I am yet to make my Thanksgiving plans. Elisabeth has demanded that I show up for the annual dinner at their family home, which I have dutifully attended whenever I could. It would be lovely to return to Atlanta once again, to see old friends. I will have to see if that is possible this year.

There are pumpkins everywhere. I can’t wait to carve them all.