A Tale of Big Hair at the Met

A Tale of Big Hair at the Met

Jenna Simeonov

Who else saw that piece on Jezebel by Collier Meyerson, about her trip to the Metropolitan Opera? It's not really an article about opera or the Met, but I'm inclined to weigh in on it on behalf of opera-goers, because this story edges towards the elitism amongst opera fans.

The short version: Collier was gifted with orchestra seats to the Met's current Aida, priced at over $300 each. She goes with a friend, and before the show starts, the man in the seat behind her asked her to tie back her hair, which was he said was blocking his view. She does so, and then rethinks her decision at first intermission, starts recording on her phone, and tells the man she'll be letting her hair go free for Acts II and III. She quotes him: "'No, you know what, you're really disgusting,' he says again, cementing his position. 'Who comes to the opera with hair sticking straight out of their head like that?' He's crossed into full-blown rant territory." Collier and her friend speak to an usher at the Met, and they get their seats moved.

At the second intermission, Collier goes to a different usher, explaining the issue with her neighbour: "I want the dude to get yelled at, I tell him." After wielding her trusty phone recording of their first-intermission conversation, telling the new usher, "I'm sure the Metropolitan Opera doesn't condone this sort of behavior [sic]. I'm sure you wouldn't want this sort of thing to get out." The usher says there's nothing more that can be done about the situation, and that she should call the police instead.

Finally, Collier turns her attention to what's happening with Aida onstage, and notices a "big-ass wagon full of black bodies lying on top of one another. Whether they're dead or sleeping, Allison—who shoots me a crazy look—and I don't know." She also noticed that plenty of the singers weren't black, and there was even a white woman onstage with braids.

What that last bit had to do with her irate seat neighbour, I don't know. Now, it's true that the opera is fairly white, and it's been a long and winding road getting more black opera singers on stages like the Met. But am I the only one who thinks this story of irate opera-goers was unwisely conflated with the larger issue of diversity in the opera industry? I can't help but wonder if Collier would have drawn the same conclusions if she'd gone to see The Merry Widow.

Either way, the Met offered Collier complimentary two tickets to a future show of her choice.

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