Boxing Day: Opera Edition

Today is December 26, the day after Christmas. Presents have been opened, carols have been sung, and Christmas festivities are dying down. However, today is a holiday in itself: Boxing Day! Originally, Boxing Day was a holiday for servants and tradesmen to receive presents from their bosses or employers. Now, it is a day for people to flood to the mall in order to take advantage of end-of-the-year sales and to “box” up presents for returns.

Imagine if opera characters could do the same thing…

Here are some great regifting and return ideas for distressed, dying, and discontent opera characters:

The Ring

The Ring in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is a seriously dangerous stocking-stuffer that would be great to return at the mall. Imagine if the Ring hadn’t been put in the hands of so many villains! The Gods, Siegfried, Fasolt, and a bunch of other characters’ lives would’ve been saved. I’m pretty sure if Brünnhilde had taken the Ring to Tiffany’s rather than riding with it on her finger through the Gibichung pire at the end of Götterdämmerung to give it back to the Rhinemaidens, she would have lived too. Wotan’s regifting the Ring for the Rhinemaidens right at the end of Das Rheingold would have been really convenient…but he waited 16 to 17 hours to do the same thing at the end of Götterdämmerung after a lot of bloodshed. I guess he was trying to wait for those end-of-the-world sales…


Johan Botha as Otello and Renée Fleming as Desdemona in Verdi's "Otello" at the Metropolitan Opera , © Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Johan Botha as Otello and Renée Fleming as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” at the Metropolitan Opera , © Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The handkerchief in Otello would have saved both Otello’s and Desdemona’s lives. If Iago had returned the handkerchief at Nordstrom, (or even given it back, or “regifted” it, to Desdemona herself), instead of tormenting Otello’s mind, everyone would have been fine. Then again, he didn’t even buy the handkerchief- he stole it through Emilia. He is more like one of those stupid people who thinks its funny to still Christmas packages off people’s porches. If Iago had not STOLEN the handkerchief, he would still have been jealous of Otello’s rank, but he might not have come up with another plan to torment/kill him.

Tristan und Isolde

Isolde should have taken some serious thought into regifting that chemistry set her mom got her for Christmas. Considering she doesn’t know how to read directions, or refuses to read them…or lets Brangäne read them, it was definitely not the best gift. First of all, she is crazy enough to almost give Tristan lethal poison in Act I because she is so angry with him for killing her previous fiancé Morold. Brangäne then decides to mix the drinks (remember, kids, never accept or leave out open drinks at a party), and, instead, serves Tristan and Isolde a love potion. They evidently fall in love, and five hours later, they are both dead. If Isolde had regifted that “cool” chemistry set her mom got at Toys R’ Us, both she and Tristan would have still been alive. (Isolde would probably have been reluctantly married to King Marke, however).


Faust is an aging scholar who wishes he had appreciated his youth more than he did. He decides to transform into a younger man so he can date the girl of his dreams by selling his soul to the devil. Méphistophélès, the devil, helps him through the process, and they both go off to stalk Marguerite (the girl of Faust’s dreams) in Act II. In Act III, Méphistophélès helps Faust leave a jewelry box and a hand mirror on Marguerite’s doorstep (Siébel, another one of her lovers, had already put a lame bouquet of flowers on her porch that was now trumped by the jewels). Marguerite finds the jewels and falls in love with them, as well as Faust himself, but then he seduces, impregnates, and abandons her, motivating her to kill her own child and go to jail where she eventually dies, not to mention that she was cursed by both her own brother AND the devil. As much as Marguerite cherished the jewelry box, it would have been nice to take Siébel’s lame-looking flowers instead and to regift the jewels. He seemed like a nice guy anyway..


Karita Mattila in the title role on the cover of the Met's DVD of Luc Bondy's production of  "Tosca"

Karita Mattila in the title role on the cover of the Met’s DVD of Luc Bondy’s production of “Tosca”

It would really have been to Tosca’s advantage not to have flipped out over Scarpia’s “gift” of the Attavanti fan. If she or he had regifted the fan, Scarpia’s groupies would not have found Cavaradossi and Angelotti in the first place. Her jealousy of Cavaradossi and Marchese Attavanti’s nonexistent affair, provoked by Scarpia’s discovery of the fan in the chapel, allowed Cavaradossi to be tortured and eventually executed. She gets so upset over his death that she flings herself off the roof of Castel Sant’Angelo. Thanks to a fan that could have been regifted, or returned for an even better Christmas present, Scarpia, Cavaradossi, and Tosca were all killed brutally.


Marie and Wozzeck are two desperate individuals living very poor lives. Marie goes after other men to find security and to avoid his general weirdness, while Wozzeck himself works odd jobs involving catching salamanders, eating beans, and urinating only when told to do so. Marie, being the desperate woman she is, gets involved in an affair with the Drum Major, who gives her a nice pair of earrings. One day, Marie is trying on the earrings when Wozzeck walks in and asks where she found them. Instead of saying she bought them on sale at Bloomingdale’s, she tells him that she just “found them” in the street. Wozzeck thinks its utter nonsense, saying that no one ever finds two of the same earring on the street. This initiates his suspicion of her having an affair. He eventually finds out about her affair with the Drum Major, and promptly knifes her while on a nice stroll by the lake…and then he drowns by trying to throw the knife he used further and further into the lake. If Marie had regifted the earrings or gotten some money back after returning them, she and Wozzeck would have been able to put food on the table and feel more secure. Marie may have continued her affair, however…

I guess Boxing Day does not exist in the opera world. Even for little problems like curses. If Rigoletto had been able to return Monterone’s curse, he might still have a daughter. Then again, opera would be far less entertaining if the troubling factors and powerful symbolism found in certain objects like handkerchiefs and earrings were taken out. Happy Boxing Day!


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