We climbed to our seats high in the Family Circle section of the Metropolitan Opera House and waited for the 9/11 tribute to begin. The house was packed, thanks to $25 tickets and the thrill of attending a live performance again after 18 months of Zoom or nothing,
The superb Met orchestra, normally in the pit, was assembled on stage, and five empty risers awaited the virtuosic Met chorus. Live opera was coming back—but first, Verdi’s Requiem, featuring a stellar quartet of soloists.
The first chorus members began snaking along the risers in a familiar ritual. Rarely is a chorus already seated on stage before the audience settles in for a concert. As more singers appeared, clapping began, quietly at first in the lower rows, then rising to a crescendo throughout the opera house. The applause lasted for fifteen minutes as we expressed our joy at being back in the hall, spiffed up and gleaming for the occasion; our gratitude at the musicians who had endured the long hiatus, many without pay for months; and at the Met itself, for having reunited its ruptured family in time for the new season. Poignant feelings about the sad day of remembrance were also foremost in the mix.
Having sung the Verdi Requiem with various choruses, I knew what was coming—the hushed beginning, and then—wait for it—the terrifying Dies Irae. Our seats, located too far from the stage to see the singers’ faces, were perfect for the whoosh of sound that swelled to the rafters, like an airplane taking off in perfect harmony with the runway.
The finale brought another sustained ovation, and then we all poured into the night, past the Lincoln Center theaters lit in blue for 9/11, past the burbling fountains, and back into the rough and tumble of New York City, with all its worries and wonders.