If anybody still remembers Mayor Rudy “Strongman” Giuliani, the one good thing he did for the City was proclaim his love of opera, thereby putting to rest the notion that opera is only for highbrows.
In fact, opera is a lot more entertaining than anything put on by the State Bar Association and often less expensive.
Last night we saw Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” or “The Girl of the Golden West,” set in California during the Gold Rush. It features a heroine named Minnie, a sheriff named Jack Rance, whose rancid name is a dead giveaway that he won’t get the girl, and a hero called Dick Johnson about whose name we will not stoop to comment.
The opera blew us away, not only for the excellent squawking, but for the story, which ends with everybody forgiving everybody else. Sheriff Rance and the gold miners forgive Dick Johnson for having been a bandit (although not a killer, we are assured), and Johnson forgives them for shooting him and trying to lynch him. Minnie forgives the Sheriff for trying to rape her and Johnson for lying to her about who he is. Why? The redeeming power of Love.
As a young squab we might have scoffed at such an ending, but after years of immersion in a criminal justice system increasingly dedicated to never, ever forgiving anybody for anything whatsoever, it seemed like a new and radical idea.
As prison sentences become longer and parole conditions more insanely intrusive and collateral consequences proliferate out of control, it seems like the system views people as disposable items to be discarded for their defects. They’re tossed into garbage cans labeled supervision or treatment or programs, and the lid shut tight. Hey, whatever happened to recycling?
And our point is?
We don’t know, we’re just here to squawk.