Bach to basics: seeking classical love in a modern world

Last weekend, I went to the opera. For most people in their early-to-mid 20s, going to the opera usually invokes imagery of black-tie attire and floor-length furs. However, for a perpetual opera-goer like myself, it was a typical Saturday evening in black chinos and a button-down. Attending the opera is an outing I find myself doing often, and more times than often, find myself doing alone.

Approximately five minutes before curtain, I was just getting settled in my seat when I received a text message from Roland, a guy whom I’ve been dating for about five months.

“Hey, what’s up?” his poetry read.

“At the opera. It’s about to start. Should be a good one,” I wrote.

“Fun,” he responded. “Hit me up when it’s over.”

My relationship with Roland is, at risk of sounding passé, complicated. We met at FYF Fest in August last year and have technically been dating ever since, but it’s been a constant seesaw of to-and-fro intimacy; he’s been insistent on keeping things casual, while I, being the perpetual romantic I am, have been striving for more substance. I’ve dated other men during our confusing tenure, and I’m sure he has as well, but we always seem to go back to each other in the end. There isn’t really a label to define what we are, a reality that suits him yet infuriates me.

This pattern of recurring casualness is also one that I am necessarily acquired to; normally, when I begin to detect that the other isn’t seeking something as serious, I’ll break it off and move on, but not with Roland. And despite repeated rejection from my friends advising me to distance myself from him, I kept going back.  And I keep going back to him because of opera.

You see, Roland was, and still is, the only romantic partner that I have ever taken to the opera. Likewise, Roland is also the first romantic partner I’ve had who has accepted my invitation to attend the opera. In past flings, when I’ve suggested the option of attending an opera performance, the responses have unanimously been the same: they’ll smile and give a vague response, with their politeness transparently masking their conspicuous apathy. Though it’s been disheartening, I understand that this art form is not everyone’s cup of tea, which is why I won’t press the issue. That’s why in November, when Roland enthusiastically agreed to accompany me to the opera, my heart swelled. He’s taking a liking to my interests, I thought. In that moment, I felt like our relationship had elevated.

The evening in which Roland and I attended the opera was monumental because it was the first time I’ve ever cried in front of a date. I don’t consider myself to be an outwardly emotional person; it usually takes some sort of colossal trauma to open that realm of my psyche. However, I find there to be a grand exception when it comes to opera. Maybe it’s because I find it easier to process my emotion through the lens of a complementary character, or maybe I’m just a schmuck for a decently-written melodic line; but I’ll always end up in tears by the end of a performance. This time was no exception.  And it wasn’t so much the tears itself that made this date so crucial- — it was the fact that I was comfortable with my own vulnerability. For the first time, I was not only able to experience this art form that I love so much with somebody at my side but was also able to cry in front of someone else without feeling any sort of embarrassment or remorse for my tears. On that night, my heart felt the size of the universe.

Fast forward to last weekend. It’s been two months since that magical evening at the opera, and Roland and I remain as casual as ever. Though I’m disheartened by the fact that our “relationship” has remained stationary in a limbo of quasi-commitment, I still find myself unable to cut things off completely. At any rate, I texted Roland after the performance, writing to him my thoughts and favorite moments of the performance in great detail.

“Awesome,” Roland wrote. “Sounds like it was a great opera! We should go again sometime soon.”

I smiled.

Arya Roshanian is a senior majoring in music. He is also a lifestyle editor at the Daily Trojan. His column, “From the Top” runs on Tuesdays.