During the holiday break in the San Diego Opera season, a light-hearted commentary about opera is seasonally appropriate. Sometimes opera is taken too seriously, so let’s introduce some humor.

Many years ago, an amusing feature story in “Opera News” titled “What do you buy Carmen for Christmas” caught my attention. Using that concept, I compiled my ideas to familiar opera roles for a little holiday spirit.

For starters, “Opera News” recommended nicotine patches for Carmen and a copy of “First Wives Club” for Madama Butterfly. To continue on this pattern, you need to be reasonably familiar with the traditional opera characters to get the joke.

I’ll begin with some obvious gift suggestions. Mimi in “la Bohème” could use a flashlight; Rodolfo, her lover, needs a space heater so he can stop burning his poems for warmth; in the same opera, Musetta could use a comfortable pair of shoes.

Let’s get a little more complex with the Wagner operas. The super hero Siegfried could use a fire extinguisher to reach the woman he found on a rock surrounded by a ring of fire; the centerpiece of the Ring Cycle, Brűnhilde, needed an Ortho Mattress for her comfort during all those years asleep on the rock before Siegfried came to her rescue; Siegfried’s mother, Sieglinde, needed a suitcase when she escaped her abusive husband and ran off with Sigmund (unaware that he is her twin brother.) All unusual gifts, but after all, it is the magic of opera.

Back to the more familiar operas, Rigoletto should have a security system in his home to protect his daughter, Gilda; she needs a relightable candle that won’t blow out in a draft on the stairway while singing her big number; her seducer, the Duke of Mantua, would make good use of a fast horse to get away from the irate fathers of the ladies he seduced.

Aida and her lover Radames would prolong their romantic confinement together in the tomb with two canisters of oxygen.

The Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier” could use a Botox treatment to prolong her youth. Her young lover, Octavian, needs a shiny medal for his uniform as a keepsake of his youthful affair. Baron Ochs really could use a book on social etiquette.

Turning to the current SDO season, Turandot might crack her icy response to men with a copy of “The Joy of Sex;” the three masques, Ping, Pang and Pong, long for a ticket home to get away from those beheadings; the prince who outwitted Turandot’s puzzles deserves a new copy of The New York Times crossword puzzle book.

While cruising on the Amazon River, Florencia needs a supply of insect repellent to ward off the malaria epidemic; Maria (of Buenos Aires) should have a high-definition boom box for her street tango performances; Hannah in “As One” needs a new wardrobe as she completes her gender transformation.

This parody could go on with so many complex opera characters. Readers can play the game thinking about their own favorites.


Ford is a past president of San Diego Opera and supports the opera archive at San Diego State University