Allison tugs at me. We take our coats, find the floor manager, and tell him what happened.

He listens to me, apologizes and moves us.

Lights up, second intermission.

I go back to find the floor manager but apparently he's dealing with a guy who's just had a heart attack. (For a minute, I think about how many heart attacks have probably occurred in this building, just in the last year.) This other manager is less hospitable: "We deal with this sort of thing all the time. What do you want me to do?"


I want the dude to get yelled at, I tell him.

"I'm sure he's got a very different version of the story," says the floor manager.


"I recorded it so I have proof," I say. "I'm sure the Metropolitan Opera doesn't condone this sort of behavior. I'm sure you wouldn't want this sort of thing to get out."

He doesn't flinch, and tells me to go to the police if I want to take this any further. Dick.


I run right into the old white man on the way back to my new seat and he apologizes for losing his temper like he's apologizing for stepping on my big toe: perfunctory and hollow.

The opera we saw was about a valiant Egyptian war hero who's heavy into an Ethiopian slave woman named Aida. Unfortunately, Aida belongs to the exact Egyptian Princess who is due to marry the Egyptian valiant war hero. Consequently, shit is a real mess for both Aida (who loves the Egyptian valiant war hero) and for the Egyptian valiant war hero, who (on the low) loves Aida back. But shit is objectively worse for Aida than it is for anyone else in this whole tragedy because she's a slave and being a slave is worse than anything—and also because her country, Ethiopia, is being conquered by the man she loves.


From what I can tell there's one black opera singer in the whole cast. He's the King of Egypt and his role is tiny. It's ancient Egypt so everyone is supposed to be black, but in this production of Aida all the principals are white. This is okay, I guess, because it's the opera. We are supposed to use our imagination.

But if we are supposed to use our imagination, then what I saw in the second act doesn't make a lick of sense. There was a scene where the valiant hero shows off his war spoils to the royal court. First comes this big-ass wagon full of black bodies lying on top of one another. Whether they're dead or sleeping, Allison—who shoots me a crazy look—and I don't know.


The wagon disappears, and out comes a group of about 12 "Ethiopian" prisoners. The first row of prisoners are these four fit black men in loincloths. Behind them are a couple of black women with dreadlocks. Behind the black women is the best joke of all: a white-as-the-driven-snow white woman with dreadlocks. And look, I can't say with full confidence that she was wearing a dreadlocks wig—but she was wearing a dreadlocks wig. And these prisoners never sing. They just stand there.

The opera is supposed to take place in Egypt, but everyone in the cast is white except for the one scene where there are black people, but they're only there for a minute and they're dead, sleeping, or prisoners in loin cloths with dreadlocks.


You're really disgusting, he said.

The opera acting like it never saw a black person before.

Collier Meyerson is a writer and producer living in Brooklyn.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.