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What happens after the opera?

The opera social media world has been buzzing in the past few weeks about Anthony Tommasini’s New York Times article “Liberating the Librettos”, in which he speculates about what happens to some beloved opera characters after the curtain falls. (The article is here. The accompanying comic-panel-style speculation about Rigoletto‘s aftermath is here, and the one about various other operas is here.) He very rightly points out that many operas end quite ambiguously. Who ends up with whom in Così fan tutte? How does Enrico deal with the mess he’s made after the deaths in Lucia di Lammermoor? Do Vitellia and Sesto get married after the events of La clemenza di Tito? Sometimes stagings can make a director’s answers to these questions clear, but they certainly are not in the libretto. You can also only get so far by interviewing singers who inhabit the characters–after all, at the end of the opera, the characters themselves don’t know the answers to these questions!

The beauty of this is that opera fans can come up with their own theories about what happens. To take La clemenza di Tito as an example, I can imagine settings in which…

  • Vitellia and Sesto end up unhappily married (there’s no world in which this is going to be a happy union)
  • Sesto commits suicide (sometimes staged) or attempts suicide but is stopped by Annio
  • Vitellia or Sesto leaves Rome to try to forget what they’ve done
  • Publio makes sure Vitellia is punished for her crime despite Tito’s supposed pardon (implied by the Aix-en-Provence staging)
  • Sesto is smart enough not to marry Vitellia and manages to recover his senses and happiness with the help of his friends

Many more scenarios–ranging from the probable to the outlandish–can also be imagined.

Some members of the opera community on Tumblr have started a database for opera fanfiction to explore these possibilities. It’s still quite new, so only a few stories have been posted, but I think it’s a fun idea. If you want to write after-the-opera scenarios, you can anonymously (or non-anonymously) submit your own fanfictions. Alternatively, you can simply enjoy reading what other opera lovers have imagined.

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