I wanted to meet a man who loved opera as much as I did. A man who loved drama! Spectacle! Romance! And, most important, opera music — that magnificent sound booming across centuries into the mirrored halls of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles.
My dating history featured a catalog of opera seria, each ending more tragic than the last. In my 30s and four years out of a decade-long abusive relationship, I was finally ready to love again.
As a singer, I understood well that finding an available, age-appropriate, heterosexual man at “The Clemency of Titus” was as rare as finding a one-bedroom on the Westside for less than $1,800. And more than halfway through the opera season, I had yet to meet someone.
Still, to be the heroine of my own story, I had to follow my heart.
After the performance, I boarded a shuttle to the after-party hosted by L.A. Opera’s young professionals club, wishing I had someone to share the evening with.
A woman sat beside me, turned and chimed, “I’m Rosa.” Her radiant smile, like a soprano’s voice, was bigger than her petite frame. We hit it off talking about yoga (we both love it), vegans (she’s a former; I’m a lifer), rude audience members (they never go away) and earthquake preparedness (because the Big One is coming one day).
Twenty minutes deeper into downtown at Preux & Proper, Rosa inquired if I was single. “I want you to meet my bestie, Denny. He’s like my big brother. Never been married, raised someone else’s daughter, best man I know.”
She handed me her phone. I flicked through photos of a long, lean Cuban man with cheekbones so chiseled they could cut a woman’s heart.
“Plus, he does yoga,” Rosa said beaming. “And he’s vegan!”
This is a lie, I thought. A setup. I scrolled through a mental list of prank TV shows while scanning Spring Street for hidden cameras. No way this guy is real.
Before I could refuse to sign the talent release I assumed I’d be handed, Rosa said, “I just texted him to meet us.”
Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope. I excused myself to the restroom, asking my reflection: Has my fortune finally changed? When I returned, Rosa looked up from her phone. “Damn. He’s in Calabasas.”
Given traffic from the Valley to downtown on a Saturday night, he may as well have been in Casablanca.
“Can I give him your number?”
Like so many ill-fated Angeleno relationships, our meeting was geographically undesirable.
Denny was supposed to call the next day but didn’t. Alas, he was too good to be true. Then the phone rang. “Please forgive me! I had a patent issue with my golf invention. How are you?” he said.
“Feeling like Cenerentola,” I said. “My toilet is clogged. My management company is worthless, and I’m scooping dirty water into a bucket so I can plunge it myself.”
“You don’t waste any time getting to the dirty talk, do you?” he said.
Our scatological salvos more than made up for the delay. As Rosa promised, Denny was playful and loving, smart and charming, interested and interesting. We talked for hours before setting up our first date.
During dinner at Vegetable in Studio City, I learned that Denny was an athlete and entrepreneur who liked plays and tolerated musicals. But he warned me: He’d never seen an opera.
“Rosa keeps bugging me to go, but it’s just screechy.” He shrugged.
Disappointed but not deterred, I also learned that Denny was a drummer and dancer. Perhaps he could learn to love opera, with its percussion and ballet.
We closed the restaurant. Between tables stacked with chairs, Denny gleefully leaped out of his seat and landed in a yoga pose. I joined him in Warrior II.
He extended a sculpted arm toward me. Our palms touched, and just like when Rodolfo clasps Mimi’s cold, consumptive hands in “La Bohème,” the orchestra in my head crescendoed into a love theme.
I invited Denny back to my apartment. At 3 a.m., I sent him home with plans to see each other later that day. Two weeks later, he’d practically moved in, and we made it official two months after that when I added him to the lease.
That same month, Rosa and I planned to attend a performance together, but two hours before curtain, she had an emergency.
“Can you invite someone?” she asked over speakerphone.
“I’ll go,” Denny said, surprising everyone — most of all himself.
It broke Rosa’s heart that Denny would see his first opera without her, but she gave us her blessing. “La Traviata” made a great introduction to the art. Sure, Violetta’s vocal gymnastics didn’t thrill him, but by the end of Act I, Denny admitted he was enjoying himself.
Then, at the top of Act II, some late-comers disrupted the lovers’ duet so badly that we wrote to L.A. Opera to express our disappointment. That’s how Denny wound up seeing his second opera — with comp tickets to “A Light in the Piazza.”
Now when “Don Giovanni” gets shuffled through the car speakers, Denny kisses me and kindly asks me to skip forward. I thought I wanted a man who loved opera, but what I really wanted was someone who loved me. And my big-hearted jock loves me with operatic ferocity.
Our romance doesn’t have a score, but it does have a tiny libretto — a text Rosa sent Denny from the after-party: “I think I just met your soulmate.”
A comic opera ends with a wedding, and our opera buffa is no exception.
Rosa will officiate.
The author is a writer, performer and producer living a low-impact life along the L.A. River. Find her on Instagram: @gia_mora
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