Sadly ever after

I’ve always been a big fan of the unhappy ending, in books, in movies, in theater. I used to think I was an outlier in this but have since discovered a huge cohort of fellow lovers of a good tearjerker.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but there are a few ways in which I can explain my preference for a non-fairytale ending.

First of all, real life is rarely about fairytale endings – they tend to be far more ambiguous, if there’s even any closure at all. Sad endings feel like a truer reaction to actual life, and that makes it more resonant for me.

Second, when experiencing a character’s loneliness or loss, it feels like a kinship – that it’s a reflection of what I sometimes feel myself. Knowing that those emotions are shared, that they are universal, is deeply comforting.

Finally, a sad ending is often the catalyst of a good cathartic cry.

Opera, of course, is the epitome of sad endings, and one of my favorites is La Bohème (I freely admit my bias – it’s one of the half dozen or so operas I’ve conducted in their entirety, so I know it inside and out). No matter how many times I’ve seen it (or conducted it, for that matter), the closing scene really gets to me. By the time Rodolfo has gotten to “Quel guardarmi cosi?…” the tears are already springing to my eyes. And those big chords in the brass and the sobbing strident strings and…it’s just beautifully, gloriously, sublimely sad.

I happened upon this production of Bohème when I was doing a YouTube search for something else. It’s an unusual and fascinating idea – staging an opera in the middle of an actual city square, with passers-by gawking at the spectacle. But what really struck me was the staging at the very end, of Mimi’s death – incredibly visceral and totally unexpected. It was a really good cry for me. Hope it is for you as well.

3 thoughts on “Sadly ever after

  1. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, I really enjoy your blogs. As a writer, I enjoy your storyline and use of words. For a writer, words are like notes to a composer and pixels to a photographer. In your last post,

    With reference to sad and emotional movies and operas, I am fascinated with “Carmen” and films like “Love Story” and the “Summer of 42”. My favorite rendition of “Carmen Fantasy, OP 25” is by Gil Shaham, composed by Saraste, based on the opera by Bizet. Another favorite of mine is the soundtrack of “Summer of 42” by the late and legendary Michel Jean LeGrand with lyrics by Allan and Marilyn Bergman. Sadly, LeGrand passed last year.

    The success of each film is based on the creativity of the director, and the musical score. Alan Menkin once said it takes innumerable revisions to finally settle on the one to be used by the director.


  2. Steven Thompson says:

    This is so surreal.
    I found your new blog from your FB page.
    We’ll get through this together. The world will return to a semblance of order at some time in the near future, I promise !!!
    We still love you Sarah, we’ll never stop that !!!
    Your beauty, grace and elegance have brightened many thousands of lives Sarah, please remember that when you feel bad.
    It’s not your fault, not at all !!!


  3. That version of “La Bohème” and the musical score were beautifully and neatly ‘misent en scène (staged)’ by the director. Emotions always go beyond languages. It was also magnificently played by the actors.
    Happy ending is often associated with the Hollywood industry. It sells more when the end is positive. Some movie directors are against those types of happy ending and their films are often presented at Sundance Films Festival or other underground Film Festivals and/or produced by independent producers. There are gold jewels among those movies but they don’t always get the audience they deserve.
    I wonder what late French singer Charles Aznavour (he passed away recently. He was Armenian and is real family name was Aznavourian) would have thought of that opéra. His song ‘La Bohème’ was one of his greatest hit. It is a melancholic song but beautiful at the same time.
    Alan Menkin’s comment makes sense.
    A+ Maestra!


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