Prizm News / October 9, 2018 / By Brooke Cartus
The Columbus Symphony performs in the Ohio Theatre, across from the Statehouse in Columbus. (Columbus Symphony photo via Facebook)

Here are five reasons why you, too, should become a symphony (and opera) lover. The biggest: You can get away with wearing velvet.


Commentary by Brooke Cartus 

A lot of people ask me where my girlfriend and I met, and I say the symphony. Now of course, that’s not 100 percent true; we’ve known each other for years. But I didn’t fall in love with her until the symphony.

You may know me as an attorney, an activist or standup comedian. But before I was any of those things, I was an opera singer. I took voice lessons at the age of 10, went to The Crane School of Music in upstate New York for voice and worked as a classical singer before moving to Columbus to pursue my law degree. I always kept music close to my heart (and ears), but after law school I missed regular live performances and having countless friends to talk about the piece we just heard or the opera we just experienced.

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While lesbians at the bar were talking about how many years they played college softball, I was trying to find a baritone in the room who I could bond with over Wagner. It never happened. I love classical music and always hoped to find someone else who, while they didn’t have to be classically trained, could find happiness and fulfillment sliding into those red velvet seats, seeing the lights dim and hearing the crisp tap of the conductor’s baton on the music stand before that first note.

So instead of relying on classical music to lead me to romance, I decided to let it guide me to friendship. I invited a friend to a performance—specifically, Beethoven night at the Columbus Symphony. I bought two tickets, assuming she would back out or something would come up, fully knowing that a solo night at the symphony would be very enjoyable on its own.

But she came.

If you want the details of that night (or any other night), you’ll need to buy me a drink. But I want to share with you the five reasons I found the Symphony to be the perfect date night for friends, lovers or both:

Reason #1: GET DRESSED UP!

Whether you are going out with your best friends or stepping up your third date game, the Symphony is an amazing place to go because you can get GLAM. Do you know how many times I’ve worn my black glitter boa to the symphony? I DON’T BECAUSE I’VE WORN IT SO. MANY. TIMES.

This isn’t pleated khakis for your cousin Sheryl’s third baby shower (tacky, Sheryl!) This is velvet and sequins and glitter and silk (and if I’m lucky, someone who isn’t me is wearing suspenders. Swoon.) Look your best and treat yourself to some glamour. It’s been a rough two years, you deserve it.

Reason #2: You must really talk to one another.

Silence your devices and… listen. Focus on something that isn’t a newsfeed, doesn’t come in a text alert, and relax. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t take a selfie in front of the theater, but then try to really relish in the moment of live music. Read the program notes and talk with your partner about the history or gossip with your friends about composer rumors (a game my friends and I used to play where we would compete over the most salacious rumor. I know. We partied hard.) Hold hands and let your outer thighs graze in what is bound to be a very sexy pantsuit and let the swells of the music… well. Ahem. You get where I’m going with this.

Reason #3: You’ll found out very quickly who is into logistics.

Welcome people into your life who challenge your sense of time. I am CHRONICALLY early, and my girlfriend is perpetually five minutes late. The symphony was a great reminder for me to slow down, while of course to be in your seats by the time the first violin is sitting down to tune. Also, a pro-tip for intermission: Decide BEFORE the show starts who is getting in line for champagne, and who has to use the bathroom. You cannot do both, and a glass of champagne makes for a delightful second act.

Reason #4: Like… every composer was gay. So.

LGBTQ history is inextricably intertwined with classical music. Leonard Bernstein (whose work the symphony is celebrating this Friday night) has been described as gay or bi. While at one point he married a woman, he had a series of relationships with men throughout his life. I could continue to list queer composers, but again, I think I will make you take me out for drinks so I can dish about the salacious Poulenc or gossip about the tragic Samuel Barber.

Reason #5 It. Is. So. Romantic.

The luxurious theater, the dim lights, the STORIES. Have you ever seen La Traviata, or Madame Butterfly? Heartbreaking stories of love and loss and sex and tragedy. The first time I took my girlfriend to the opera, she leaned over after the first act and said, “Why didn’t you tell me this was like watching a soap opera with very talented people?!”

Live music is magical and it compels us to lean into the moment, lean into one another and celebrate. It makes us confident that, regardless of the terrible news cycle, we will always make space to love and thrive and connect.

The Columbus Symphony’s Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration concerts are on Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13 at 8 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre. Pride Night happy hour is at 6:45 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are $10-$55.50 and available here.