Sage Advice

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In light of graduation season and in the spirit of Mary Schmich's famous "Sunscreen" commencement speech, Olivia Giovetti offers up the below address for the class of 2012 with advice gleaned entirely from the operatic canon:

Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2012: Never fall in love with a consumptive.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, avoiding consumptives and would be it. The long-term benefits of such avoidance have been documented time and again: It brings you nothing but heartache and medical bills oftentimes not covered by insurance. The rest of my advice is less reliable and more concentrated on specific anecdotes. I will dispense this advice now.

In addition to avoiding consumptives, it’s a good idea to be wary of bullfighters, especially if you are already involved with a mentally imbalanced brigadier. In general, maintaining an awareness of and sensitivity to other peoples’ emotions, wants and needs may save you a stab wound or two in the end. Remember that, even if you are alone in your apartment having a one-sided telephone conversation, you are not an island. Likewise, assuming disguises or secondary personalities—whether it’s a poor student or a housefly—in order to carry on extramarital affairs usually doesn’t work out so well, if not for you then for someone else.

On the other hand, when you find true love, embrace it and stand by that person, even if you end up standing beside them in a tomb as you’re both buried alive. And just in case you suspect your true love is not being so true, get a prenup. And don’t marry someone without learning their name first. Ask for ID.

Sometimes, you need to stop asking questions. Likewise, sometimes you need to stop staking bets on answering questions.

Avoid gambling. Life is a big enough gamble in and of itself.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t throw the wrong baby into the fire. Don’t get caught throwing your stepdaughter’s baby into a frozen lake. In fact, don’t throw babies in general.

Don’t look back.

If someone’s just not that into you, they’re just not that into you. Accept it and move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea. However, there are no spouses to be found in the sea. That way madness lies.

Talking of boats, be open to opportunities, but be wary of any that involve becoming a “boy” on a mentally unstable man’s boat. Be wary of boat business in general, especially if you’re in the United Kingdom.

Also, tempting though it may be, the one person with whom you should never enter into any agreement whatsoever is the Devil. It seems so simple and yet you wouldn’t believe how many people have inked deals with this guy. Come on.

Get the other person’s side of the story before you make any rash decisions. Again, this seems so simple and yet it is so often ignored.

The truth doesn’t always set you free. Life’s not always fair. There’s no way of candy-coating those hard facts, unless your brand of candy comes in the form of some seriously beautiful cabalettas. In which case, the truth doesn’t always set you free and life’s not always fair, but it all manages to sound pretty even when it stings. 

There is, however, some justice in the world, which is why you should avoid stabbing others at all costs. In fact, avoid killing others in general.

Remember the golden rule.

Pay your rent. Pay your bills. But remember to also splurge on a night out every now and then. And, if that gets in the way of paying your bills or your rent, make sure you have some dirt on your landlord that you can use as blackmail should he try to evict you for nonpayment. Alcohol may help to facilitate this.

Speaking of imbibing, always make sure whoever is offering you a drink take a sip from the glass first. If they stall or make up an excuse, run.

Avoid falling in love with your sibling, nephew, aunt, stepmother or stepchild. Also avoid falling in love with a courtesan, prostitute or lady of the evening. That lifestyle usually leads to consumption.

At the same time, however, don’t shut yourself off from the possibility of falling in love. As many downsides as there are to opening yourself up to relationships—which can range in severity from a small scar on the cheek to bringing about the end of the world—the benefits are too great to be ignored. Experiencing true love is like nailing an endless number of high Cs, even if you have no musical aptitude whatsoever. And while life may not be worth living without your other half, it’s equally as interminable if you have not other half to begin with.

But trust me: Never fall in love with a consumptive.


Photos: 1) Nadia Krasteva as Carmen and Brandon Jovanovich as Don José in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Bizet's Carmen 2) Mariusz Kwiecen and Susanna Phillips in Puccini's La Bohème (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)