Skip to Content

By Fernando Montejano

A Poem in Honor of Opera

February 25th, 2024

The first time I saw an opera live, I was still in high school. I remember it was around the time I was going to church every Sunday with my grandma, not because I was devoutly religious but because my grandma was and nobody else liked going to church with her.  

I felt bad letting her go alone.  

I often wondered if I would ever believe in something with such fire like she did. I thought because I didn’t feel the same way about God that my grandma did, there might be something wrong with me. So for a long time I dug myself into different Bibles and religions and I studied and I prayed and…I just didn’t feel it.

I thought maybe God didn’t want me.  

Until the day I saw my first opera. It was Kaneko’s Madama Butterfly put on by Opera Omaha. One of the most vibrant and colorful pieces of live theater I had ever seen at that point and the first professional production I would witness live. When I tell you that God found me in the Orpheum Theater, that is not an exaggeration.  

I recall friends telling me the way it felt when they first experienced that warmth in themselves while looking for God. The description was of a deep joy and peace, this burning in the torso that brought an overwhelming emotion like the universe was gently pressing on your brain. A burst of euphoria that causes you to cry under the weightlessness of knowing.  

That’s what I wanted to capture in this poem.  

I wrote this while feeling immensely grateful to get to work at Opera Omaha during my time in the Holland Community Opera Fellowship.  



My whole life I drifted from one church to  

the next.  

Just a ghost opening doorways,  

always hoping the light from the other side  

might finally be Heaven. 

I found myself collecting gods like trading cards,  


thinking the words of each bible could  

rewrite the mistakes I kept beating into myself.  

Or maybe I wanted to belong,  

Maybe I walked into these cathedrals with  

stained glass windows mired in sun, 


And I ached not for meaning but for company.  

I yearned for a community.  


Realization arrived in my ears as the choir’s gossamer tone. 

When a congregation would swell in song 

I could feel the words of an old pastor, 

A man I saw preach online when  

I was still trying to find what was missing.  


In the voices I heard what he said,  

About the sentiment of music,  

Of the way God’s voice is a celestial force, 

The reverberations of his joyful song keep 

Our earth afloat in the blackness of infinity.  


So, the choirs in every church would sing 

And I could feel that joy slipping past tongues, 

Licked by the faith of someone more faithful  

than me, 

I could taste their song in my mouth, 

But the moment only lasted while they sang. 


Most of my life I drifted from one sin to the next, 

Hoping holy homes would help me hide  

from God.  

And at one point I heard a song like the choir 

In another cathedral built for the voice.  

In a theater lined in gold paint and languages I did not know.  


It was here that God finally found me.  

This edifice erected in honor of song, 

Where the culture of the past came booming 

From prophets bathed in spotlights that  

Shone down like rays of righteous glory 


I sat in between strangers that seemed to 

Ignore the way I levitated above the  

auditorium pews. 

I let opera cleanse me of this drifting curiosity, 

My home became these halls dedicated to sound,  

Places where the voice resounded in me so fully.  


I didn’t aspire to sing these hymns in  

new languages, 

I merely existed, finally…

Around me were like minds gathered to listen, 

Bodies held in stasis as we were raptured, 

The resonance lifted us up into the firmament.  


Together with people I didn’t know, 

All of us aglow from spotlights that 

May as well have been stars, 

We came together to hear singers 

Become prophets.  


Came together clutching programs 

Like bibles, 

We became one there, 

Our quick applause between scenes 

Echoed out with the force of a unified “amen” 


And when the curtains fell, we erupted. 

Filled the auditorium with our worship.  

Our thanks to humans like us, 

Who compelled holiness with song, 

Who used mortal tools to create brilliance.  


For the rest of my life, I hope to drift from one auditorium to the next.  

Where hymns exist as arias, 

Where I’m surrounded by bodies being  

Blessed and baptized by aural angels.  

Lifted together past divinity, and into eternity.