I thought blogging would be easy. After all, I’m an extrovert with tons of stuff to say, and plenty to be grateful for. I forgot that I’m also a prime procrastinator. Silly of me.
So, what to write about today? It’s Saturday, and according to the MPBN website, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s broadcast of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” will soon brighten my afternoon. I’ve seen different stagings and some of the singers, who I like. I can picture the sets and costumes in my head, arrange everything exactly as I like it. No trashy “modern interpretations” for me. Looking down the list of future broadcasts are more favorites: Cappricio, Trovatore, Tannhauser, Tosca and Anna Bolena.
I discovered opera as a kid watching the Ed Sullivan Show. Ed showcased the greats; Pavarotti, Sutherland, Price–so many magnificent voices. My first opera purchase was Aida with Price. Still adore it. When Amneris, the mezzo, laments over the trial of the man she loves while the priests’ chorus condemns him to death, I get chills.
In college, I answered the Back Bay Theater’s ad for ushers for a week-long showing of a film of Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” with elegant Elizabeth Schwarzkopf as the Marschallin. Three plus hours of gorgeous music and singing. I confess, I got bored during the first showing. Strauss’s music isn’t easy. But by the last show I was in tears. It was over. I’d never see it again.
Now I own the DVD. Grateful.
When the Boston Opera Company set up in the Back Bay, I was there, ushering in the audience, then hurrying to one of the boxes–they weren’t fit to be sold–no seats–to watch, close up, Sutherland and Horne in Rossini’s “Semiramide.” After the first performance, the local critic praised Horne to the heavens, but said that Sutherland wasn’t giving her all. Next night, she did. I could tell the difference. So could the audience. I can still hear the cheers.
I earned $2.00 a show in cash. The evening’s true value–incalculable. I saw Pavarotti in “La Boheme,” I saw works by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, which transported me–and works I found less than appealing: the world premier of “Intolerenza” (which as far as I know, has vanished) Shoenberg’s “Moses und Aaron,” Berg’s “Lulu”,
When I left Boston I feared I’d left opera behind, but MPBN played an opera on the radio every Saturday, and (too seldom) on TV. Now I can buy DVDs of world class performances, and the Met broadcasts ten to a dozen operas every year on a movie screen at Cook’s Corner. Grateful!
If anyone has read this far, they may wonder what I see in opera–or hear in it. Some dismiss it as so much noise–which is what I think about most pop music, so I shouldn’t complain. (But I do.) As I type I’m listening to a soprano/tenor duet. The music is full of furious energy. Soon the tenor will sing of his devotion to his lady, and his determination to stand by her in her hunt for her father’s killer. Words and music telling stories together, and for a story-lover like me, that is riches.
The singers and musicians studied and rehearsed for years to express their art. The composers spent years learning their craft and finding or writing librettos. All that love and effort pays off when it comes together on stage. Needless to say, but I will anyway, I’m deeply grateful for the dedication of thousands, all so I can be transported into heaven.
Yes, it is all about me.
Opera has everything. Music, poetry, art, dance, wrapped up in a story. At it’s best, it’s vocalists, musicians, artists, dancers, carpenters, lighting technicians, and many more talented people working together to produce something beautiful. I wish the “real” world functioned that way, but obviously, it doesn’t. When I’m at the opera I’m part of a sublime creation, part of a whole far more wonderful than I can imagine.