You either love opera or you hate it. Personally, I’m a big fan, and for a number of reasons. I am thrilled by a live performance that you will never see interpreted in exactly the same way again. I like the sense of continuity of enjoying a work that generations have admired before me and others will discover long after I’m gone. And I love the communality of sharing with others our appreciation of a beautiful opera performed well, the anticipation of a special aria, and the mounting tension as the resolution of the final act draws near. There is no heartbreak more complete than the collective sigh of the audience as the hero, or more usually, the heroine, finally expires, after a protracted (and vocal) deathbed scene. In Italy, where provincial opera houses are a couple of hundred years old and never air-conditioned, the sensuality of the process is further heightened by the rising heat in the theatre. And tbe acoustics in these architectural jewels are exceptional, which I still miss. But whether in New York, Paris, or Modena, opera-goers are still drawn, not only by beauty, by also the desire for catharsis that these representations of universal human emotions can bring.
Yesterday’s Cav & Pag did not disappoint. Both operas of the verismo genre, these works depict the lives of ordinary people rather than power struggles between Dukes and Kings. The late Denis Forman* described Cavelleria Rusticana as ” not so much a plot as a situation.” Complete with an (almost) girl fight of the ‘just hold my earrings for me’ kind, some primitive ear biting between the guys, and a truly wimpish hero, it has some glorious music (that Easter hymn!) and a couple of memorable arias. During one duet, the elegantly dressed older guy sitting next to me pulled out a laundered white handkerchief and dabbed his eyes. This type of restrained engagement enhances the experience for me even more.
The tenor, Marcel Alvarez, who I have mentioned in a previous post, was on magnificent form and his Vesti la Giubba would have satisfied even the most hardnosed Italian male loggionista. (sorry to gender that, but I have strong anecdotal evidence).
Something I notice in New York is that older people, women especially (and I don’t just mean older like I am – much older than that, and often with mobility problems), are out there, glammed up, living their lives to the hilt. This is very inspiring. But of course, money does help.
And thanks to Sabina Simon for the vernacular training 🙂