Saturday, March 14, 2009

In Praise Of Opera

It is a day for Grand Opera at the ranch. I have been watching my favorite arias on Youtube. Opera has been part of my life since I was a toddler. Dad loved his Verdi and Wagner. I used to sneak into his room and quietly sit in a corner while he was listening to the bombastic sounds of Carmen's "Overture" and the "Anvil Chorus" from Il Trovatore (1853). Back then my world was a strange combination of asthma and Opera. Maybe the symphonic whizzing of my constricted lungs had something to do with it. Opera was my first alphabet. I learned to decipher the desperate emotion in arias such as "O Mio Babbino Caro" from Gianni Schicchi (1918) and the patriotic "Va pensiero" from Verdi's Nabucco (1842) long before I learned how to read and write. Melodies such as that of the aria "Viens, Malika" from Léo Delibes Lakmé (1883) offered an amplitude of feeling and sensitivity to the concept of living and loving. Years later "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana..." from Alfredo Catalani's La Wally (1892) and "La mamma e morta" from Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chenier (1896) would accurately reflect my feelings of irony and loss. Opera is probably the most complete artistic genre ever invented. It combines music, theatre, poetry and song at a grand scale. Opera is a brilliant equation in music form. It gives wings to our ideas and emotions. Operas are sagas for the heart. After I have seen an opera onstage I have come out of the theatre feeling a transformed person. The grand drama of Opera idealizes our life experiences. This idealization of our struggle to survive and persevere gives us the triumphant perspective of the human condition. The experience of Opera immerses us in the intensity of our humanity. The deep, almost overwhelming drama of life and circumstances is what gives the genre its inner fire. The undulating cascades of song and symphonic music create a landscape never to be forgotten after we have left the theatre. In a way, opera combines the indelible memory of music with the vibrancy of an emotional adventure like the human heart only knows.