Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thoughts on a lifetime of opera

21 March 2018 at 12:20:30 AM
Life is full of surprises and I have just had such a lovely one seeing L'elisir d'amore for the first time in my life from The Met with Pretty Yende, South Africa's own.
It is such a happy, funny story, an absolute delight, and I enjoyed myself so much at an opera I would never have thought of going to see, but for this chance, in two or three lifetimes. It is because of Una Furtiva Lagrima, one of two arias I could not stand, the other being E Lucevan Le Stelle. A purely personal thing - or two things, I suppose, strictly speaking.
The Met Live in HD is on again and it is La Boheme on Saturday; I saw Tosca a week or so back with Sonya Yoncheva and she is singing Mimi. It seems to me that Act I of Tosca is Puccini composing at his peak, with Act III being really seriously deficient - out of inspiration. Boheme, though, is such a perfect masterpiece from start to finish, flawless. I can't wait to see it again.

Silly now how in our teens we would argue these things. One group of my friends were terrible Germanics - Bach, Beethoven and Brahms were the Gods and silly old Puccini was not worthy of discussion. I had to sit there sometimes quiet, feeling totally wrong-footed, if not just wrong, because I loved Tosca and Boheme and Butterfly. Now I see it was rather their loss in youth.

Yet I find it harder than ever to keep control of myself in these operas nowadays. They are so saturated in memories of times and friends and places and joy. The wonderful gift Puccini has for melody, one after another pouring effortlessly out of him, lays hold of me and wrings my eyes and heart.


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