Monday, April 7, 2014

rites of passage

It can be a dreaded moment my father explained to me, if a General Manager walks to the center stage of any opera house to address its patrons in person.  Odds are no one has died as they will in the coming acts waiting to play out on the stage, but someone, likely the main soprano or tenor, has become ill and a replacement is being announced.

On the other hand, it's an exhilarating moment few people ever get to witness if applause and ovation are so very great that the conductor directs a number to be repeated.  During his many decades with opera, my dad saw this happen just twice.  The first was live, in Atlanta, during the duet performance in act one of La Boheme starring Franco Corelli and Renata Tebaldi.  The second was in a 2002 telecast of Nabucco, James Levine conducting and directing the chorus.  I know for a fact my father cried during the latter.  I'd bet money he did in the Fox Theater too. 

In my brief history with opera, I've watched shows with last minute cast changes so it was not a surprise when, at last Saturday's live broadcast from the Met, Peter Gelb came forward to deliver the news; Anita Hartig had the flu and Kristine Opolais was graciously taking her place.  Okay I thought, having learned by now that the show really does go on and usually magnificently.  

And this one did. . .

The soprano Opolais had, the night before, made her debut as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly on the Met stage and it's reported that following a dinner celebration she woke to the phone call requesting her to sing another staring role, one she hadn't sung in a full year, at that afternoon's one o'clock matinee.  With less than three hours of sleep Opolais accomplished what no other soprano has in the history of the Metropolitan Opera; she sang as Mimi in La Boheme, her second debut of two leading roles in back to back performances less than eighteen hours apart.

It was a beautiful, historic performance and though I didn't see it live at the Met, it feels as if I entered another world of opera that afternoon; my dad's world.  I now have a story, a rich opera tale of my own.  

I only wish I could share it with him.

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