Friday, September 7, 2007

A Great Voice is Silenced

When my sons were growing up, I went to great lengths to expose them to as many cultural experiences as I could---with two deliberate exceptions. I feel guilty about that....

One was baseball. I think they both played T-ball when they were four or so, but I never, ever exposed them to baseball again. When my oldest was older, it IS true that the image of a ball hitting him in the face while his mouth was full of extremely expensive braces was a deterrant, but much larger than that, I didn't want either of them to discover that they wanted to play baseball, thus relegating me to the stands for game after game after game of a sport that makes my eyes glaze over.

The other was opera. Now, when you grow up listening to classical music, and I did, you hear the odd snatch of opera now and then, and I was aware of many beautiful solos by men and women that were lovely to listen to. But overall? yuck.

When I was 22, I was fortunate to spend 10 weeks in Europe, and saw three first-rate operas during the course of it. The first was "Dr. Faustus" in an outdoor Greek amphitheater. It was a beautiful night, the smell of thyme wafting from the hills, and I really perked up at the ballet dancing included. The second was "Carmen" at La Scala. Full pageantry. Live elephant on stage and everything. One of my co-travelers turned to me with shining eyes and exclaimed, "Isn't this magnificent!?"
I blinked at her. I was bored out of my mind. The third was "The Magic Flute" at some really big deal music festival somewhere in Scotland. I don't even remember it.

So I came back, convinced that nope, opera really wasn't my cup of tea. So I never took the boys.

But over the past 10 years or so, my opera consciousness has been rising. I've deeply enjoyed the music. Come to look forward to it, in fact. A great deal of that is due to the efforts of just one man--Luciano Pavarotti. What a glorious voice. And how tirelessly he performed, not just for himself, but to promote opera, opera, opera. He brought thousands, or more likely, tens of thousands, to an appreciation of operatic singing, of the music of the opera. He sang with such joy in the music. You could feel it. And it was contagious.

So it is with genuine sadness I learned yesterday of his death. The world has lost a great treasure.

And I've learned that just like trying vegetables we don't think we are going to like, we need to expose ourselves to as many as possible of the experiences this world has to offer.

I didn't take my sons to the opera. But in a few more years, maybe I can take my granddaughters.

Godspeed, Pavarotti.

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