Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nostalgia Rampant

Saturday ... winter ... chill seeping in around the windows ... Metropolitan Opera Radio broadcast ... Maria Callas singing Lucia di Lammamor ... Over fifty years I have listened on winter Saturday afternoons to the Met opera broadcasts. A teenager, I wrapped myself in a blanket sitting in my chilly bedroom -- the heat came up the stairwell and through one vent from the kitchen but I needed the blanket. I listened, and learned and loved the Saturday operas ... another world ... far off in New York City ... I couldn't imagine ... just the "great gold curtain," that came down. The grand singers in their splendid gowns of crimson and gold and Lucia's blood-stained white gown after her mad scene. All sound and imagination ... applause.

When I finally saw an opera I was so overwhelmed by seeing as well as hearing I could barely understand what was happening. Today, for the first time since 1932 when it began. The Saturday matinee broadcast was not live. It was an historic broadcast of Maria Callas singing "Lucia", recorded in December 1956. I probably heard it. then. Today I listened with different ears and imagination ... but it was a cold winter day with chilly air seeping in around the window frame. Time stopped as Lucia and Edgardo sang their first duet ... when the septet began ... surely the most beautiful in all opera.

Early this week the Met sent a DVD from an interview with Callas by Edward Downs, a long time Met broadcast voice; I transcribed it. I remembered the names Callas mentioned. I remembered their voices. I loved Callas' attitude about acting and singing. A true actress, she went on stage and listened to others as if she were hearing their arias for the first time, and responded in character spontaneously -- with, of course, the skill of bel canto that she revived by example. She spoke of learning to be still -- to listen and not draw attention to herself unnecessarily. A grand woman with a voice of her own -- not so much beautiful and wonderful because of where it came from. These things I know now ... and remember from fifty years ago. an accumlulation of memories is a wonderful thing. What a lovely winter afternoon!

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