Tuesday, December 25, 2007

O Soave Fanciulla

There is that time, when one is in their 20's, still drunk in the freshness of adulthood, when every thought seems hard like a diamond, and every passion seems inexhaustable and timeless...listen to this:

The first time I went to see La Boheme was in 1995. I was still a music student in Calgary, and utterly devoted to German opera. Wagner and Strauss and Mozart (I know) represented to me what opera was for, with most italian opera being high on style and low on substance.

So I walked out of the first act, and I ran into one of my music professors. He asked me what I thought, and I said something to the effect that Boheme was beautifully set but the story obvious and not terribly interesting.

My professor, a man whose walls in his home were covered in books and CDs and records, a man, to say the least, of great learning, a consumate scholar, a man with a reputation at the University for being too academic for those in music performance, you know, the real musicians, who just wanted to play, turns to me and says, "Some day you will watch that first act without the eyes of youth, and when you do, you will see what it is you cannot, a sentiment which only comes with age."

Nothing worse can be said to a 20 year old than that they are to young to understand something. To paraphrase Robert Lowell, this comment stuck like a fishbone in my consciouness. My age? How dare he? Me age? I was an adult for crying out loud! It said so on my driver's licence. I could buy beer.

But I forgot. Until 3 months ago, as I sat watching Bravo and the clip above came on. And I sat there, in my home, my kids upstairs, my wife sitting there next to me, and suddenly what he had said made sense. The question I then ask those of you who happen upon this is - do you?

Or if not that one, how about this one?

Perhaps it is that I had not loved like that before, or that I could not love like that yet, but I completely understand what my professor was telling me, and I now understand why Puccini, despite the dramatic flaccidity of his work, still beats out nearly everyone else. I understand why, to many, he is opera.

It is because no one before him ensnared so completely that first moment of true love.

Merry Christmas.

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