Thursday, February 28, 2008
A Week with an Opera Diva... and Tosca
This morning I said goodbye to an opera diva. A real one, in town for a week working with her voice coach, who happens to be married to the baritone playing Baron Scarpia in the Seattle Opera's production of Tosca. She was a guest in our home (her husband came to be with her for a few days of the stay) to our family's delight, as she's sunny, upbeat, funny, and so energetic, everyone around her pitched him/herself up a notch.
My husband and I joined Laura Diva, below, (http://laurapedersen.com/video/) in viewing Sunday's matinée of Puccini's "Tosca." Attending any opera is for me a rare experience, and though the music was beautiful,, the plot accessible (thanks to supertitles and a synopsis in the printed program), the voices incredible and the staging wonderful, I still left downhearted. Why? Because opera is all about dying.
In fact, all the main characters in Tosca die. Set in Rome in 1800 as Nepoleon's army approaches the city, the dictatorial police chief Scarpia tries to capture escaped political prisoner Angelotti, compatriot to the artist Mario Cavaradossi, lover of the opera diva Tosca. There's some duplicity, pursuit, torture, attempted rape, bribery, true love, piousness, lust. You know, the usual. Plus the deaths, by stabbing, firing squad, police aggression and leaping off tall buildings in a single bound (without flying afterward).
I guess life is both tragedy and comedy, but I much prefer the comedies. And none of them are operas. Now, I'm glad I went to Sunday's performance. It was great fun being with our friends and seeing someone we kinda know in the lead of the opera. It was fabulous to get great seats free in an acoustically and aesthetically beautiful hall. It was entertaining and even exciting to do something so seldom part of my world.
But I do understand why opera plays to an ever-more-select crowd: It's a downer. The good guy doesn't win, and in fact, he often goes first. It's a galaxy too far away, and a sound pretty far removed from rap and karaoke. And the logical lapses don't jibe for the sodoku culture that wants its movie plots tight and relentless. (For example, in the minutes before his scheduled execution, Mario is left alone with Tosca in an outside location to sing interminable farewells. Why didn't they just make a break for it? They could have been well out of the city before anyone returned.)
Despite its gaps, the opera was a highlight in a very high week with charming guests. Still, it's a genre that just doesn't hum for me. But the vicarious thrill of seeing Laura so enthralled with her music was nearly enough--as she says in her child-like giddiness: "I like to sing high," and for just a few days, she took the rest of us with her.