Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Luciano Pavarotti and Kellen Esperian  Internet Photo

I SO remember the first golden notes of the first chorus in my very first opera---Gounod’s Faust, the cemetery scene with the gauzy dove-gray backdrop of the rainy day, and all the black umbrellas and singers in silhouette against that pale curtain. I LOVED it.

You know, those gifted with truly great voices are an amazing miracle to me---those stars of a firmament I can only admire, and the arias and duets and even the recitatives are unbelievably wonderful. But an opera chorus---all those perfected voices mingling and singing strong and true---when they, as we say, “cut loose,” well, that’s Something to Hear.

I DO love Kallen Esperian---she feels like a good old hometown girl, since she was so young when she won the Mid-South regional auditions. I was invited by a lady from several towns over to go to the Memphis Opera Club luncheon, for she knew that I loved opera as much as she. And fresh from winning the audition was Kallen Esperian.

She was introduced while we were still having lunch; perhaps the newness of her position as a full-fledged singer had granted her only the status of an entertainer or perhaps one of those dress-store models who stroll and silently whisper by, whilst all the stylishly-dressed, perfectly-coifed society folks ate and drank and talked. She walked out into the center of sort of a U of tables, and climbed a couple of steps up onto a little platform; I seem to remember it as a sort of ottoman, not a stable plane on which to stand. She stood in her beautiful plum-colored gown, tilted far forward by much-too-high-heels, as if she were leaning to please, to give us her absolute best, as she sang.

And it was a MOMENT---one of those spaces between breaths that are surrounded by a golden light, and you are numb to any other sound. It was like being in at the emergence of butterfly from cocoon, almost; we heard her in her first performance after her winning the contest, and she was just so young and shy and unassuming, as she stepped up there and simply blossomed, just letting that powerful sound and melody emerge of its own volition.
A couple of years after we moved here, we went to see her sing Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly, and it was mesmerizing. We’ve heard it sung several other times, but that was the best.

She’s moved on to triumphs at La Scala, and in great Opera Houses all over the world, and she’ll never know the sort of home-town pride a stranger feels at her success.

And though NOT from Madame Butterfly, this is my favorite by any soprano---I could just float on it for days:

It’s one of my favorite melodies of all time, and so I’ll close this long recital of my musical remembrances. Y'all deserve a break after all these chapters, and I'll leave you to simply enjoy the music.


Beverly said...

Oh my, be still my heart. I had to close my eyes to take in the magnificence and the emotion.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Jeanne said...

Rachel, I have so loved your tour of your most fabulous musical experiences. Your photos told the story so well. I do declare, you are so blessed to have seen and heard so many wonderful operas and musical productions. For many years We were lucky to attend several operas and music is still the joy of my life. It can take my mood to the happiest height in a moment. When my children were old enough (I thought) we went to the Nutcracker's Suite Ballet in Miami Beach, Florida. None of them remember going. Sigh! They loved it at the time but were just too young to remember the wonder of it all.

Thank you so much for this musical series. I loved it dearly. Now I am off to listen to your favorite melody.
Love, Jeanne

Don't laugh, when we snow skied out West, I would exercise for 'months' to the record "Hooked on Classics." You really have to be strong to ski well. My children still laugh at my routine which included running through the house at top speed. If we skied today, I would have an IPod in my ears and entertain the neighbors. Big smile.
One day I will do a post on those many years of the most wonderful sport ever. It is not for sissies. LOL.

Tonja said...

Oh, I have loved this series on music. Sorry I haven't commented more, but haven't been feeling very well.

Isn't it amzing how a musical moment can become a treasured memory? I think it is because it resonates so deeply in your soul, and is recognized there. In that spot that you store the most beloved of your memories, your soul just knows that it must also make room for this one. I think you feel that way about the music that moves you. I do. If you don't, then I sound like a true nut case...which may be true or not. But, I do love me some good music!