I’ll be honest.
Opera is not one of my favourite art forms. I’m a major piano fan, a concerto fan, a symphony fan …. when I was little, I thought opera was all about overweight people caterwauling in absurd outfits. I would hear arias blasting from my mother’s studio downstairs – she would have been teaching History IV from the Royal Conservatory curriculum …. and I still wasn’t convinced. Over time, I became more open-minded – I have memories of folding laundry with my mom on Saturday evenings as a kid, while watching “Live from the Met” on PBS, and if my dad wasn’t listening to the entire Beethoven Piano Sonata cycles on his earphones in the living room, we’d hear the whole opera simulcast on stereo – and it had to be cranked, because the TV was way over in my parents’ bedroom.
I began to understand, by the intense audience response, and my mother’s rapt attention that made the folding fly by, that opera means a lot to many people. I never heard such hysteria at classical concerts from the blue-rinse crowd, that’s for sure.
And then along came Moonstruck. I don’t remember if I saw it in the theatre – all I remember is Cher’s crazy Bob Mackie dress when she accepted her Oscar, and that she was going for pizza afterwards at Spago’s. I remember thinking it was a nice romantic comedy featuring Puccini’s music.
But something happened around eight years ago – I was living up at Yonge and Eglinton, not loving it, and feeling lonely and bored on a rare Saturday night at home. Bravo! television was broadcasting Moonstruck and I caught the opening credits. ”What the hell,” I thought. ”I seem to recall liking this movie.”
Well, little did I know that this film would become my most favourite film of all time, and little did I know it would ignite my interest in opera. Of all the opera masters, I’d always liked the “heart on my sleeve, I’m gonna sing it ‘cuz I’m about to dramatically die” stylings of Puccini. And I loved the story of La Boheme – the whole starving artist in the garret thing seemed so romantic.
I was so caught up in the storyline this time around, that I had a VERY STRONG REACTION when Ronny said the following to Loretta – truly, a beautiful “aria” in spoken form:
“Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are bullshit. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and GET(!!!!!) in my bed!”
Tears were streaming down my face as I jumped up and down and screamed, clapping my hands. I realise I shouldn’t be admitting this openly, but I don’t care.
And this isn’t even counting my obsession with makeovers, and the glee I took in watching Loretta transform from a fuddy-duddy widow to a smokin’ hot babe as she prepares for her date with Ronny.
Something in me clicked that night – that opera has the ability to magically transform people, and induce the same hysteria I felt listening to Ronny profess his undying love for Loretta. Opera is a personal art form – straight from the heart – as the person IS the instrument. There is nothing in between the singer and the music. The singer and music are one. That is something not possible as a pianist.
My good friend Ali Kashani, who knows more about opera than anybody in the world, boldly declares on his Facebook profile that he is “using the power of opera to change the world!” I understand his mantra now.
I will attend Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Sondra Radvanovsky’s concert coming up because it is billed as “An Italian Opera Spectacular”, and Iwant to re-capture that Moonstruck feeling. Sondra Radvanosky’s star has just risen – and there’s buzz about this amazing soprano who is making her Toronto debut. And Dima of course, is a rock star in the opera world; he’s as known for his sex appeal as he is his incredible voice and artistry. I first met him 15 years ago for interview rounds when I was the Vancouver Symphony publicist. I was kinda shy around him, and refused when he asked me, upon hearing I was studying flamenco, to dance for him.
While I’m still a die-hard concerto gal, I’m very grateful for Loretta and Ronny for re-introducing me to opera. And I look forward to being “moonstruck” on March 20th.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Sondra Radvanovsky will appear in an “Italian Opera Spectacular” with the Orchestre de la Francophonie conducted by Constantine Orbelian and Jean-Philippe Tremblay on Saturday, March 20 at 8 PM at Roy Thomson Hall. Liz is fretting about what to wear. For more info, please visit www.roythomson.com or www.showoneproductions.com.