("I lived for art, I lived for love," from Tosca, Act II - fall in love with Maria Callas all over againhere and here.)
Around here, opera love is blooming into full-blown opera obsession. I forget where I heard it (probably in a bad movie), but there is a saying that the very first time you attend an opera, you'll either never fully get it, or you'll fall in love for life. My mother and I both fell headlong, effortlessly, hopelessly in love for life, and it is thrilling to have someone with whom I can share this fanatical and intensely rewarding love.
My first day back from Italy, we saw an amazing performance of Rigoletto. I was confident we'd enjoy it, since we both generally enjoy Verdi and it is a beautiful, heartbreaking story, but I was in no way prepared for just how deeply moving and profound this production would be.
The cast was, naturally, top-notch. Joseph Calleja, henceforth known as Opera Boyfriend, played the Duke of Mantua in such a charming, radiant way that you couldn't help but love him. His voice is exceptional and complex, and he gave so much emotion in deceptively simple songs. We've both been singing "La donna è mobile" all week, and I'm pretty sure he is going to go down as one of the great tenors of our time.
Diana Damrou was a sweet, lovely Gilda. Her voice was powerful and clear, without even a trace of shrillness or excess. She perfectly captured a young and innocent girl devoted to her father and entranced in the first blushes of romance. She adorably captured the mannerisms and affectations of a young woman in a light, breezy way that matched her gorgeous voice. She was so very easy to love, which was key to this opera's emotional grasp - had I not so openly adored Gilda, I can't imagine I would have been so deeply affected by the rest of the performance.
Rigoletto himself, played by Roberto Frontali, was phenomenal as well, torn between his life as a bitter, cynical jester at court and a doting, over-protective father at home. He sings of his misfortunes in life, to have been born deformed and to have lost the only woman to love him, with such astonishing sincerity and beauty that it made us both cry, especially through his second-act duet with Gilda, "Tutte le feste al tempio" and his first-act "Pari siamo!" where he compares himself with the assassin Sparafucile.
The music was incomparably lush and wonderful. The chorus is even used in brilliant ways, such as providing the sound of gusting wind from off-stage. The stormy third act was powerful and entrancing, and I sat on the edge of my seat with tears in my eyes, knowing what was coming and trying, in vain, to prepare myself for the anguish of the ending.
I imagine I will never tire of performers singing from the depths of their souls, but this was an especially wonderful experience. My mother and I kept glancing at each other with looks of amazement and overwhelming emotion, and afterward we realized we'd both gotten completely wrapped up in the relationships and feelings expressed in breathtaking arias. The singing was, as I've said, done with fantastic clarity, stripping out most of the coloratura and vibratto (which I typically loathe) to give it a downright contemporary, elegant feel. This is probably a large part of why I found the heart of each scene so accessible, poignant, and alive.
I also can't get over how much I love the translation in the Met's titles, with one lyric as "Love is the sunlight of the soul." Sigh. I have a feeling there will be much more opera-obsessing around these parts soon.