I do apologise for my long absence on these pages. I never intended for it to be that way, but Ridiculous Amounts of Busyness just hit me during the last week and a half or so, and sadly, the blog suffered.
So let’s make amends, as I return to my ramblings on opera . . .
Last time I was saying that I couldn’t really stand much operatic music when I was younger. But there were some exceptions to the rule. I think one of the earliest positive experiences I had with opera was an old New Zealand tourism ad from the late 80s/early 90s (somewhere in there; I find my sense of time gets blurry that far back) that some of you here in Australia may well remember.
It consisted of an aerial camea soaring across the green hills of New Zealand towards a majestic snow-capped mountain and, as it does, a tenor is singing “Nessun Dorma”, Pavarotti’s famous showstopper aria from Turandot. (I looked for the commercial in vain on YouTube, otherwise I would have showed it to you.) It was a spectacular piece of work, and I’m sure it made many people want to rush out and go to New Zealand.
But, actually, the thing which finally converted me over, was coming across this film of Madame Butterfly in my local video store in Brisbane. It had a quote on the back by Martin Scorsese saying that he really liked it, so I figured I’d give it a try.
On top of that, it was set in a fairly real-world setting with a cast that looked their parts. So there was none of the artificial “standing around and singing”, and, of course, it managed to bypass the problem of large opera singers, who look way too old to be half as romantic as they’re supposed to be.
But what grabbed me most about this one was the story. To keep it brief (because I might review the CD in full one day), an American sailor comes to Japan and buys himself a nice little package deal of a house with wife thrown in (it was probably the other way around, but he’s pretty excited about both). B.F. Pinkerton (that’s his name) is pretty excited about the arrangement, and thinks it’s a bit of fun.
But right from the start, he’s telling us that this is just a bit of a fling for him, and that one day he’slookign forward to having a real American wife.
At which stage, Cio-Cio-San, his new bride, arrives. She’s only 15 (well, in the story anyway – the singer is usually a fair bit older), and comes floating in with a soaring aria, and we realise straight away that a) she loves Pinkerton to bits and b) because of a), everything’s going to end badly.
Anyway, to watch the music in the film really helped because finally a) I knew exactly what they were singing about and b), I could follow the whole story. In the end, the sheer emotion of the story won me over and after that, I was hooked.
Soon after, I was making tentative steps into opera, with the help of couple of books and a lot of CDs. But I’ll review them all individually as book and CD reviews in future posts. (I’ll try to get back to this sooner rather than later.)