Close your eyes and let the music set you free
I love music. A pianist for 18 years, my repertoire has a wide range – from timeless hymns of faith and classical compositions by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Debussy and many others, to folks songs, Jazz, Rock, Swing, and eclectic arrangements by William Joseph and The Piano Guys. Music is a part of me. Like a painter who uses the brush as an extension of his hand to create beautiful masterpieces, so I let the notes transform as I move my fingers across ivory keys.
But my appreciation for music as an art goes even further.
I love the opera! When I was still in my first digits I saw my first operas: Amahl and the Night Visitors and Hansel and Gretel. When I was in my teens, I saw La Traviotta – it was a homeschool field trip.
But of them all, my favorite has to be Giovanni Rossini’s Barber of Seville.
Sunday after worship I sat on the pew, music bag in hand as I packed up my books: my hymnal, my book of Bach’s prelude pieces, and my Classical Reflections on Timeless Hymns.
“Maybe you would be interested in going with me to the opera?” someone said above me. I turned from snapping the bag shut to see one of the older ladies in church standing in the aisle by my pew. She smiled. “My friend was supposed to come with me this afternoon but she can’t make it and rather than have her ticket go to waste I’m trying to find someone else who would use it.”
I stammered. I don’t know why I stammered. My face must have been quite a book to read because another elderly lady laughed as she passed us and commented: “Oh she really wants to go!”
“Are you interested?”
“What’s the opera?” I asked excitedly.
“The Barber of Seville,” my friend said.
Two hours later I found myself standing in the lobby of the Forum Theater. A luncheon was happening somewhere in the building because savory, salivating scents wafted through the lobby where people stood arm to arm because the doors hadn’t opened yet.
I wore a casual, but nice outfit, like what I would wear to work, professional but comfortable. But once I got there I felt slightly under-dressed. Ladies in formal gowns and tea length dresses shimmered and sparkled as they moved through the room. Gentlemen wore black suits and ties, their polished dress shoes squeaking as they walked. Scarves seem to be the fashion statement these days; girls and women of all ages wore scarves of every hue, the silky softness swallowing their throats, while young men sidled past in pressed slacks and dress jackets. Thankfully though I wasn’t the only one wearing jeans; I did spot a couple other opera-goers in jeans, dress boots and blouses.
The doors finally opened and we found our seats. Waiting, surrounded by a huge crowd of people, excitement thrilled within me. The lights dimmed, brightened, dimmed, brightened. And then darkness fell.
Applause fills the theatre as the conductor steps on his platform. He raises his hands, stick poised.
Close your eyes and let the music set you free
Such were my thoughts as the overture to Rossini’s famous opera opened the afternoon’s performance. Music – it’s not one dimensional. There are so many layers of sound, and depth, and tone, and feeling. Whoever said music was neutral? Cresting to a climax the last notes quivered upon the air and as the orchestra master threw kisses to his amazing musicians the audience applauded their approval.
What surprised me is that Rossini wasn’t a musician by trade. He was a painter. But his paintings were terrible and so in order to eat and have room and board he composed music – wrote operas – which he hated. What a gift God gave him! What beautiful music flowed from his pen! Ironic: he hated music yet it was music that made him famous – not his paintings.
Young though they were, the guest and resident artists who starred in yesterday’s performance, excelled beyond my expectation. Figaro, (Scott Purcell – baritone) is the Barber, a scheming, clever, match maker who helps Lindoro – aka Count Almaviva in disguise (Jonathan Blalock -tenor) win the heart of his lady love. Rosina (Mary Beth Nelson – mezzo soprano), the object of Lindoro’s undying affection is the ward of Dr. Bartolo (Jake Stamatis -baritone) who also is madly in love with Rosina, yet she refuses to marry him. The plot unfolds with mirth and mayhem as Lindoro plots to elope with Rosina, Figaro foils Dr. Bartolo’s attempts at matrimony, and soldiers investigate all the ruckus! In the end….ah! But I shan’t spoil it!
Fuchsia clouds tinted the western sky as we emerged from the opera house. Lofty, grandiose. Like the opera. Like the music. Lofty. Grandiose. Magnificent.
I’m so glad my friend asked me. And I’m so glad I went – because it was one of the most wonderful afternoons I’ve had in a long time!
An excerpt translated in English from the flamboyant Figaro’s unforgettable aria:
Ah, what a life, what a pleasure
For a barber of quality!
Ah, bravo Figaro!
Bravo, very good!
I am the luckiest, it’s the truth!
Ready for anything,
night and day
I’m always on the move.
Cushier fate for a barber,
A more noble life cannot be found.
Razors and combs
Lancets and scissors,
at my command
everything is here.
And the performance didn’t fail! ….Now I have all that wonderful music stuck in my head!….