"This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affectations glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn."
Today, I will be experiencing an Opera *First* for me. Watching live opera broadcast from the Opera House directly onto a jumbo screen at ATT Ballpark! This is the third year SF Opera has done this...but my first time NOT to be working backstage - and instead - sipping wine and munching on garlic fries in a luxury box! (And...I'm lucky to be inside...because ...RAIN is predicted! ) There are usually over 30,000 people in attendance - it's free! (And a great way for people to experience their first Opera! )
I hope that all of you are having a wonderful, Autumnal Sunday!
Late again....but it has been one of *those * weeks... I did come across an interview with a young Italian Bass-Baritone, Luca Pisaroni by way of a wonderful Opera Blog based out of Milan...titled "Opera Chic"... Interesting for me to read about Signore Pisaroni, as he has sung with SF Opera a few times...but, what is more interesting to me and to you, my fellow "AW" members, is that he travels every where with his two dogs - a Golden Retriever named Lenny and a miniature Dachsund, Tristan. Luca and his wife even have a FB page about their doggies.... love this photo it made me smile!
Reviews (so far) have been mixed....but that is pretty much what we expected. This opera requires one to feel with one's heart, not one's brain. And *critics* are paid to be harsh...the public, though, is deeply moved and that's what counts. Tomorrow will be the second performance.....we'll see how it goes.
I finally managed to locate a photo of Koa, the Golden Retriever, on stage during the last act..... he has two scenes....and during each scene, when he appears,the audience goes.."Ahhhhhhhhh"....and when he exits - he rates applause!
And.... a Curtain Call Photo - the composer, Christopher Theofanidis, centre stage as Director, Conductor and Cast look on and applaud.
Today is an anniversary I wish we didn't have to *celebrate* - but we do and we must. It may difficult for you to think that a *mere* Opera could do some little thing to alleviate the pain of loss and rememberance from one's heart.... but it happened for 3,000 of us in the Opera House last night.
Pictured above: Thomas Hampson, who portrays Rick Rescorla, Susan Rescorla, Rick's widow, and Dan Hill, Rick's best friend.
Left: The real Rick Rescorla in Vietnam, and Tom Hampson on the right.
I have previously posted about the amazing team who began creating this project in 2006.... it all began with a book written by James B. Stewart, then it came to the attention of Francesca Zambello - a woman with a huge, loving heart, a razor-sharp, intuitive mind and an ability to make people *believe* that such a still-sensitive subject as 9/11 could be turned into an opera. Not just *any old* opera story - and not just a story about those who died, but also about two still-living people who played a vital role in Rick Rescorla's life.
So, about last night.... the house, though not a sellout, was very full - a combination of people in elegant evening attire, people in various branches of the Armed Forces, people in jeans - people of all ages and races. There was a true *hum* of excitement in the air.....and also a little *hum* of fear....because the audience knew what the last act would show and people were afraid of still-raw emotions being ripped open. Backstage, everyone was more nervous than for a *usual* opener.... lots of pacing, nervous laughter and hugging. I had been at all the rehearsals staged at the Opera House - this would be my 8th time seeing it... but, I didn't have a *real* ticket....so I prepared to watch it backstage....then, our Chorus Master came over and gave me his ticket. I ended up with a wonderful seat, next to the Maestro's wife.
As we did at the Final Dress, we all stood and sang our National Anthem. The curtain rose and it began. It is a short opera - two hours, 10 minutes, with one intermission. But, it's enough time to reveal what made Rick Rescorla who he was....from a small boy in 1944 Cornwall, befriending the American GI's, to his becoming a soldier in Rhodesia, meeting Dan Hill, an American CIA Soldier (who makes his entrance parachuting - yes, really parachuting - while singing an aria), becoming an American Citizen and joining Dan in Vietnam - and saving his life. The men grow older, Rick marries, Dan converts to Islam, they part for a time. The audience applauded, but apprehensively....for so many now, the words *Islam*, *Muslim* bring a cold chill.
For me, a mad dash backstage to ensure my team had all the food set out....people scrambling, eating, drinking (coffee and tea)...a few *how does it look from out front* questions - me - assuring everyone it looks fantastic. Then, scrambling back to my seat before ACT II began.
Rick and Susan meet - and fall in love - almost at once. She was 50, he was 58. Both had been divorced and had given up on falling in love again.
Dan comes back into Rick's life.... their bond is stronger than ever - true friendship never dies..
Ultimately, the Towers are hit - people fall. people die, but Rick leads ALL 2,700 Morgan Stanley staff down 44 flights of stairs, singing...(true)...the main *Leitmotif* in the opera is based on an old Cornish song ' "Train Your Heart to Carry On"....it's hauntingly beautiful.....as the firemen arrive, Rick leads them back into the building and up, wanting to make sure he didn't leave anyone behind. The scrim comes down over the Towers, papers fly from above all over the stage....Susan and Dan appear, alone, embrace... curtain down.
There was a stunned moment where no one did anything....then, as one, 3,000 people stood up, cheered, sobbed - they were really moved. I turned round, looked up to the Box Seats, the Grand Tier, Dress Circle and Balcony - everyone was standing. In all my years of attending Opera - I have never seen this.
A magnificent tribute to a brave man who really believed that saving one's fellow was more important than killing *the enemy*... who believed LOVE was the ultimate weapon. So, we go on, we remember the sadness - but we also remember the love - the courage to love....and it's something worth celebrating today - and forever.
I have *surfaced* - albeit briefly...as my "life* at SF Opera prepares for two back-to-back openings. Tomorrow, our season opener (and a regular crowd pleaser), *Turandot*. (This opera features an aria most of you - even non-opera goers - knows...."Nessun Dorma"...made famous by the late Luciano Pavarotti.)
Our 2011 *Turandot* had its Final Dress on September 6th. Actually, it was a bit stunning for me - as I have been *"living" for two weeks straight - at our second season (and World) premiere of *Heart of a Soldier. The two operas could not be more different, and at the *Turandot* Final, I felt like I was in a surreal world. full of red, blue-green David Hockney magic....Iréne Theorin, a Swedish soprano is the BEST....yes, the BEST *Turandot* I have ever seen. High praise, yes, but well deserved. And.... I must add that our beloved Music Director, Niccola Luisotti, asked for a moment of silence to honour the recent death of his close friend, tenor Salvatore Licitra, dead at 43 after a motorcycle accident. (He was just here two Summers ago, singing in "Fancuilla del West"...) I have fond memories of him - playing Ping-Pong backstage....and after offering to have food brought up to his dressing room during performances, he said, "No, I like coming down to be with everyone"!
Yesterday, was the Final Dress for *Heart of a Soldier*. It seems every year, I take one special opera to heart...and this one is it. I am not by habit, a lover of "modern opera'..... and of course the subject (well part of it) of 9/11 is still raw and painful to most. I have my own very personal memories of that day. Yet, from the first piano staging rehearsal - three weeks ago, I was hooked. A lush, melodic score...well directed by Francesca Zambello (who just directed our unforgettable "Ring"), gorgeous singing.....amazing sets and of course, Koa, the Golden Retriever (see photos from a few posts back).
So, last night - before the opera actually began, we all stood (1,000 of us - including many servicemen - from all branches) - and sang "The Star Spangled Banner"....what an amazing feeling - one could sense the emotion rising and growing from person to person. The Dress was gorgeous - powerful, draining - yet inspiring. Saturday, will be the opening...and I must wait to post photos until then.
After the performance, three people sitting behind me, including a Veteran from WWII, stopped me to tell me how much they were moved....and...how accurate the portrayal of real soldiers was.
It has been a glorious few weeks of *Opera* - from traditional to contemporary. I am pretty drained - emotionally - but also inspired.
September has brought we SF people - SUNSHINE! (Mind you, not all day.....but at least seven or eight hours of the glorious golden *stuff'!) So, for the past two days off from the Opera, I have been out walking and taking photos. I had mentioned in a previous post about the Heart Sculptures which are scattered throughout the City....and here are a few.
This one was painted by Tony Bennett. You didn't know he could do more than sing, right?
I also just had to hike through the Presidio to the Bay....and along the way, I encountered:
A beautiful Monarch Butterfly sunning himself on some Lavender....
Mr. Egret was kind enough to stand still and pose for me...
Now, as I write this on Friday Evening, the fog has returned with a vegenance and the wind is pummeling my flat.....brrrrrrrr....
Tomorrow, back to the Opera for yet another "Heart of a Soldier" rehearsal only two more of them before it opens on September 10th.
I hope each and every one of you in the States has a gorgeous and safe Labour Day Holiday. If you are abroad...have a wonderful weekend!
A lover of all of life's beauties - music, poetry, nature, animals, the ever-changing moon, the smell of jasmine at twilight. Thunder and lightning in the Summertime. The smell of Pinon after the rain. Running through crisp, multi-coloured Autumn leaves with my favourite Chocolate Lab, Walking in the first snowfall of Winter and tasting snow on my tongue. Believing in the power of love - no matter what...