Unsatisfactory as last week's opera class at the adult ed was, this week was satisfying. I have heard Verdi's Luisa Miller on the radio several times but never seen a production. Sometimes I have fallen in love with the music regardless of story, but not in this case. However today's DVD of a production from Lyon probably 15 years ago [wasn't given that info] was not innovative in production but was well sung and acted -- with restraint mostly -- and for the first time it was to me what it was meant to be, an engrossing story with twists of fate -- most masterminded by a real arch-villian named Wurm. Wurm and the Duke were powerful baritones as was Luisa's father. The two fathers were antitheses and both more believable than many in opera but cut of the same cloth as Rigoletto and Germond.
What surprised me was the power of the very simple love story and of the music, especially at the end as tragedy is unravelling. It is not realistic, of course, but the music makes it terribly sad so that I was in tears the last five minutes. This is one of the purposes of opera. I just stumbled on Pavarotti singing Rodolfo's great aria and, of course, compared -- his voice was finer although the Rodolfo in the DVD was good, but, even in concert, Pavarotti was more expressive -- although I was disconcerted after the last note. On stage the tenor stood seemingly in tears, in concert, Pavarotti almost bounced with grins and upthrust arms.
I talked briefly with a woman sitting near me who said she knew very little about opera, had not discovered it until fairly recently. I said I discovered it at about 14 and had listened to the Met's Saturday broadcasts ever since. She said I was very lucky. Yes, I was very lucky. Somehow I found it on my little plastic radio, I have no idea what the first one was. Somehow I recognized it a worth listening to and looking for again and again. No one else liked it so I played it fairly softly in my bedroom, on cold winter Saturdays in the chilly, barely heated upstairs I wrapped myself in a blanket and devoured not only the music but the informative intermission features. Now and then a conversation like that makes me feel that something must have been in proper conjuction even then -- lonely kid on a farm with nothing else to do on a Saturday -- luckily listening to opera than spending Saturday afternoons hanging out with friends. A new definition, perhaps of a happy childhood.
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