Wednesday, August 25, 2021

An operatic bucket list

I watch many YouTube videos, in part because I create them myself and in part because there are videos on so many subjects. Also, I have not seen any reason to watch television lately, since I have no interest in watching people die loudly or overact to very bad writing and even worse music. But I digress. 

I was privileged to meet 
David Lomeli, who had recently
triumphed as Nemorino at NYCO.
Now he is a very successful
opera administrator.

One type of video that has fascinated me much of late has been travel videos. I am fascinating by first-person accounts of extreme luxury airliner trips, overnight train trips that include leisure, luxury, and scenery, and even inconvenient and uncomfortable flights taken in order to reach some obscure location or fly on some obscure aircraft. I have come to understand that travel aficionados, especially aviation geeks (as they happily call themselves), seem to have a lifetime check list in the same way that bird watchers keep lists of birds they have spotted. Although I am not a travel geek, I love learning about these remote destinations and find some of the stories fascinating. (There was one where a British gentleman deliberately placed himself overnight in the city with the least visited airport in Alabama. I don't question his choice in destination, but I do wish the poor dear had been better advised when choosing franchise dining and lodging.) 

All of this made me think.  Do I have an operatic bucket list?  I have had a wide and varied experience in opera:

  • I was in the chorus for the 1987 US premiere of a newly found Rossini opera, Bianca e Falliero.
  • I have seen at least three different productions of Porgy and Bess, when many people have never seen one.
  • I have interviewed some amazing opera personalities for this blog and for other publications--the likes of Lisette Oropesa, Ian Bostridge, Lawrence Brownlee, Angela Meade, Michael Mayes, Christine Goerke, Francesca Zambello, etc.
  • I saw the premiere production of an opera by Jake Heggie that placed Joyce DiDonato and Frederica von Stade side by side.  
  • I also saw Mr. Heggie's monumental Dead Man Walking, the adaptation of the same book by Sister Helen Prejean on which the movie is based. The memory still moves me to tears.
  • I have become friends with some singers based on things I have written, and I have seen my quotes on the web sites of some very impressive singers.
  • I have met and had the opportunity to study with amazing singers from previous generations like James King (bad choice as a voice teacher), Virginia Zeani (bad choice to not study with her), Camilla Williams (teacher of some good friends, and very kind to me), etc.
  • As a student I have seen amazing things. The room where Franz Schubert was born. Actual manuscripts by Mozart. Some instruments used by musical greats.
  • I have witnessed world premieres of operatic works (most of which quickly descended into much-deserved obscurity)
  • I have seen performances in some of the most amazing venues in the world:  the Met (of course), the Felsenreitschule in Salzburg, the Bavarian State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, etc.
  • I have seen quite a few productions of Norma, another opera that is not often produced, but which any frequent reader will recognize as my favorite opera of all time.
  • I have sung on the stage at Carnegie Hall. (OK, as part of the NYC Gay Mens Chorus, and even then just for a special event, not as a regular member, but boy howdy, didn't it take my breath away to walk on that stage!)
  • I have produced low-budget shows featuring young professionals, and created shows I can reflect upon with pride.  (On a production level. I wasn't good with money.)

What are some regrets, goals I have never met, some experiences I have never had?
  • The amazing Deborah Voigt.
    I saw her solo show
    "Voigt Lessons" at
    I am filled with regret that I have never sung the Verdi Requiem. Chorus or soloist. As much choral gigging as I have done, how is that possible?
  • As a naive 17-year old student with a limited entertainment budget, I once chose a P.D.Q. Bach concert over a Joan Sutherland concert.
  • I have never been to La Scala or Verona or Paris or even Covent Garden. I saw Covent Garden, but never attended a performance there.
  • I never saw Luciano Pavarotti live. Placido Domingo. Leontyne Price. Renatta Scotto. I saw Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills in concert but not on the opera stage.
  • I was never able to meet great opera and opera journalism figures who are long gone now.
In the regrets column, most would expect me to write about my unfulfilled dreams as an opera singer, but a long, long, long life and much reflection have taught me that such a life would have been a horrible fit.  I was taught poor vocal skills and very, very poor life skills, and absolutely no business skills--I'm sure I would have unconsciously engineered an early, very dramatic demise! 

Angela Meade, whom I have 
seen as Norma, Alice Ford,
Elvira in Ernani, and whom
I have interviewed for this 

What goals are still attainable at my age and possible with my budget?  None.  However, if budget were not an issue, I might consider the following:
  • More visits to Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, with the  opportunity to enjoy the full season.
  • Visits to other great opera houses and venues, both those I have seen and those I haven't.
  • The opportunity to renew contact and friendship with some singers I have met along the way, and to establish new friendship with other opera figures.
  • Greater real-life access to public performance. (This pandemic and the isolation of living in a coastal NC city have both taken their tolls on live performance.)

We all have these lists.  Goals met and unexpected achievements and experiences.  Goals unmet.  Goals that might still be met.  I would love to hear yours.

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