I am very much enjoying today's broadcast celebration of Mozart performances
from the Met, and I'd be remiss if I didn't say how grateful I am that we
can still hear and rehear so much fabulous singing through the miracle of
recorded radio. This is a cause for the deepest appreciation, and at the
risk of being obvious, afternoons like this always remind me just how much
these experiences have enriched my life. So as a grateful listener, thank
you to everyone who prepared today's program, to Seth Winner for his
marvelous restorations of this superb material, and, most of all, to the
wonderful artists who have caught our imaginations through the decades and
honored Mozart's genius so generously.
On an occasion like this, one realizes that any celebratory program of this
kind is even more a simple expression of thanks from a like-minded community
of grateful music-lovers as individuals, whether musicians or dedicated
listeners, than it is a celebration by any one musical institution. Yes, it
has been the MET that managed to bring together all these staggering
talents, but ultimately, this program reflects, I feel, the thanks and
gratitude of many, many music-lovers, beyond even those lucky enough to
spend day in and day out at the Metropolitan Opera.
I hope all the singers whom we hear this afternoon, those who are still with
us, understand that it is the love and gratitude from everyone, not just
colleagues, but fans around the world as well, which effectively spurs a
welcome retrospective like today's. For many of us simply listening over
the air or on the Web, in fact, this may prove our only way of sharing a
worldwide "Thank you" with strangers we may never meet, but who all share
with us this one afternoon of collective thanks for the gift of a Lisa Della
Casa, a Leontyne Price, a Teresa Stratas, a Joan Sutherland, a Nicolai
Gedda, a Blanche Thebom, a Frank Guarrera, a Roberta Peters, a Benita
Valente -- of so many others whom we are hearing today. This is ultimately
about Mozart's music, of course, but it is also about a global community's
way of marking the achievements of those performers who helped bring to each
of us at home, each of us throughout the world, the full impact of Mozart's
greatness. Would each of us fully understand the greatness of Mozart
without these gifted performers? I wonder.
So that is why I hope these gifted performers understand why a glorious day
like this is partly about the simple "Thank-you"s from music-lovers like so
many of those on this board, in the same way that a birthday party is partly
about those friends who want to celebrate at the party, not just about the
person having the birthday celebrated.
And this is also why I went back and forth on how best to say what's in my
heart when I think of all the grateful memories I have of Cesare Siepi in
Mozart's Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. For me, and I'm sure for
countless others -- and this in no way takes away from the other marvelous
artists we celebrate this afternoon -- this afternoon would have been a
wonderful way to mark what Siepi gave us in Mozart: an elegance, a sonority
that was his alone and that gave us a special window on Mozart's music which
many of those in my generation might never have had without his illuminating
presence. His absence from today's happy celebration seemed especially painful.
Sincerely, I do not have a very clear idea of what may have occasioned
Siepi's absence from today's broadcast. But I do understand that there may
have been some badly hurt feelings years and years back, during dealings
between the Met and Mr. Siepi. If this is so, it seems a shame. So,
tilting at windmills, perhaps, I am taking this opportunity of venturing, in
whatever way one lonely writer can, to offer a heartfelt hope that Cesare
Siepi might sympathize with those of us around the world who still feel we
owe him a proper "Thank you" and who would have treasured the opportunity
today of sharing, with those same global listeners, an example of his
distinct way with Mozart's music. It would have been our way, each
listener's personal way, of marking our gratitude for a sovereign Mozartean
who served as the gateway to Mozart's genius for so many of us.
If afternoons like this are partly about "the friends at the birthday
party", and I believe they are, then doesn't that ultimately transcend
whatever unfortunate differences there may have been in the past between a
treasured artist and one institution? Respectfully, I think so.
Of course, all listeners like myself realize that there are the recordings
that Siepi made that any of us can enjoy at any time. But today would have
been an opportunity for millions to share in an excerpt from Don Giovanni or
Nozze di Figaro in "real time", a moment when millions around the world
would have listened to the same piece, a communal moment to be thankful for.
Who knows when such an opportunity would have come again?
Even beyond today, there is a legacy from this artist and his association
with the MET that is rich with accomplishment, many Saturday afternoons that
formed essential moments in each of our lives. Maybe it's time to unlock
these treasures and to heal the bitternesses of the past.
Yes, this post is a "tilting at windmills" effort, of course. Who knows if
Mr. Siepi will even read this at all?! But think of this posting instead as
a bottle cast forth on the waters:-) Perhaps the right person will read it
at the right place at the right time after all. One can only hope.
Sincerely and respectfully,
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