Hello to old friends on opera-l and other fellow opera lovers.
I was very happy to spend last Saturday evening attending a performance of
Billy Budd at the Met. My sense of the list these days is that it does not
really need yet another account of an opera performance at the Met, so I'll
spare everyone reading mine. (But it was a really terrific evening -- one
of the best I've attended.)
The most exciting thing at the Met that evening was not on stage -- or at
least it hadn't been on stage for some 50 years or more.
I suppose we each of us have our own set of favorites -- our little
pantheon of artists whose voices reach our hearts in a way that others do
not. Artists we know through fading memories, through books and photos,
through recordings. The ones we dream of hearing again when we pass
through the Pearly Gates, where there are no sold-out performances and
where the bloom is never off the rose or the head voice.
One such artist for me is Rosa Ponselle. My favorite opera (well, *one* of
my favorite operas) is Norma. A Pearly Gates performance for me would be
the Norma of Ponselle with the assistance of Ezio Pinza and Giovanni
Martinelli. The other choice would be the opening night Forza where
Ponselle made her debut against Caruso.
I love looking at pictures of the oh so photegenic Rosa Ponselle, and I
never tire of hearing her supreme singing of the Casta Diva.
So imagine the thrill of strolling out at intermission to find her costumes
from Ernani and Amore di Tre Re on display in cases on the Dress Circle
level. "Hey," I says to myself, "this is her centennial. I wonder what's
in the costume case on the Parterre level."
Don't even *try* to imagine my thrill at finding the Rosa Ponselle Norma
costume there!! When I saw it, I knew it instantly. My heart began to
pound. I flushed. I could barely get my breath. This state never
changed, no matter how long I stayed there. I mean, that dress *heard* her
sing Norma! I still can barely get over it, two days later. It was all I
could do to turn away and return to a more normal (for me anyway) state of
I've seen some pretty cool stuff in those costume cases. I remember a
Turandot extravaganza with Jeritza's and Nilsson's costumes. Not that I
can imagine Jeritza in the role, but what an outfit. And Flagstad's
Isolde. Maybe the most eye-opening display was the trio of Farrar's Manon,
Sayao's Violetta and Tebaldi's Desdemona. I think Renata could have bench
pressed Geraldine, whose costume was teeny tiny. So that was interesting.
But this other. Oy.
So I just wanted to share this moment with people who might understand.
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