Long ago, sporting a broken wing, a young man came up to me in the Carnegie Hall lounge and paid me many a lovely word or two, but with such wisdom about the Arts and the kind of contribution I was poised to make. He became my good luck charm, and one of my really indispensable friends. Does a fabulous opera lecture series. Love to you, dear friend. I love how much you love opera.
“No turning back now.”
Seth Lubin Tuesday Aug.15,2006
By the time I first walked into the hallowed doors of the Old Metropolitan Opera House, I had already fallen in love with the operatic voice. At the age of eight, my parents had taken me to the City Opera to see DIE FLEDERMAUS and so began my journey into this magnificent world of opera.
Before this first performance, I had already listened to the older singers. On my grandfather’s Victrola, I would wind up the spring and place the old steel needle onto the recordings of Caruso, Melba, Tetrazzini, Galli-Curci and Bonci. Those voices poured out of that dark wooden horn. As a very young child I would pretend that the singers actually stood and sang from deep inside the darkened recesses of that horn.
At home, we had a later generation of recordings. Warren, Steber, Sayao and Pinza recordings sat neatly next to Sinatra and the original Broadway cast of OKLAHOMA. We had two complete opera recordings. The first was LA BOHEME; the MET’s first complete recording starring Tucker and Sayao as the tragic lovers. There voices inhabited every one of those 26, 78 rpm sides. For years later, even in a live performance I seemed to hear the record sides changing!
But, we also had a newer LP recording of TOSCA. From this began my life long love of the art of Renata Tebaldi. Tebaldi’s youthful beauty of voice combined blazing tones and drama with sublime soft singing. I never tired of playing that album over and over again.
I was taken to the old Metropolitan a few times in the early sixties. AIDA, BOHEME and a rather magical BUTTERFLY sung by the newest star of the MET, Leontyne Price. Her voice seemed to float from the stage reaching my seat on the side of the Dress Circle.
The old MET was a temple to the great voices. As I walked around the shadowy hallways, there were the paintings of those long ago stars that by then had become part of history.
There presence and the faint ecco of their voices seemed to fill the theater.
When I was sixteen years old, I knew I must go to the that theater again and finally see the beautiful Tebaldi in the flesh. And so I left from home early the morning to stand on line all day to purchase a Standing Room ticket for TOSCA. Tebaldi did not disappoint. Her voluminous voice poured from the stage. Her beauty and regal manner assured me I was in the presence of a truly great singer.
A few months later, I was offered a ticket to see ANDREA CHENIER. Except for “Come un bel di di maggio,” I knew nothing of this opera. However when I was told that Tebaldi would be singing with Franco Corelli, I jumped at the chance to attend another MET performance.
This was not like any performance I had seen before. There was a sense of excitement in the air even before the first notes were heard from the orchestra pit. This was truly an experience of a lifetime. Anselmo Colzani was the Gerard and his distinctive voice seemed to inhabit the character. As the opera unfolded, I was amazed at the power and the beauty of Giordano’s score. However it was to be Tebaldi and Corelli, that afternoon, who changed my life forever. There voices blazed through the theater. Voices so big that they easily soared over the most forte passages from the orchestra. I couldn’t believe that a human throat could produce such beauty of tone, nor that one could sing with volume that filled every crevice of the theater.
By the time the great final duet began I was transformed into a new existence. Tebaldi and Corelli soared to new heights as they crowned the afternoon with their immense high B; “Viva la morte insiem!” The audience roared. It was not applause, but a giant roar that exploded over the last magnificent chords of the orchestra and seemed never to die down nor stop as the singers took their curtain calls.
By today’s standards, that MET production was old fashioned. Yet, in the final moments of the opera when the shadow of the guillotine rose up against the painted stone wall, I jumped out of my seat. Never could I have imagined anything so colossal as this performance.
There was no turning back now. Opera had entered my soul and to this day; as an addict seeks drugs, I crave for those moments when one is not of this earth, but in another place that only the human voice and opera can give.