What fun we had.
In the Post, they wrote: “WE HEAR THAT:
….. director Franco Zeffirelli will be signing DVDs of his “Aida” hit tonight at Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center, where 1,000 opera fans are expected to hear Aprile Millo sing for her friend . . .”
Indeed I wanted the beginning of this five day celebration to be joyous and filled with warmth.
So many people, so many cameras, so much love. CNN, ABC, RAIUNO, and the documentary ” Five Days in the Life of a Genius” filmed during the chaos, lovely chaos of the tribute that Barnes and Noble put together for Franco this last Friday. The room itself was packed, and the store itself had set out banners and windows and the whole section upstairs where Broadway shows come to give little glimpses of their shows; a little anti-chamber near the room offered tantalizing “lithographs” and books and DVDS of Franco.
Inside, we put a little opera in the mix, as I was asked by Franco and Barnes and Noble to sing a bit, and so I invited Marcello Giordani and Mark Delavan to come and give a little flavor of opera in honor of Franco.
Marcello sang a magnificent “Nessun Dorma”, and Mark sang wonderfully “Eri Tu,” and Ford’s aria from “Falstaff”. As the Mistress of Ceremonies, I sang a bit of the duet with Marcello from Tosca and had a lot of fun with the public and the cameras.
Then Ira Siff masterfully conducted the interview in which Franco astonished and entertained and was adorable. A man so full of the very history of opera, real opera. Serafin, Visconti, Callas, Berstein, Kleiber, Sutherland, Pavarotti, Levine- so brilliant.
The real person that is Franco has touched my soul and charmed and intoxicated me for years both as fan and as friend. He is one in a trillion.
The love last night in the grand auditorium during the intermission of his Boheme was tangible and today at the Lucheon of the Opera Guild. He was overwhelmed, as were all who were there.
This type of talent is so rare, and charm like this combined with real knowledge and education and talent just doesn’t happen anymore. What he has forgotten, we have yet to learn. Most directors to me are “pleather”, he is suede, plush rich velvet, nappa, butter soft leather. Mythic, glorious, triumphant, unafraid, authentic.
“They” think his productions are over the top and too much. GO TO ITALY. The church scene in “Tosca” is the way it is still to this day at High Mass.
His “Cavalleria” is Sicily in that day. They have a cinematic depth. The reality goes from first view all the way to the back, no fake effect. Busy? Remind yourself it is a 4,000 seat house give or take a few.
It can handle it.
Maria Callas on the stage, second act Boheme, wouldn’t be lost. WE WOULD SEE HER-I never missed finding Stratas or Jose C. and the other night found the attractive cast quite easily.
This will be a debate for a long time, but of one thing I am very sure. They are popular favorites and are versions of the same productions that La Scala had and has, that Vienna loved and that Covent Garden had and adored. To remove them? La Boheme, Turandot, and Tosca should be made into a festival and brought back for a zeffirelli festival every few years. It is my hope this will be the case.
There is plenty of room for the new shows we are forced to look for and support. Time marches forward, we are in a minimalist period in opera for now. So it goes, that will pass too, most likely. Puts a lot of pressure on the voices to be the stars of the show.
When I sang Franco’s Turandot production as Liu, the second act opened, what had been the dour grey of the popolo oppressed and surpressed, the second scene opens on total GOLDEN Splendor of the Imperial Palace. EVERYTHING was light and privileged and drenched in opulence.
As Liu I am hidden in the populace, with Timur, “hiding in plain sight” so I was afforded a fabulous view of the house as the curtain rose and the lights “popped” on.
The faces of the audience were like little children. This night had Birgit Nilsson in the first row, Elizabeth Taylor center of the house with George Hamilton, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, literally everywhere you looked there was a face you knew,and you know what?
They all looked like ten year old kids…..really talented ones at that!
AWED, surprised and enchanted. THEY LOVED IT.
They went to be blown away by the grandeur and the lavish, glamorous, gigantic emotions of opera.
AND THEY WERE!
I loved that. For a moment, even before the voices would confirm and beguile, the battle to win their hearts had already begun…..
God bless you my dear friend, piece of my heart.