I loved this character.
LOVED rehearsing with Franco the first time, sweeping into rehearsal fresh from a triumph in South America that his fabulous friends all saw and cheered about. An Eb in Aida that had sent the theater, the fabulous Teatro Municipal into a delirium…. They raced the stage, and cheered like I had “scored a goal in a soccer game”, the papers screamed the next day and they brought the film to Franco who greeted me with, “So you are the salvation of Italian opera…..” he went on to recount how he felt my personality was so large and not often used enough, that it was rare and that publics could tell the authentic from the fake, you communicate in a magical way…. and he would “make me an even bigger star than I had ever been……that to know greatness one had to be great…..and he said Great, GREAT you are~~~!! These people here, they don’t understand. If you sang years ago they would be sending you flowers with hidden jewelry and objects of great art.”
Obviously, I was thrilled. My head was spinning, he was often effusive with people, but there were certain words, especially to a soprano, he did not use…..and he had gifted them during that run to me. I sang with a heart full of appreciation and gratitude and in thanks for the opportunity to know him at all much less hear these amazing encouragements.
Singing it with Ghena, and then Gwyneth Jones, and Eva Marton and Placido, and so many great colleagues. Elizabeth Taylor was in the audience for my first one and a friend for life.
That she would serve Calaf, the handsome Prince, all because he smiled at her one day in the palace. She saw that there would never be hope for her, but that in that smile would be her whole world, her love, her child, her sense of duty and future. She saw a Prince who could take the time to smile at a lowly servant. Rare in any time period.
She saw his goodness and his heart, and would die knowing he would offer his life because of a love he felt struck by. Amazing, rare sentimental, Puccini, whose women were often not so tender and exposed, you could tell at the end of his life he was immortalizing someone in music so sublime, someone we may never know who.
This is from a radio broadcast just posted on Youtube.com….. my heart was in this completely, singing for someone, I don’t know who, perhaps, knowing my Prince would always be slightly out of my reach too, and singing for the sublime recognition of it all.