Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Upcoming: vocal fireworks!

Fireworks over the Sydney Opera House. Photo from, of all places.

Exciting news that I have been dying to share: there won't be any new posts for several days, because I will be in San Francisco celebrating my 21st birthday at a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor--starring the one and only Natalie Dessay!

This plan has been a long time in the making. Longtime readers will recall that I got into an opera phase last fall, kick-started by some YouTube videos of Dessay. Prior to that, I'd mostly thought of opera as beautiful music that conveyed a generalized wash of emotion. I had never seen anyone like Dessay, who makes specific, pointed acting choices on every line she sings. I revised all my ideas about what to look for in opera--and because singer/actors like Dessay make opera into truly compelling theater, I found myself liking it more and more.

Then I saw that Dessay would be performing in San Francisco this summer, and started developing one of my Crazy Marissa Schemes. (I get these fairly often, having an overactive imagination and all.) See, I was born in San Francisco, and Dessay's final performance there coincides with my 21st birthday--and if I was there, that would be just too perfect and memorable, wouldn't it? I doubted that my parents would go along with the idea, or maybe I just didn't want to get my hopes up--but they love the Bay Area, and the arts, and they consented!

And after watching the PBS broadcast of La Fille du Régiment starring Natalie Dessay, my parents might be even more excited than I am. I mean, they liked her voice when I played some of her CDs for them, but seeing her in action takes things to a new level. I think my father, especially, had never seen such a physical and funny and un-pretentious opera singer. "I can't believe they let her peel potatoes onstage--with a knife!" he kept saying.

Of course, in Lucia she'll be using a knife in a much different context, and avoiding comedy antics. But her performance of "Il faut partir" on the broadcast was very sincere and touching, so if she can do that in the middle of a silly comedy, imagine what she can do in a real tragedy!

I got an idea for an opera spoof, though, while watching La Fille du Régiment and anticipating Lucia. Both are Donizetti operas where the coloratura heroine despairs of being forced to marry a man she does not love. So, what if Tonio didn't arrive in time to save Marie at the end of La Fille? Well, I imagine her marrying the Duchesse de Krakenthorp's nephew, stabbing him in his bed (with military precision, naturally), and singing a mad scene. Then Tonio, unlike the wimpy Edgardo in Lucia, avenges Marie by killing the Marquise de Berkenfeld, who forced her into this marriage. After all, he's learned courage and marksmanship since joining the Army.

Links to amuse, in my absence: check out the blog of Sarah Noble, a fellow Dessay fan who just saw the San Francisco Lucia; learn the connection between Hitchcock and Lucia di Lammermoor; and, if you haven't already, search for Natalie Dessay on YouTube. May I recommend "Tornami a vagheggiar" to put a smile on your face, and for something more moving, "Adieu notre petite table".

And of course, happy 4th of July!

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