It was described as a one-time, one-night only event, so it sounded like a great time for me to expose myself to opera. The Dallas Opera presented tenor Marcello Giorani and conductor Evan Rogister. It was a series of songs from various operas, not a full-blown Opera.
It’s not really my FIRST exposure to opera. I’ve seen a few shows at Dallas’ Winspear Opera House, including Madame Butterfly, which proved to me that you don’t necessarily have to understand the language to get the story. (Captions in English were there to help, but I found I didn’t always need them.)
This event sounded different. It was all about the music and not about a particular story. I went with a bit of nervousness, figuring that without a story to follow and without a good knowledge of opera, I might feel lost.
I didn’t need to worry. It’s true, I didn’t know most of the songs. But the captions filled me in on the lyrics, while the Dallas Opera Orchestra filled me with awe. You can be a fan of any genre of music and appreciate the skill and precision that go into the performance. In this electronic age where music can be recorded with any number of tracks, and each performance is recorded multiple times until it’s just right, it’s amazing to hear fifty-some-odd musicians, all playing together, perfectly synchronized, with no do-overs.
When the piece is supposed to be loud, they all get loud. When it’s supposed to be quiet, they all get quiet. Your brain can pick out any individual instrument if you choose, yet in a sense they all play with one voice. That’s where a great conductor comes in, and I was very impressed with the cohesiveness of the orchestra under Mr. Rogister’s direction.
It’s also amazing to hear all of these instruments with no electronic enhancement. Even when they’re playing quietly, the sound fills the auditorium. They can play loud without hurting your ears.
Mr. Giordani has been described as the leading tenor of his generation (Opera News, March 2008). I’ve only been exposed to the most well-known tenors: Pavarotti, Domingo, Bocelli. In my humble, Opera-underexposed opinion, it’s unfair to compare to the household name tenors. Put those comparisons aside and you can appreciate an excellent performance.
I was very impressed by soprano Jan Cornelius, a Houston-native. She’s got a very distinctive voice, even at the highest notes of her range and she displayed incredible control. She performed several solos and joined Giordani for duets, including the encore, Libiamo Ne’lieti Calici” from Guiseppi Verdi’s La Traviata.
I mention the name mainly as a chance to title-drop. If you’re as under-exposed to opera as I, most of the titles aren’t familiar, but at least I’ve HEARD of La Traviata. The titles can make Opera seem out of your league, ’til someone helps you with the Italian. La Traviata translates to “The Fallen Woman.” I think we all get THAT story.
If you go to your first Opera, you might be surprised at the stories you find: first love, true love, love-at-first-sight, betrayal and scheming. (There’s a reason the daytime dramas are called soap OPERAS. The stories are surprisingly similar in tone, yet when they’re set to incredible music, they go from amusing to amazing.)
I truly enjoyed the great performances I saw Saturday night. I hope that more familiarity with the material will increase my appreciation.