Tuesday, January 5, 2010
"But for opera I would never have written Leaves of Grass,"
Walt Whitman is said to have acknowledged in later life.
I first discovered opera when I was a child coloring on the floor in my grandmother's parlor while she listened to the Met broadcast on Saturday afternoons. My memories of the romance between my father and my mother are intricately bound to the melodies of Madama Butterfly. When my husband and I were choosing the music for our wedding ceremony we wanted to honor our parents with pieces that had meaning for them. For my Viennese father-in-law and Bavarian mother-in-law, we chose Mozart. For my parents, it was "Un Bel Di," Cio-Cio-San's hopeful dream of happiness.
I don't know that I would never have written without the influence of opera, but the motifs of Puccini and Verdi that filled my childhood have certainly shaped my vision of the elements of a passionate love story--the backdrop of a specific, climactic moment in history (the fall of Saigon in "A Daughter's Journey," the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in "The Hand That Gives the Rose"); lovers from widely divergent backgrounds thwarted by family, duty or political upheaval (the privileged daughter Giulia defying her conservative family to embrace Paolo, the union organizer with the fiery pen in Dancing on Sunday Afternoons). The stakes are high; the language is lyrical; the ending is not always happy-ever-after but has integrity and coherence in the midst of great sacrifice.
Has a piece of music found its way into what you do?