Over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about our season, the future of music and what is opera in this day and age. More specifically, what is opera on Long Island, at the Sands Point Preserve.
The Sands Point Preserve is not just another beautiful place, it is an oasis of beauty and elegance. Driving down the long driveway of the overarching trees puts you in the state of mind of a different time. A time when we weren’t always connected to the internet through the jee jaw that also works as our own movie studio, camera, telephone, answering service and library. It is an almost magical event, the fact that ATT doesn’t get good service at the preserve only helps to add to this out of time and space phenomenon.
There are 3 main things that have been occurring to me that separate an evening at the opera from that of any other kind of event.
First there is the sound of the human voice is all it’s beauty and fragility, singing over an orchestra. Un-amplified. This is one of the most important things to me. We are so used to hearing the human voice through headphones, speakers and over PA systems that we fail to realize the stunning power and majesty that our voice, by itself can produce. When I listen Julia singing Sempre Libra or Stefanos’ Di Provenza it is not just a aural experience, you feel the vibration on your skin, on the back of your neck. It is essentially sensual thing. We as humans can recognize what they are doing, even if we cannot ourselves do it, and we feel a reaction inside as we breath with them, as we hear the pain or love in their voice and strive with them for those pearls of sound. There is something to be said about the sound of real instruments playing as well, with our 22 pieces the sound begins to wash over you, it transports you to a different reality where life has an underscore, where the subtlest emotion is heard clear as day. As one of my mentors Janet Bookspan always said “Music is what emotion sounds like.” and I hear the interplay between strings and winds and brass as that own torrent of emotions that our characters on stage must be going through. Sometimes all working together rushing us forward and sometimes fighting with each other for dominance in their internal struggles.
Second we have the emotional excessiveness that is opera. There is no getting around it, when someone is in love in an opera, it is an all encompassing tragic and beautiful love. When Thor, our Alfredo pours out his heart to Violetta, she is almost powerless against this raw, beautiful and exposed emotion. It is actually more exposed and pure than we as mere mortals can really ever allow ourselves to be. To open ourselves to everything that the world has to offer, good and bad, as long as we can face it with this person afar having known. In the second act Germont comes to Violetta and asks her to give up her Alfredo, again for love. For the love of his daughter, and the sister of Alfredo. It tears at her heart, just as it tears at ours.
The third is that a night at the opera is a happening. It is a chance to dress up, to be seen, to see. What I love about act one of Traviata, is that it is actually set in a place and time where people would be dressed up, in a elegant party. So much like an evening at the opera at Sands Point Preserve.