Thursday, February 6, 2014

Teatro dell'Concerto: Petite messe solennelle

I have been to exactly one opera (in Lebanon, NH) on the most tragic date of my storied dating timeline. About a week ago, I went to the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma to get tickets for a show. It happened last night, was holier than opera.

The nice Italian (Roman, actually nobody is Italian) woman sitting next to me buys tickets when she wants to see something and likes Verdi best. She said this was the first time they had done a concert, as far as she knew; it has always been operas. We were about to witness Petite messe solennelle.

She pointed out the inscription above us that said in Roman numerals (natch!) that the theater had been built in 1928; it bore the names of Benito Mussolini and the last king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III. A strange shadow to sit in. I asked if she knew the folklore associated with the ceiling paintings. (Vittorio was also king of Ethiopia.) She did not.

This photo of Teatro dell'Opera di Roma is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I was in Row 3, Seat 3, so close that I could see the four soloists. The soprano had me transfixed for nearly the whole show. I watched her emerald and diamond earrings twinkle. I watch the cords in her neck tighten and slacken. I watched her symmetrical mouth with awe and reminded myself that kissing her passionately might be as risky as clasping hands with a pianist too tightly. I wept during the Qui tollis peccata mundi and hung on every word during the Crucifixus.

The alto was chatty, distracting, and temperamental. When her music stand was the wrong height she grew visibly agitated and held her music in her hand instead. She mouthed or sung along with the chorus, which I suppose was her prerogative. This was odd, but showed that the music was affecting her.

The same could not be said of the bass. He seemed professional and talented, but unaware that this was a religious piece of music. His passion seemed to be for infecting the notes with his talent not infecting the Mass with his music. So, too, the tenor seemed there to do his job and he did it magnificently, but without the passion of the two women. One can tell the difference, I think, but I should judge not that I should also be judged.

You may judge the soprano's beauty and talent for yourself:

I am amazed by the paucity of video available showing her talent. Maybe I am no judge, but I think she could do for opera what Papa Francesco is doing for my Church (i.e., fill the seats again).

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