Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Post 150: We Will Win

Last night, I attended an opera for the second time in my life. My good buddy Brandon bought us 'Family Circle' tickets (nosebleed seats that actually end up being not too bad) for Turandot, a play about a Chinese princess who hates men and requires that all suitors solve three riddles in order to win her hand in marriage. The catch is that if they fail to answer correctly, they are beheaded. Enter Calaf, a mysterious stranger who can't resist Turandot or her challenge; the action proceeds from there.

As I said, this was my second time at the Met. The first go-round, I saw Orfeo ed Eurydice, which was an interesting experience just for being at the famous theater and seeing what the operatic craze was all about, but which frankly left me bored. I decided opera wasn't my thing, and wasn't overly ashamed. Different strokes, and such. So when I looked up the running time of Turandot yesterday at work, and saw it was 3 and a half hours, I made a loose plan to politely take my leave during the second intermission. 210 minutes is far too long to sit through something that isn't wholly compelling.*

*Incidentally, there are 480 minutes in the spirit-breaking hours between 9 and 5.

Little did I know, cynical me, that I would be blown away in a kind of stereotypical, cliched opera way. The show, originally directed by Franco Zeffirelli (who also directed the pretty awesome 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet), is full of dazzling stagecraft, and the music is melodious in a way that my first opera entirely lacked. Music needs melody like humans need water; without, it becomes sort of sickly and limp. Turandot was composed by Giacomo Puccini as he was dying of throat cancer in the 1920s, and it's every bit the spectacular final breath of a virtuosic talent.

Anyway, as I was watching in my plush Family Circle seat, I felt it would be supremely important to relate the opera to sports, and the Yankees in particular, in today's blog. So on the verge of our 27th World Series title, I will now give you a taste of Turandot's most famous aria, "Nessun Dorma." It occurs in the beginning of the third act, with Calaf utterly determined to succeed in his conquest of the princess. You'll recognize the music after about a minute. The first version below is sung by Placido Domingo, on a stage that I'm almost positive is the Met, since the set is exactly the same as last night. It has helpful Spanish subtitles, in case you don't speak Italian. The second version is a performance by Pavarotti, who I'm told is strong, vocally speaking. (I will pause now to recognize that I just typed 'vocally speaking' without intending any mischief. This is a 'moment.' What kind, I'm not sure...)

Can I admit that this aria gave me some serious goosebumps without making things weird between us? Regardless, Calaf's final line, before the orchestral swell, is a pronouncement of triumph, germane to the quest of our vaunted Yankees, proclaiming victory in the lonely, uncertain pre-dawn hours: "I Will Win."


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