Tear Jerkers

I got the subscription brochure for next season at the Metropolitan Opera in the mail a couple of days ago. It looks like they’ve got quite a few things I’ve never seen before lined up: Verdi’s “Don Carlo” with Roberto Alagna, Rossini’s not often seen”Le Comte Ory” with Juan Diego Florez, Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” with the gorgeous Danielle de Niese, Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” with the lovely Anna Netrebko, Gluck’s “Iphigenie en Tauride” with Placido Domingo, Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” with conductor Simon Rattle making his Met debut, Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades” with the beautiful Karita Mattila, Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette” with my favorite singer, Angela Gheorghiu, and celebrating the 100th anniversary of its world premiere at the Met, Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West.” (Then there’s John Adams’ “Nixon in China,’ which I’ll have to think about.)

Of course, there are some that I have seen before but would happily see again, such as “Tosca” and “Boris Godunov” (NOT “Badenov”!).

Still, there are several months left to this season, and last night I went to see “La Boheme.” It’s unusual for me to go to the Met on a Wednesday night as I get home very late (I usually go on Friday, when I can sleep late the next day), but I had traded a subscription ticket for a Richard Strauss opera (not one of my favorite opera composers) for the Puccini gem and no Fridays were available.

Last night’s “Boheme” starred the beautiful Russian soprano Anna Netrebko – one of opera’s hottest commidities right now – as Mimi, and she was very effective as the tragic heroine. This is one of those operas that people have seen over and over again and keep going, and seeing it each time with a different cast helps to keep it interesting. Piotr Beczala was her lover, Rodolfo, with Nicole Cabell as Musetta. The ending is, of course, a tear jerker, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the house who had to pull a hanky out at the end. (In fact, I am certain, as I saw the man sitting next to me do the same. Unfortunately, he was also a heavy breather, so throughtout much of the opera I had to listen to his pulmonary functions in operation.)

This was a “Boheme” to remember, but the most memorable performance, for me, was when I worked at the Met as a supernumerary (i.e. extra) and appeared one night in Act 2 as one of the soldiers that march down the steps and across the stage at the end. What was most memorable to me were Acts 3 and 4, after I was done with being on stage.

A friend of mine had asked me to get an autograph from the tenor, Ramon Vargas, so I just sat on a chair in the wings, watching and waiting for the show to end. (I wasn’t supposed to do that, but I asked one of the regulars there and he told me I should be okay.) So, I sat there offstage, all by myself, with an occasional stagehand going by. I could only see a sliver of the audience in the front rows from where I was sitting, so it was almost as though the singers were performing for me alone and nobody else. It was one of those instances that almost seems transcendent, and when Vargas cried out “Mimi!” upon his lover’s death and the music swelled, I got chills just running up and down my spine.

I doubt that I will ever experience a “Boheme” like that again – but I do feel blessed that it happened even once.

“La Boheme” is a tear jerker by design, but sometimes circumstances conspire to achieve the same effect without intention.

Like many, I’ve been watching the winter Olympics on TV, including the figure skating. Four years ago, at the winter games in Torino, Italy, I absolutely loved watching the Japanese figure skater Shizuka Arakawa, who deservedly won the gold medal. She was a true “figure of grace.”

So, I’ve been wondering upon whom to confer the “figure of grace” award for this year’s Olympics. On Tuesday night, I watched the women’s figure skating short program, and there were a lot of impressive performances, such as those by the American Mirai Nagasu, Asada Mao from Japan and of course, the Korean Kim Yu-na. Still, while the athleticism was there as well as a lot of showmanship, that sense of grace and elegance that Arakawa brought just seemed missing.

I did see a great deal of elegance in the gold medal winners for Ice Dancing, the Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. While I was hoping that the Americans, Meryl Davis and Charlie White would win (I think Davis has a very interesting face), I have to admit that the Canadians outdid them. (The programs they skated may have something to do with it. The Americans’ skated a melodramatic program set to Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” while the Canadians skated a beautiful program set to a symphony by Gustav Mahler.)

Then I saw Joannie Rochette. If you don’t know the story by now, this Canadian girl’s mother died a few days before she herself had to skate. (If I understand correctly, it was unexpectedly, from a heart attack.) Everybody in the arena knew this, of course, and being a Canadian in Vancouver, she was given a rousing ovation. Then she skated. Beautifully. When it was over, she stood there in the middle of the rink on the verge of tears.

I was not on the verge of tears – as the tears had begun to cascade from both eyes minutes before. I think it was the most emotional thing I had ever seen on television – not just from a sporting event, but anything. Even Scott Hamilton, one of the announcers, had trouble speaking because he was so choked up. It sounded like the other announcers were in the same condition, and I doubt that there was a dry eye in the house. (I described it on the phone to my aunt today, and even she began to cry.)

So, the 2010 “Figure of Grace” award goes to Joannie Rochette from Canada, for performing at such a high level and so beautifully under such difficult circumstances. The silver medalist at the world championships last year, she finished third in the short program Tuesday night. I hope she’ll do well in the long program tonight and will be able to stand up on the podium at the end.
At the top, a photo of Carlotta that I have surprisingly been able to upload from my computer.

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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1 Response to Tear Jerkers

  1. Agree with you as to the emotion surrounding Rochette — a story that tugs you every as bit as strongly as Mimi's (and I'm a sucker there, too). I trust you caught the performance last night — Rochette was again good (although I think she got the Bronze for sentiment), but that performance by Kim Yu-na was nothing short of phenomenal, earning an emotional response in its own right.

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