Oh! I wasn’t? Well, maybe I wasn’t talking about it, but I was thinking about it, and in my household, that constitutes a continuing conversation rather than a festival of non-sequiturs. That’s the way we operate. First, someone says something that appears to be completely out of the ether, Left Field, or a secret portion of the anatomy generally best left out of conversation. The ensuing stretch of interminable seconds is usually occupied with the second person working out madly in his or her head what the remark meant, how on earth it had any relevance, if it is possible to decipher, and–oh! There it is! Suddenly, the very long and convoluted train of thought that led from a comment or conversation long since ended (or so one thought) reappears, not having stopped at the station or even derailed but instead having wound through uncharted territory and visited innumerable exotic towns along the way before returning to view.
As my spouse and I have just returned from a theatre viewed the Metropolitan Opera‘s live-transmission broadcast of Giuseppe Verdi‘s ‘Ernani‘, I can say that we two are evidently not alone in this discombobulating sense of the very tenuous connectivity of perceived reality. I was quite delighted with seeing the broadcast, our whole reason for attending in the first place being the Met live-broadcast debut of the exquisite-voiced Angela Meade, who ‘graduated’ university with my husband in a sense, being a senior student and outstanding soprano soloist in the choir he conducted and took on his farewell Scandinavian tour as he left the university where he’d been teaching for 18 years. Besides her very lovely persona, we knew and admired the beauty of her voice then and she proved again today that it has only further ripened into full bloom. Frankly, she could open the poorly translated operating manual for a lawn mower and sing from it and it would be musically and artistically fulfilling and entirely worth the hearing.
While I’m being frank, I’d have to say in addition that I think the libretto of ‘Ernani’ could be surpassed in literary merit, coherence and comprehensibility by the aforementioned lawn mower manual. Opera is, admittedly, rarely sought out for its exemplary logic and natural progression or, probably, for much resemblance to the real world and its history and human actions therein. That’s not why we go to the opera. But among operas I’ve seen and heard, ‘Ernani’ is mighty high (and I use the word advisedly) on the short list of the most wildly improbable, disjointed and just plain wacky so-called plots. That train not only left the rails right out of the station, it went straight off a cliff.
Meanwhile, back in his studio, young Signore Verdi was either smitten enough with the romance of a love quadrangle to ignore the outrageously outlandish pastiche on a plot-line, or perhaps had merely imbibed an entire Jeroboam of Barolo by himself, because he took that absurd libretto and proceeded to set the whole thing to equally incongruous music. Three hours of it. Thankfully, whether the Barolo had any chance to or not, Verdi eventually matured into writing stuff that had some relationship to the text, however ludicrous the latter happened to be.
Opera is at least so honest as to call itself ‘work’, it’s just not entirely up-front about the post-compositional work remaining to be done by audience members who might find it quite the laborious process to decipher what’s going on, with whom, and how. Never mind when, where and why. But I mustn’t pick at nits too freely; after all, our nice little cozy home conversations might just as well constitute the storyline of some incipient opera themselves. I have no musical compositional skills, so I couldn’t compete with Verdi even at his most immature, but maybe if I gloss over my melodic shortcomings with a few additional high Cs and a royal assassination or two thrown in no one will even notice that I’ve wandered far and constantly from my original subject. I may have mentioned that I tend to do that. I forget. Oh, well. It happens. And while I’m on the subject . . .