[Anja Harteros, “Ah, mio cor” – Handel’s “Alcina”, Vienna 2010. Clip with thanks to musicalpunchlines’s channel]
It’s 3 p.m., and I’m still at the office, looking out into a decidedly gray afternoon. Yet in less than three hours, I’ll already be at the opera and will probably pinch myself and wonder how I got to be so lucky: The 2016 Vienna “Alcina” is finally upon us.
My excitement is somewhat tempered by the fact that I am facing this evening without the company of Dr. T., who will hopefully arrive tomorrow to share the rest of our planned Baroque Week shenanigans.
In about three hours, I’ll probably post a wacky photo of the cast poster (wacky because I will likely be jumping up and down with glee while taking it) and juggle adrenline and endorphines, but right now, I still get a few moments to savor this – not just the anticipation, but also the fact that I get to engage in it: that I get to celebrate the joy of looking forward to something before it sweeps me up and away and will likely make me post rather incoherent things.
About fifteen years ago, I bought the most expensive opera concert tickets of my life up to that point and took my then girlfriend to hear Ariodante with Les Musiciens du Louvre featuring Anne Sofie von Otter and Patricia Petibon. I kind of sold it as a birthday present, but the actual birthday in that was mine.
I remember counting down the days, and planning the route, and planning what to wear, and being so excited that I – and I was in my mid-twenties then – took no time to appreciate the fact that I got to celebrate that anticipation in the first place (it turned out to be an unforgettable evening, of course, and it was also the only time I ever lined up at a stage entrance for an autograph). I thought, as we do when we are young, that I would always have things about which I would feel that excited.
The opera events about which I have been this excited in the past fifteen years have been few. Many have been beautiful or moving, but the things I have looked forward to like to this new encounter with Les Musiciens du Louvre and with Papatanasiu’s Alcina? There have been few. You are preoccupied, you are busy, you simple don’t have the time or the energy to allow things to become this meaningful for you.
I remember buying the Musicients Du Louvre/Minkowsi Rameau recording (Une symphonie imaginaire) and I still remember my heartbeat in the moment of removing the plastic sleeve because – I had heard the concert live – I knew this would be happiness, vivid and detailed and with gentle joy, like standing at the perfect distance to a Fragonard painting, close enough to make out the movement, but not so close that it dissolves again.
What are the odds that, by chance (and by chance I mean by Dr. T’s emails), you discover a singer whose vocal and scenic portrayal of something manages to move you to the core? (to your own surprise, because, really, someone who is not a mezzo or a contralto…) What are the odds that you do not get one, but two streamed shows by such a singer within the span of a few months, and in a role that you cherish and easily relate to?
And to then discover that this same singer, within that same year, will be starring right in your neighborhood (or at least in a moderately accessible place – I do admit that I live in the most perfect opera place on earth at the moment), and in a production of an opera that ranks among your very favorite works? It’s an embarassment of riches, really.
And before I’ll straighten out my white shirt collar and rush off in excitement later, I now find myself sitting in a daze, smiling out into the gray afternoon without even realizing it.
Perhaps, in fifteen years – wherever I will be then, if I am still around – I will remember this: gray skies and smiles, the sound of the heating in the corner and the scrape of the cufflinks against my tabletop as I type these lines, glancing at my ticket in the corner of the desk. And I will remember happiness.
How did I get to be so lucky?