Raisa, are there any happy operas?
Of course, I said, plenty.
Can we study a happy opera next time?
By all means!
The choice seemed pretty obvious: what opera is happier than Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia?
(To me personally, Il Barbiere has a very special significance. It was my very first opera ever that I saw with my mom at the age of 5. And even though back in the 70s opera was very different from what it's like now, for me it was love at first sight!)
The night of November 3rd, my new Opera Seminar Season was officially kicked off with a "small but tasteful" reception to start with and a Rossini opera talk /2007 Met's Il Barbiere di Siviglia to follow.
Above you can see the cover of the brochure that I created for this seminar. Feel free to click on the image to read one of my favorite Rossini's quotes.
This year, with our signature Music Cake already on the menu, I was still willing to go an extra mile. After all, since it was about Rossini, it had to be about flavor, not just music! For who, pray tell, knew more about food and loved it with more passion than Rossini?
Thus, the feature treat of our reception was Rossini. That's right: the drink! Cocktail Rossini.
Ideally, Rossini's key ingredients are champagne and strawberry paste (1/3 paste to 2/3 champagne, for those of you who are interested).
However, because at work we are not allowed to serve alcohol to seniors, nor was I dying to get involved in a blending activity minutes before my reception, I simply had to create my very own alcohol-free version of Rossini out of...
See the picture?
Does it look fantastic or what?
Especially those champagne flutes, right?
Oh, dollar stores can come in handy at times, my friends.
The 26 students that attended the seminar were very surprised and truly impressed with that drink. It was something tasty, new, creative and elegant that spiced up the evening and put them in the right mood.
My Rossini's got far more popular than the cake, and it was at that time that the learning started! Even before my Rossini talk, my students already learned that besides being a great opera composer, Rossini was a great gourmand!
As much as I love Rossini and know about his life, when giving my talk, my main concern is always the age and endurance level of my audience. My students are very passionate about opera, but unfortunately get tired very fast.
I always want to say so much, but I know I only have 10 minutes of their attention to squeeze in the most interesting and essential things. Just 10 (if I am interesting). If not - I only have 3.
So I juggle that information along and adjust as I proceed without being stingy. After all, learning is about the quality, not the quantity.
So, as humorously and lightly as I could I touched upon Rossini's birth, early years and youth, his best operas, his friends and his wives (the Muse and the Beauty) and swirled down to the creation of Il Barbiere in the legendary 13 days.
OK, OK, I know - some of you already said 14, and others -19. However, the sequence of numbers in Rossini's life is so powerful ( if not symbolic), that it just screams 13! (How could someone who was born on February 29th and died on Friday, 13th not have written his best opera in just 13 days???!!!)
That's what the composer himself claimed anyway, so I went ahead with 13.
And then I made way for the show and let the miracle of Rossini's music, along with the incredible voices of Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Florez and Peter Mattei, enrapture my audience.
They were stunned, even those already familiar with Rossini's music. They applauded after every great aria and duet! They did not even want to take a break to go to the restroom!
Of course, one student left after Scene 1, and three more after Act 1. One always has to expect that. It's absolutely normal. The rest stayed and enjoyed it up to the very last minute.
At the end, as I was reminding them the synopsis of the last scene, I said:
'When I watch it, I think that Rossini should have kept the original name of the opera, Almaviva and now you will see why'.
And then there was Juan Diego Florez with Cessa and I think my students were so mesmerized that they were forgetting to breathe.
As the opera ended, a group of students came up to me to express their gratitude and appreciation. All of a sudden it struck me that they all looked younger! Their faces were lightened up with happiness and almost youthful inspiration and were glowing from within.
They kept going on and on about how incredible Juan Diego Florez and Joyce DiDonato were. I mentioned to them that I had met Joyce and that she thought that our class was such a wonderful idea and was sending them her greetings. I think it really crowned the evening for them.
I left feeling extremely grateful and truly satisfied. To see those faces that young and inspired was worth every effort of preparation and all the work in the world!