Well in the week after a birthday, as daily life resumes after a long hiatus, the mind turns to the passing of time and the changes it brings. I placed a gamble on the future recently and will resume my opera travels in January. It was with not a little hesitation I did, sadly I no longer trust myself to be able to overcome any obstacle to get to the opera. But having done it, the sight of the tickets in my desk fills me with delight and anticipation. Losing out on a much anticipated opera jaunt to Zurich in July all but broke my heart. Sharing the live experience of the music I love with the people I love is one of greatest joys of my life. I started this blog to help me through a crisis brought on by my MS, I ended another blog because of a previous (though less traumatic) crisis. It feels good to know that things have changed and that I can write my way out of a rough period rather than have the rough period finish my writing. So for today’s delve into retired blogging alter ego Purity’s drawers, it seems fitting to remember her farewell some three years ago now (time flies).
This was to be Purity’s last post. Instead it is ‘mine’. This blog has always straddled a not so fine line between a conversation with myself, which I write, and a chat with the white shirt world, which Purity writes. I have intended for sometime to end it; life has entered a new phase, new challenges. The space and time to write like this (something I so enjoy, especially knowing that sometimes what I write is not just read but enjoyed by others) has been in ever shorter supply. Life demands me elsewhere for now.
Attending the Wiener Staatsoper Alcina seemed like a perfect moment to retire Purity to her ŵest wing library, feet being warmed by poor Mildred while she and Suzette polish off the last of the malt. But sometimes life throws up an experience too rich and deep and wonderful to be flippant. Love of women dressed as men in white shirts and singing beautiful music is of course a fine and honourable and apparently not solitary affectation. But all that is just a cover for what this blog is really all about. This blog is about how music, especially Handel, soothes and comforts, excites and delights one life; mine. And on Saturday night, in Vienna, I was reminded of that so powerfully I think I never will be able to express what it meant to me.
If this were not my last post, I would chatter in Purity style of the white shirt delights of the evening… of how incredible the erotic chemistry between Alcina and Ruggiero was, and the perfection of the two roll shirt sleeve, of the giggling exchange between Harteros and Kasarova at the end, and of the weirdness of seeing VK afterwards (yes folks I was dragged to the back stage door) looking like a supermodel in killer heels and little black number… But I am sure the wonderful An, with whom my Tender Smile and I shared a lovely post opera drink, will do a fantastic job of all the white shirt detail and more over at her place. And she is far better able to do that having seen it not once but thrice! But this is my last post, and that was too wonderful a night at the opera to not be completely honest with myself…
I found peace again this weekend. My lost inner voice, my fears over my health and future, have troubled me so much these last months. Despite all that I have in my life that is joy – my family and friends, a job I enjoy, a wonderful home – I have been ill at ease. I had made progress sure – finding new ways to connect with old pleasures despite the lack of an inner voice, looking more fully into the abyss and learning that it is not so scary in there really. But I have been troubled, and that was made manifest in a sudden inability to listen to Handel. Handel! My god. The backdrop to so much. Lost. Until Saturday night.
As I sat there in the audience waiting for it to begin, I was a little apprehensive. I had barely been able to listen to Handel for weeks, months even. Alcina is a long opera! Would I get bored? Would this kill Handel for me for ever? Well if nothing else Purity would enjoy the scenery I supposed. And “I” was sitting next to the woman who has filled heart with more love than it could ever have imagined possible. OK the opera may be a challenge but the night, the weekend, was special for all sorts of other reasons.
How silly! How silly to doubt Minkowski and Kasarova and Harteros. How silly to doubt Handel! Four hours later I emerged stunned, and alive, and fully at peace, feeling like only moments had passed. It started, fittingly, with Kasarova and mi lusinga. This was not music as sound, this was music as oxygen. My heart and lungs stopped, I was kept alive by this incredible performance. My throat filled with a sob I daren’t release. As the aria ended, well I wouldn’t have cared really, but oh god it was so wonderful to know I was not alone, for afterwards the audience clapped and clapped and clapped. No bravas. This was not the moment for that. Just long, long, long waves of clapping. All of us unable to quite let go of the moment, knowing that it would never happen again. This was it. We had shared it and now we had to let it go since like everything good in life, music is fleeting. But luckily for us there was so much more to come. Every performance was wonderful. Harteros – unbelievable. Cangemi knocked me off my seat with her beautiful piano singing especially, Hammerstrom, so rich and warm, and of course Kasarova. Dominating the stage, so unbelievably fully Ruggerio, acting better than I have ever seen her (thank you Mr Noble for letting us all see for a whole opera what we have seen here and there elsewhere).
As the night flew by, my soul comforted and cosseted, I found myself unable to stop the tears. This, I thought to myself, is why whatever forces animate the world invented music. As I sat in the top balcony that night, I felt exactly as I had done that morning in the arms of my love. And I suddenly realised that was what this was. It was love. Pure, simple, love. That she was there with me, that we shared this, only added to the perfection of the weekend. Not the opera, the weekend. That was what Alcina meant to me. A shared act of love in the middle of a perfect weekend. As we wandered throughout the city streets, sat for hour after hour in coffee houses, drank wine by candelight in a wonderful little Viennese cellar, all fears disappeared and the abyss seemed filled with light and the soothing sounds of love. I stood that night in the Staatsoper and cheered. For the wonderful performers and back stage folks who brought us such a perfect night. For Handel, who fills my life with such pleasure. For all of in us the audience for sharing so many moments of unrepeatable, unexplainable wonder.
But mostly my love I cheered, and wept and smiled, for you.