Before we get to this week’s oldie, please, bear with me.
I’m no fan of opera.
One of the best jobs a young guy could have while working his way through college was an usher at the old Performing Arts Center, now known as The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Oh the stories I could tell.
What a great time that was. Fortunately I was exposed to a wide variety of genres, and that included opera.
Purists will bristle but I’m being brutally honest when I concede I simply couldn’t stand the yelling and screaming, and the condescending, arrogant patrons.
Every couple of weeks the ushers went through a scheduling process with an alphabet system. You were given a list of upcoming shows, dates and times and for each show you filled in a letter.
“A” meant you were definitely available and wanted to work.
“B” meant you’d prefer not to work but would work if needed.
“C” meant you were unavailable and couldn’t (or didn’t want to) work.
You were only allowed a minimal number of “C” selections.
I always, always, put a “C” next to the opera performance on the form.
If you think the stereotypical opera singer looks like…
You’d be wrong.
That’s 46-year old Anna Yuryevna Netrebko, a Russian Austrian operatic soprano famous for her lustrous voice, dramatic characterizations, and alluring presence on stage.
When Netrebko soured on hopes of becoming an actress she changed directions, and pursued a career in opera. In 1990 she entered the St. Petersburg State Conservatory (then the Leningrad Conservatory). While a student there she scrubbed floors at St. Petersburg’s famed Mariinsky Theatre . That gave her the opportunity to watch rehearsals of operas and ballets for free.
Listen very carefully to the “Musetta’s Waltz” melody from La Bohème by Puccini, especially the very beginning and the final 50 seconds or so.
Rock and roll had taken over the country in 1959. Even so, a young, husky-voiced Della Reese, borrowing from opera and appealing to teen’s parents, soared to #2 on the singles chart.
Last November Reese died at the age of 86.