Sunday Morning Opera: Back to My Roots


Yesterday was the first time I’ve been able to listen to opera, or the Met since our great loss.  It was very difficult, and more than a few tears were shed.  Friday night I took the steps to purchase tickets to see the Arizona Opera’s productions of  Le Barbier de Séville and Rheingold.  I think it’s time I get back to my operatic roots.  We can’t go back, no matter how painful it is.  It hurts just thinking we will never see that wonderful smile, ever again.  But – according to my smack down for today, the show must go on.

My operatic roots go back to the May 2, 1978 in Atlanta, during the Metropolitan Opera’s now defunct annual tour.  The moment the curtains opened on the legendary Zeffirelli production of Cavalleria Rusticana I was hooked.  The casts for the double header with Pagliacci included the great baritone Cornell MacNeil, who would become one of my favorites, and the legendary Isola Jones.  I was so in love with it that I purchased tickets for La Favorita, which was on Wednesday. Those were the days when I had very little money.  Yet, I scraped together enough to buy a ticket to see Rigoletto and Don Giovanni.  I would go on to see MacNeil do Rigoletto a number of times at the Met.

But, it was the following Saturday afternoon, May 6, 1978 that literally changed the course of my life.  I fell in love with, and discovered my very first baritone, Sherrill Milnes, doing Don Giovanni.  Fortunately, his Giovanni, as I’ve always said, is now arguably considered the greatest ever.  Of course it is.  He is the greatest ever.  Okay, so I stalked him.  I followed him.  I laughed, I cried, I saw him at the Met.  I saw him in Palm Beach, Miami, Memphis, Houston, and numerous places in between.  I was so pathetic, I was late getting to the funeral home the evening before my grandfather’s funeral so I could score tickets to a recital he was doing in Palm Beach.  BTW:  The recital was the night of his funeral.  And, yes, I went, along with my mother, her two sisters, and a cousin.  Don’t worry, they slipped my grandmother a Benadryl and knocked her out, leaving my sister and brother-in-law, along with a misc. cousin or two with her.

Of course I went backstage, followed by my mother and her two sisters.  Someone who was backstage recognized them as the Froehlich sisters and explained to Mr. Milnes that they had buried their father that day.  Okay, so I am shameless!  He was sooo sweet, hugging everyone, just being his usual kind self.  But – that should explain what an opera freak I am.

I’ve had a very difficult time listening to opera since our horrible tragedy.  I’ve turned off the ring tone on my iPhone.  I can’t even listen to Milnes, let alone him.  I had ordered a copy of his new Rigoletto, that arrived at the house in Ruidoso, after I moved.  I don’t even have the heart to discover what happened to it.

Vesti la giubba is perfect for how I am feeling…

Act! While in delirium,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it’s necessary… make an effort!
Bah! Are you not a man?
You are a clown!
Put on your costume, powder your face.
The people pay, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbina,
laugh, clown, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face – Ah!
Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

Through our tears and our grief, our love for this wonderful sport continues.


When you listen to this amazing line-up, including the very gods of opera, one thing is rather clear, I suspect, if we are to be honest, Joseph Calleja belongs up there on Olympus with the very best.