Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2011 from The Last Verista


Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy, happy, and love-filled holiday season.  See you in the New Year!!!

Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Ode Saffica” for the 21st century


As of late, I have been immersed in my writing and continue to ponder my mentor, the philosopher/poet/composer and most controversial “scapigliato”, Arrigo Boito.  In 1863, Boito wrote a Sapphic Ode to art in which he addressed the state of opera post Risorgimento.  He often wrote emotionally about art, and perhaps we don’t do this enough.  When one is engulfed in the trials and tribulations of academic research and writing, it is usually unnecessary to write emotionally, but factually.  Perhaps I’ve reached my boiling point and need to be emotional about my art and I chose to do it here.  Maybe I’ve been influenced by Boito…or maybe I have come to understand him so much so that I’ve chosen to adopt his “disheveled attitude.”

Art and the properties that define it swing on a constantly shifting pendulum.  But, what it is that controls the motion of that pendulum, where it stops and where it ends, where it pauses, and how quickly it shifts from side to side?  From the onset of this all-encompassing art, the shifting has been unavoidable, sometimes welcome, sometimes dreaded, but always, always a constant.  The one thing you can be sure of in art is that things are in constant flux.

Many nights I lay down my heavy mind, filled with continuous thought, and ponder this art and my place within it.  I suppose we all question our places within any grand structure to which we play part.  Simply, without it I would not want to live.  There is nothing to hear if music not be present; if the human voice were to end its plentiful expression, as it were, what else would there be for me?  To some, maybe this is too serious a proclamation.  To them, I say, “art is life.”  To them I say in the words of Adorno, “We do not speak to music, music speaks to us.  And, when we think ourselves closest to it, it lingers and waits sad eyed for us to answer.”

Have you ever stood next to a human being whose body vibrates with the splendid energy that the singing voice exudes?  A metaphysical entity if ever there was one, it is from this world and yet from another.  Consequently, I have had this opportunity to stand next to voices that bleed golden shimmer from within their fiery souls.  It is in those moments that I am humbled and awestruck to serve this art that is often surrounded by media and popular culture.  Art is not autonomous and yet it could exist as such.  For me, this is religion.  This is sacred for me.  Somedays I feel completely unworthy; others, ready to fight for the truth that art retains within its deepest self.  And how, you might ask, do we find that truth? Open yourself and expose yourself in the most vulnerable of ways, sing from your soul without shame, care not what others say or what critics think is right or wrong, maintain the values of those whose art you perform, and always, always with the most fragile and courageous love.

When someone you love is gone, and you hear music….does your heart not cry the most painful of melodies? When you fall in love and you hear music, does not every song you hear remind you of that person? How music plays in the soundtrack of our lives….and how often are we oblivious to it?

When the violin weeps its last, when the piano’s soundboard resonates for the last time, when the tubas growl no more, when the timpani are silent, and when the voice has exhaled its last vibrant exaltation, what remains….is love.  O’ gentle and destructive art, wise are you to select your warriors.  I, for one, kneel in humble respect of you that overwhelms me every day of my life.  Your devoted servant……

Published in: on October 24, 2009 at 1:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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A more fashionable Indiana Jones, who’s a lady?

Indiana Jones

Throughout this blog, I have decided to ask questions that maybe you opera lovers want to ask but are afraid to.  Since a large part of my life is devoted to opera history, why not talk about opera history!?  And NO!!!…just because something has the word “history” attached to it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s boring, dry, lame, and not exciting.  Frankly, I find history one of the most fascinating and stimulating areas of study; if someone knows how to approach it in a welcoming and user-friendly way, that is.  Over the past several years, books like The DaVinci Code have brought historical novels back into fashion.  And so, I’m really excited since the text I’m working on reads like a treasure trove.  The only difference is, it’s not fiction…it’s the truth, which makes it all the more exciting.

Now that I’m on it….several years ago I really developed a fascination with opera.  I loved languages and literature and was studying piano almost obsessively, so I had no interest in singing (although I was a closet singer…I would sing when I was by myself).  My high school music teacher had organized a trip to the Canadian Opera Company to see Rigoletto.  So, like everyone else in the department, I put my little self on the bus and had no idea what I was going to see.  I had heard operas on recording and owned several but had never seen a live one.  To make a long story short…I couldn’t get out of my seat that night and the tears didn’t stop even into the night.  Afterwards, it suffices to say I had found my life’s obsession.

Fast forward….after years of studying voice, singing in Europe and North America, and completing a Masters that specialized in Puccini’s Turandot, I’m on a plane to Milan to scrounge through three libraries in search of some documents that I know are there, but I have no idea where.  Imagine, risking a research grant for which you wrote, “I know these documents exist and are located in one of three libraries.”  The grant committees must have realized my passion and since the background is absolutely compelling, they put their faith in me.  But where?  Where in the heck would I find these documents from the 1860s?  After completing my PhD coursework, I began to focus on my dissertation, focusing on a period of opera between Verdi and Verismo called, “Scapigliatura,” which loosely translates to “dishevelledness.”  Not only did I immerse in this period of art and music, I too had become “dishevelled” like these artists. So, like a more fashionable Indiana Jones, I arrived at the libraries where I was greeted by a number of respectful people who thought it very strange that a Canadian girl had come all this way to look for Italian historical documents.

And you think history is boring?  I will never forget how it felt when the librarian gave me a pair of white gloves and wheeled out a cart that was piled high with chronicles that I had seemingly been looking for in every major library database in the world and come up with, “search not found,” or “no items were found.”  I knew that these documents existed, but I just didn’t know where.  The journey was long, difficult, sometimes draining, and I am so glad that I went with my gut and kept going.  Result:  the grant paid for over 1800 Euros worth of micro filming because I wanted these documents back with me in Canada.  What I have compiled out of these and my own very long 8 years of research, is a story of music, opera, politics, two major composers and a publisher, and what I consider A SCANDAL!  A great historical novel wouldn’t be complete without scandal now, would it?

So, how will the academic populace take my information?…Stay tuned!

Not sure, but then…who ever believed Indiana Jones, and he was always right!

Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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