Italy is synonymous for picturesque landscapes, culinary masterpieces, forward fashion, and a historic regard for tradition. One such tradition that dates back as early as the 1700s is opera.
One might regard opera as an experience reserved solely for a particular class or culture. This is only a perception. What I love about music is the freedom of expression, and the realization of like and different means of expression. Its influence in fact, crosses the globe with a keen understanding of the art form. Opera is storytelling at its finest. The span of centuries and the experiences woven into them come to life in song. Sometimes that song is celebratory, and at other times, it is tragic. Regardless, there should be no mistake that opera is a universal art form, allowing people from all walks of life to tell their story in an incredibly unique way.
In 1998, Aretha Franklin stepped in as a last minute replacement for opera star, Luciano Pavarotti at the Grammy Awards. Franklin’s moving rendition of Nessun Dorma sent a wave of goose bumps racing down my flesh. It was more than the pure beauty of her voice, and the way she cascaded over every note.
Rather, it was what Franklin personified at the moment, she proved that an American voice rooted in a culture of soul, gospel, and spiritual song may embrace and deliver not only a beautiful melody, but tell an immaculate story in a manner that originates in the many wonders of Italy.
In Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, we cross over to Japan, and although an unlikely location for an Italian custom to be born, for many, it is perhaps one of the greatest opera’s written. It showcases opera singing and the friction between Eastern and Western culture. Surely, it is not a mistake that something as breathtaking as opera would openly bypass and share its whimsical notes by all complexions and tones across the globe.
In a quote, Luciano Pavarotti, one of the world’s most renowned opera tenors, once said, “I am open to everything.”
This truly seems to be the message behind what opera is. It is music, in its purest form, and acting as a wonderful gift from a country bursting at the seams with cultural pride. If we can all have this, we are always learning something from one another.