"As she turned the dial, she found a sound so heavenly that we both stopped still..."
Born on a dairy farm, Patsy Cline and her country cohorts were the only music coming from our barn radio. I never heard anything but country—and every baseball game that was ever broadcast. As young as I was, even I didn’t miss the significance of Sandy Koufax. Our dairymen always listened to radio as they milked the cows, heads tilted back to keep cigarette smoke from getting in their eyes, fast fingers at work. Radio was the company kept when their homeland stories had been told one too many times.
I do remember the very first moment that I heard opera on our farm. I was young, maybe 7, and in our farmhouse kitchen. My mom was cooking breakfast and I was sitting at the table watching how the early morning sunlight came through the kitchen window. Sheer curtains were blowing in the morning breeze and the radio was playing against the sound of sizzling bacon. Tired of a commercial, my mom stepped across the room to spin the dial to something new. And, in that moment, a small seed was planted. As she turned the dial, she found a sound so heavenly that we both stopped still. She turned up the volume and the glorious sound filled our kitchen. Neither of us moved, afraid to break the spell of something so precious. Unknown to me then, it was the infamous opera aria from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Neither of us had any idea what she was singing about, but whatever it was, we knew it was authentic and her heart was exposed for all to hear. That was my only moment of opera exposure and it quickly faded to a childhood memory—but the thrill was never forgotten.
Walking by the little Lensic Theater this year, I noticed a poster for the Metropolitan Opera Live on HD. Standing on the sidewalk, I recalled that old memory of that morning in the kitchen. I stepped inside to buy a ticket. It had been fifty years and I wanted to see what I had been missing. The operas told stories of lost and found love, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, deceit, insanity, and infidelity. Each one clearly pointing out that the issues we face today continue to be the same, and the results as wonderful—and as catastrophic.
It has been an unforgettable musical experience. While attending a live opera at the Met remains a dream, I can heartily attest to this being the next best thing. It is a thrill of a lifetime. That morning as a young girl, I understood the power of opera. I believe you will too.
The Metropolitan Opera offers live broadcasts to help support the phenomenal cost of opera productions. The current season ends in May. The 2011-2012 season begins in October. Buy tickets through the Lensic Theater at www.lensic.org.