By Misty L. Harris
I was in elementary school the first time I heard un bel di vedremo from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. There were times when my music teacher would give us a break from studying notes (whole notes, half notes etc.) and allow us to sit back and listen as the notes came together to make these beautiful sounds vocal and instrumental resonating through the tape player (nope, CD’s were not in existence and there were points where the music just stopped and the teacher rushed over to flip the tape and place it back in the deck.)
To accompany our music, we had our Italian to English translation packets of the entire opera with us to follow along. For me these ”opera bibles” were more of a distraction than a guide. I can remember closing my eyes and imagining what the female singer looked like, what was she wearing and what did the man she was singing about or to look like. Sometime imagining myself in that role. I connected with this same aria again 1987 when the movie Fatal Attraction was released. Without disclosing the plot, (which can clearly be deciphered by the title) the scene in which two or three minutes of un bel di vedremo was performed was nostalgic for me as I remembered sitting in class wishing that the bell would not ring to signal the end of music class. I can’t remember an experience after that during my educational upbringing (the part where attendance was not optional) that I interacted with opera.
In high school, I was a member of the Chamber Orchestra and we played great classical works even celebrated Broadway Show tunes (Rodgers & Hammerstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, etc.) but never opera. Because we had no understanding of opera, we made fun of it. My “butterfly” knowledge of opera was not enough to defend it and at the tender age of 15, I was not prepared or willing to become a martyr for it. So my interest in it died and was shelved.
It was not until recently, when I joined the Classical 94.5 WNED team, that I became acquainted with other Puccini classics (Tosca, La Boheme, Turandot, etc.) and opened the doors again to learning more about this passionate genre of music. The Classical 94.5 WNED Music library has over 30,000 CD’s in its collection, several of which are opera CD’s. We celebrate opera daily with program such as Tuesday Night Opera with Marty Wimmer, as well as live broadcasts from the world renowned Metropolitan Opera.
This week, we begin our summer long opera festival with a celebration of the works of Puccini. We’ve invited all of our members and listeners to choose the “big five” Puccini operas and we will share them over the airwaves. I have not decided which Puccini opera I think is the best (I don’t think I’ve reached that expert status that would qualify me to do so) however I will share what I think is a wonderful performance of un bel di vedremo by one of the opera greats, Leontyne Price. Enjoy.