Who Am I? Is This the Asylum?

by Albert Innaurato

Well, Alberto (that’s me) does babble on a lot. And that reminded me of a little known Rossini Opera, Ciro in Babilonia. Poor Ciro does have his problems, though talking too much isn’t one of them (on the other hand, in my case, …). It’s one of the happy/sad realities of a troubled time for the arts, that we can fairly easily encounter Ciro on DVD and CD; a score has been prepared that is fair to Rossini. And we can find out by reading that score, or experiencing one of the DVDs that Ciro is fascinating, phenomenally orchestrated, and full of great tunes. Ciro’s enemy even gets one of the great tenor mad scenes in opera.

That’s happy because it’s a fine opera. That’s sad because it’s not new, just unfamiliar. It’s a very old opera, in a very old style with a very old story. Art is about us, now. One shouldn’t have to be like a soldier fighting battles, to believe that arts that can’t renew themselves die.

I always wanted new sounds. When I was studying music (for eighteen years) I always wanted to know what was being created right then. And then I took a wrong turn (probably) and began to write plays. I got to Broadway and Europe and even to Asia and everything was new; my life was about my creating, and about my measuring myself against what others were creating.

It’s not that I didn’t love older plays. And I was never indifferent to the stratagems of Beethoven and Debussy and crotchety old Johann Bach. It’s just that discovery was always just as thrilling. Even if technology has given us a way of reconstructing virtually the entire past of Western music, and great masters are always being uncovered, someway has to be invented to persuade those under thirty, said to be watching three screens at once, to pay attention. And in some sense it has to be, however subtly or indirectly, about the new kind of lives they are living now.

And as for opera, well, let’s be frank, it’s a mental illness. I have it. Electroshock won’t help. But the most thrilling evenings in my life were seeing Lulu for the first time, or Nixon in China or L’amour de loin. It’s not a contest; great operas have been written from the beginning, but the remarkable new is always more thrilling than one’s fiftieth exposure to a MASTERPIECE from a fast receding past.

I have the voice sickness too… I’ll be chattering about those things. But who even knows about  much of this, really? I know I’ll be babbling to many. One thing’s for sure, I’m a tenor!! Bring on the mad scene!

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