Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

OPERA BLUES

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I’m heading out on Highway 26 driving to Owen Sound and I’m Riding with the King…B.B. King, the Beal Street Blues Boy recognized by peers and fans alike as “King of the Blues.”

It’s a cold, grey Saturday afternoon. Overhead a hawk is cruising on the wind looking down on beige farm fields hoping to find some lunch. Spring melt water fills the ditches to the level of the road. Mud-caked cattle meander about absently mindedly watching cars whiz by. And on CBC Radio 2, the single note solo lines from B.B.’s hollowbody Gibson accompany me on my way down the road.

I’m going to the Opera and I’m struck by the contrast between what I’m hearing and what I’ll be seeing.

I’m going to a live performance of La Sonnambula, Bellini’s masterful Bel Canto melodrama featuring Natalie Dessay, a tiny, impish French soprano with a big beautiful voice. As I listen to B.B. King’s raspy singing of The Thrill is Gone, the comparison to what will be Dessay’s incomparable performance of Ah! Non Credea Mirarti, makes me smile.

Contrast indeed! In the space of an afternoon I will experience the down and dirty reality of the blues played and sung by a master who freely admits that guitar chords are his weakness, and then, the brilliance of a composer who writes for classically trained voices skilled at performing grand melodies with soul. The two really are one in the same.

I think back to all the times I spent listening to Saturday Afternoon at The Opera on CBC. I knew I would never – ever be able to afford the $375.00 for premium seats at the Met, let alone the cost of a weekend in New York City. I remember those long nights in the record library at Ryerson’s CJRT, combing through the Blues Section for every B.B. King disc I could find. The Blues and Opera…I love them both, eclectic as that may be.

But today, on the way to Owen Sound– I got to listen to a documentary on ‘the king’ and for a measly $21.80 (for seniors) I get to watch Live in HD, grand opera from The Metropolitan Opera Company at the Galaxy Cinema… popcorn an option.

Two for one. Times have changed.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 22, 2009 at 9:03 PM

Posted in Home Town, thoughts, Travel, Writing

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