Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Contessa, perdono

Perhaps the most sublime moment in all of music occurs in the Fourth Act of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. After over three hours of breathtaking music, matters in the Almaviva household have finally been brought to a head. A moment of crisis has been reached. The Count, discovering a woman he believes to be his wife in a dalliance with Figaro, his servant, calls for his people to gather (gente gente all'armi!). His courtiers come running, and as the music builds to a frenzy, add their voices to the Count's outraged roar.

Then, over this seething mass of menacing voices, a single soprano is heard, soaring like the wing of a seagull over a raging sea. The Countess comes forward, revealing herself. The courtiers are amazed - how can this be? The Count stands dumbstruck, realising the trick that has been played on him. The music falls away in bewilderment, dwindling into hushed confusion, then coming to a stop.

There, at that most dramatic of moments, there is an instant of absolute silence. The fate of the world hangs in balance. The audience, like the characters on stage, wait with bated breath. What will the Count do now?

The song, when it returns, shatters the spell of the last four acts completely. It's as though you had broken through the laughter and merriment of everything that had passed, and stepped suddenly into a different, more serious opera. The Count's voice, half moan, half cry, echoes through the silenced auditorium with all the remorse and yearning that the human soul is capable of. "Contessa, perdono", he sings, and the music soars like a wounded bird, then, ashamed of its own presumption, sinks wearily, guiltily back to earth.

It is the Countess who rescues it. It is her purer soprano that lifts the entire audience beyond the reach of gravity, her rising cadences that finally achieve that perfection we have all been waiting for. As the others slowly join in, drawn by the tranquility of her theme, the song becomes more than just a closing chorus for the opera, it becomes a hymn of peace, an anthem of soft contentment. The Contessa's voice shall rise above these liquid voices, her song clearer and sharper than that of the others, but it is in their gentleness that you lie floating, the tears coming unbidden to your eyes.

If there is beauty in the world, if there is forgiveness, then surely this is what it sounds like. This is what we have all hoped for - that at the end of all the playfulness and confusion, at the end of all the loves and deceits and jests, there shall be a judgement gentle enough to harm no one. It is the most the human spirit can dream of. It is more than we could ever deserve.

P.S. if you're wondering where that came from - I just returned from a performance of Figaro by the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ooooooh, We're sooooooooooo touched that you decided to talk about opera!!!! Le Nozze di Figaro, no less. "If there is beauty in the world, if there is forgiveness, then surely this is what it sounds like." <-- yup, that's what Amadeus was probably thinking too. Then again, considering a large portion of the liberetto deals with the lampooning of four principal characters from the aristocracy, I have some SERIOUS doubts about your halfwitted attempt at analysis. Here's my tip: Why not focus on the latest Bollywood flick and leave opera to the literate?

p.s. anything coming from philly isn't worth the effort. but then, you know that. it's the only sorry city that accepted you, right?

Anonymous said...

Ooooooh, We're sooooooooooo touched that you decided to talk about opera!!!! Le Nozze di Figaro, no less. "If there is beauty in the world, if there is forgiveness, then surely this is what it sounds like." <-- yup, that's what Amadeus was probably thinking too. Then again, considering a large portion of the liberetto deals with the lampooning of four principal characters from the aristocracy, I have some SERIOUS doubts about your halfwitted attempt at analysis. Here's my tip: Why not focus on the latest Bollywood flick and leave opera to the literate?

p.s. anything coming from philly isn't worth the effort. but then, you know that. it's the only sorry city that accepted you, right?

Priyanka said...

Gauri honey (or Lindsey or whatever your name is), I am starting to get concerned. You need to go immediately to a psychiatrist, preferably a bong psychiatrist.

I must mention though that I am not a great fan of bongs having grown up among them and having heard enough Robindro Shongeet to make me cringe for a lifetime (lol).

pointblank said...

Boy!! You got to learn to hit the submit button just ONCE! Or is it that you are suffering from Parkinson's?

Falstaff said...

Priyanka / pointblank / Everyone else:
Do me a favour, will you? Don't feed the gnome. He / she is not worth it. And replying to these comments only helps him / her get what he or she wants, which is to hijack my comments space. Let's all just pretend that anonymous doesn't exist. And after a while he / she will hopefully find some other target to go psycho on.

Priyanka said...

f

All righty. I was just kidding about the bongs tho'

confused said...

Ha! I hope this anonymous dude realizes that the blogger can delete his/her comment with one click.

@Falstaff,

Please Don't. Such entertainment, I tell you. And yes, it proves you have arrived in the blogsphere. Congratulations!

How much I long for a troll. :(

confused said...

Ok, Ok. My bad. This troll does not exist anymore.

''Eyes wide shut''

Falstaff said...

Priyanka: Yes, I know. Also, for the record (and for the last time) I'm NOT Bong. I don't have an objection to being. Or any particular reason to want to be. I'm just not.

confused: No, of course I'm not going to delet this stuff - other than the amusement value, I think it's much better to let people see how pointless these comments are rather than delete them and have people think they might actually have made sense. Better the devil you know, etc.

Meanwhile, on trolls vs. gnomes, do see this:

http://2x3x7.blogspot.com/2005/08/of-gnomes-trolls-and-other-tabled.html

Cheshire Cat said...

Love all the talk about bongs. Peace out :)

pointblank said...

Point noted falstaff.
About bongs, I feel that the typical bong stereotype (you know, thick glasses, oil dripping from the hair etc.) no longer exists. They have diversified! But you talk to a bong for 5 minutes, and out comes the bong from within, in the form of Sourav Ganguly on most ocassions. I'm not complaining though, I love the guy. :)

MockTurtle said...

Q) What do Bongs love the most?
A) Phish, Phutboll and Ph***ing

Hey, I'm half-Bong, so I'm allowed

confused said...

My observation about Bong-he is the most reasonable, non parochial, concerned, human being in the world as long as you acknowledge his superior intellect. :)

Tabula Rasa said...

hey, bongs are great but let's not forget they're just a delivery mechanism. it's the wisdom within that's paramount.

dazedandconfused said...

oh my god, this bong thing again!

Falstaff, I feel for you..:)

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Lovely post.

I'm jealous; you wouldn't want to switch lives with me for a while, would you?

*hopeful look*

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Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog accidentally just now and am amazed at all the trolls. Anyway, thank you for capturing this bit of Le Nozze perfectly. It really is such a shock, in the midst of all the comedy, and it always breaks my heart.