Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Time, which made a monkey of us all

[Entry hesitantly reinstated. I get neurotic about whether things are worth saying.]

Where to file, emotionally speaking, the death of an artist who never truly made you weep or laugh or gasp for breath?

One is sad of course because any death is sad, and maybe also because there's such a weight of belovedness around a singer like Nilsson that one can't help and mourn along a little, and hope it's not somehow a cheap or hypocritical thing to be feeling. When I read the news I felt deeply moved and then immediately like a fraud because, well, she wasn't mine to mourn.

I loved her Brunnhilde, especially in the dawn duet, and admired much of her other singing, but never felt that bond of boy and diva. It is a mark of adulthood to be able to appreciate what you don't especially like, isn't it? Her voice, as recorded, never got under my skin, though I got that it was unique, important, a sort of treasure. And yet...maybe it's that she seemed like such a good sport, a game gal, coming out of retirement for a few moments in her 80's to sing a brief salute to James Levine nobody has forgotten. And in The Ring Resounding, my recollection is that she comes off as someone you'd like to know.

And a certain age of singing, without engaging in too much breast-beating about it, is indisputably closing with each year, and that's a little hard to take even if you love this age, too. Other than that one war cry at 80-something, I could never have heard her in house (was young, lived in the wrong places), and now that she's gone, I think even more of the day when current loves will retire and die and I'll say to some young opera queenlet, if they're still making them, "I heard her Didon," and know that no-one who wasn't there can know what I heard (as I was always told of Nilsson.)

I'm sorry this is a little ponderous (and maybe, around the edges, just a little purple.) My thoughts, however briefly, and however little it means, are with those she left and those who never knew her, and loved her.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I was wondering where that posting had gone!

Nilsson's passing hits me where I live, because she's one of the few greats of that era I actually had the good fortune to hear. And to my regret I don't really remember it.

Paris, May 1975: The buzz among my fellow voice students was about the upcoming Elektra at the Opéra. I wasn't into opera at all (long story) but thought it sounded worth an effort. Lined up in the wee hours for nosebleed seats. Pandemonium at the Garnier, people begging for tickets, ushers showing people to the wrong seats (still collecting their tips, natch). The theater was dark and crowded, the air was warm, tiny distant figures--too far away for the tsunami effect--sang harsh music. I dozed. It was so wasted on me! And I don't even have a program to show for it.