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Opera makes families out of strangers.
It wouldn’t be a typical week if I didn’t make a last-minute change to the Sunday selection! I had another piece planned for today, but I watched a recently released film on Netflix called Worth with Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Ryan last night. Directed by Sara Colangelo, Worth is a biographical film that focuses on Kenneth Feinberg; a lawyer appointed Special Master of the U.S. government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The movie is based on Kenneth Feinberg's memoir What Is Life Worth and follows an attorney faced with the task of determining how to compensate families who suffered incalculable losses due to the 9/11 attacks. The film premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, opened at New York’s Paris Theatre last weekend, and became available on Netflix this weekend.
The topic is heavy, but I knew I had to share as soon as I noticed that Michael Keaton (playing Kenneth Feinberg in the movie) was an opera fan.
Throughout the film, Michael Keaton shuts out the world by listening to opera.
A bit later in the movie we meet a widower named Charles Wolf (played by Stanley Tucci), who has picked apart the federal government’s proposal that Michael Keaton is tasked with executing, and visits him in his office to discuss why the proposal is problematic. When he enters his office, opera is playing. As soon as these two men know they share a love of opera, they start to find ways to agree to disagree without making it personal.
This is what opera was made to do; bring people together. Opera makes families out of strangers.
I thought it would be fun to share with you what was playing in Michael Keaton’s ears throughout the film.
🎧 Listening Example (4 minute listen): The “Flower Duet” is a famous duet in Act I of Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé between soprano and mezzo-soprano. It is sung by the characters Lakmé and Mallika as they go to gather flowers by a river. Sabine Devieilhe and Marianne Crebassa are singing here.
🎧 Listening Example (3 minute listen): “Ebben? Ne andro lontana” from the Italian opera La Wally by Alfredo Catalani, sung here by Soprano Miriam Gauci. La Wally contains a popular premise of girl loves boy, girl’s father promises her to someone else, true love wins briefly, and then unfortunately the lovers die tragically.
🎧 Listening Example (15 minute listen): “Salve, o re” from Act 2 of Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi with Renato Bruson, Mara Zampieri, Lucia Aliberti, Neil Shicoff, Miomir Nikelic, Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, conducted Giuseppe Sinopoli.
🎧 Listening Example (6 minute listen): “Parto, ma tu ben mio” from Act 1 of La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart. Performed by Cecilia Bartoli with The Academy of Ancient Music, conductor, Christopher Hogwood, 1995. After Servilia orders Sesto to kill Titus and set fire to Rome, in this aria Sesto acquiesces and sings that he will do anything for her beauty and love.
What is it about opera that brings people together? Can it be that it offers us a reflection of who we are, how we relate to others, and what it means, collectively and individually, to be human?
Thank you for reading (and listening),
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