Monday, May 18, 2009

Square 5: Renée Fleming

Square 005

Last week on the way home from The Metropolitan Opera broadcast live in HD, Danny and I stopped at Romni Wools. I was still high from the performance, and to make matters worse Romni was playing opera arias. It gave me the idea that besides using yarn left over from projects, I could look for new yarn to evoke specific memories. Here is where the story blanket stops being economical, but I'm already committed up to the shoulders.

I had only been a casual opera fan until The Met began broadcasting live to silver screens around the world during the 2006/2007 season. They started with a series of crowd-pleasers, but Eugene Onegin enthralled me. I have always loved Tchaikovsky's music, but was unfamiliar with this opera.

It begins on the country estate of Tatiana's family, where the young heroine falls under the spell of charming, cold-hearted Onegin. It is autumn, and the stage is littered with bright leaves. Peasants enter singing a harvest song. The colours remind me of October cottage weekends, and I am swept up by the elegant drama of the music.

Renée Fleming carries off the letter-writing scene with fiery ambivalence: 15 minutes alone on stage portraying a girl's struggle with her first infatuation. The performance can be viewed on Youtube: part 1 and part 2. The music is dizzying, wrenching and lyrical. At the 4:20 point of part 2 the orchestra introduces a sweet, descending scale, which Tatiana picks up, imploring:

Who are you? My guardian angel
or a wily tempter?
Put my doubts at rest.
Maybe this is all an empty dream,
the self-deception of an inexperienced soul,
and something quite different is to be.
The musical motif appears again throughout the opera, and I would leave the theatre humming it, holding on until a recording could recall it for me.

Fortunately Fleming's letter-writing scene is recorded on Great Opera Scenes, and a few months later The Met would release the entire opera performance on DVD. Since then I have become an avid Fleming fan.

While dramatic, Eugene Onegin evokes a believable, human scale of acts and emotions. The central tragedy is regret, which everybody experiences. It gripped me mortally, drawing me under the spell of opera just as Tatiana falls for handsome Onegin.

Two years later at Romni Wools, Danny knew I was seeking yarn for the next blanket blanket square, but didn't know what particular opera was on my mind. He pointed out this Fibra Natura Heaven, and it had the Met performance of Eugene Onegin all over it. Watch the letter-writing scene and see these colours. They dominate the entire first act, underlining the passion of a girl whose love will go unrequited until too late.

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