Sandy and I went to the opera last Friday night. We are neither of us total strangers to such culture, but neither is opera part of our usual activity.
The performance was … quite simply incredible. We went specifically to hear a rising star named Anthony Roth Costanzo, a rare countertenor native to North Carolina and here for just one “Evening of Arias.”
Anthony’s talent is unmistakable. He has such control over his voice, which is so pure, and it’s clear that through virtually every measure he has far more power in reserve than he lets out. But his appeal goes beyond his vocal talent. He has a way of connecting with the audience that is hard to describe. His first aria … I tell you this, before he even set free a single note, he had us all breathless.
We’d already received the gift from the chamber orchestra of a beautiful opening piece, as well as the first aria sung by the other woman who was performing that night — a fun, flirty piece by Handel called “Endless Pleasure.” And then Anthony came out on stage, all grinny and jaunty. He stood in the middle of the semi-circle created by the chamber orchestra that was seated up on stage. He folded his hands and looked to the floor, for a long silent pause… And then he THREW his head up, which was the cue for the orchestra to start. It was several measures before he started singing, and in that time, his face changed, it slowly CRUMPLED in grief before our eyes.
By the end of that aria — another by Handel, a story of despair in love (of course!) — we were all openly weeping (Sandy and me, as well as those around us).
From Sandy (a musician): He showed such generosity to the audience. With his talent, he doesn’t have to do that. He could be a prima donna, nose in the air, deigning to share pearls with the swine seated in the house. But he isn’t. He clearly loves what he does and has fun with it and loves us for sharing it with him. I think it’s where he gets his magic.
photo credit: Dario Acosta