Saturday, October 23, 2010

Laziness hurts, tenors, and freedom

Bad things can happen when you're lazy or, at least, good things don't happen.

I came very close to seeing one of my favorite singers sing live today. Because it was the holiday (October 23rd, commemoration of the 1956 uprising, HUGE national holiday -- one of three - I wrote about Szt. Istvan Nap in August... March 15 is the other) there were various commemorative events and such around town. I had been planning to go see what things were like by the Parliament this afternoon but ended up putzing around on the computer instead. My "compromise" was to have MTV (Magyar Televisio... lol not American MTV) turned on. As I was on facebook or something similar and half-listening, I suddenly heard a very familiar sounding voice. They were broadcasting live from outside the Parliament and Dolhai Attila was singing. Why was I so lazy?!?!

Dolhai Attila is pretty high on the list of my favorite singers (especially of those I've not met -- a bunch are people I've worked with at GGO). He's a Hungarian musical theatre/operetta singer who I've loved for nearly 5 years since I discovered Romeo es Julia (the Hungarian translation of the French rock opera of Romeo and Juliet). It also doesn't hurt that he's gorgeous :) Sheesh... Hungarian guys with curly hair, what can I say? He is also the first person to put a crack in my tenor dislike.

I've never really liked tenors. Jokes like "Barbershop quartet: three men and a tenor" pretty well describe the way I felt about them. Of course I appreciated them in a SATB group or as necessary in opera, etc, but I would never choose to listen to a tenor. Especially not over a bass or baritone. Attila started to change this. First it was just him. Then, slowly the list of singers I "forgave for being tenors" or "liked in spite of their being tenors" started growing. Each year at Glimmerglass I would meet one or two tenors with voices that were simply amazing. (This isn't to say they were the only great people I've worked with... just that there have always been one or two tenors that really stood out despite my general dislike.) On the other hand, there were people I was also exposed to (or maybe subjected to is better... or tortured with could work as well) that firmly supported my dislike.

Despite the crazies, my wall of tenor-dislike was beginning to crumble. I've come to accept that there are two types of tenor voices. The "oh dear God in Heaven, please stop your screeching, you sound like a dying moose and I want to rip my eardrums out" type and the "I could kill you with my voice and you would LIKE it" variety. Finally, this summer, it all came together. Although it was difficult, I slowly had to admit to myself, then to some close friends, and now, through this blog, that, yes, I like tenors.

Phew! There - I've said it. I like tenors. Not all tenors to be sure and there will always be some people who I just can't listen to, but I'm done writing off a singer just because he's a tenor.

Back to this afternoon. When I heart Attila on the TV, I was suddenly filled with such regret that I had been so lazy. Because I had an hour before Mass, I left my apartment and went over to the Parliament for a little while. Of course, Attila was long done singing, but I had hardly gotten there when another singer started. I was pretty proud of myself for being able to identify the piece in the first few measures. It was "Hazam, hazam" (My homeland, my homeland), which is arguably the most famous Hungarian operatic aria and also popular as a patriotic song. From Bank Ban by Ferenc Erkel, it is sung by Bank (the husband of Melinda - if you've heard the Hungarian arias I've done) who, believe it or not, is a tenor. I'm not sure who the tenor was, my guess is whoever is playing Bank in the National Opera's new production which opens next month, but he definitely gave me chills. Must get tickets soon.

After the aria, the new prime minister, Viktor Orban, gave a speech retelling the story of the uprising. Although I couldn't understand everything, I did get a bunch. It was really moving to just be there with so many people who lived through it, had family that lived through it, or even just remember what Hungary was like up until 20 years ago. It's crazy to think that people my age, weren't born into a free country. I really don't think anyone who hasn't lived in an oppressed country can appreciate freedom the way people here can. Seeing the commemorative flags with a huge hole in the middle (the protesters had cut out the communist coat of arms) hanging from the parliament, all the people with flag pins (many with a hole) or red, white, and green rosettes, the facial expressions of some of the little old ladies in the crowd at the Parliament, and the video I watched earlier with pictures of Budapest now(ish) and in 1956 juxtaposed spoke volumes. Very much a "this must NEVER happen again" type of commemoration.

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