One advantage of living on the island of Manhattan is the proximity to bodies of flowing water. After all, it’s only a mile from the middle to the two rivers traveled by boats, ships, barges, and kayaks. In my case, I live an inconveniently long fifteen-minute walk to the subway, but a breezy five minute jaunt to the East River.
After we were robbed of the first two months of summer by gray skies and rain, the evening temperatures last week were still holding at a warm 68 degrees. By gosh, NYC had an Indian summer for the first time in four years since I’ve lived here. On my evening exercise walk through the lovely Carl Schurz Park last week, I passed by the Mayor’s Mansion and thought I heard his voice. (He doesn’t live there, but rather it is a place for official functions and celebrations.) Having never heard Mayor Bloomberg in person, I stopped to listen and was treated to an inspirational moment.
I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but the mayor had introduced a beautifully clear-voiced coloratura. (My pal, the operatically-gifted MadamaB, later defined the word to me as a younger soprano voice.) She sang two familiar arias, and I stopped my colorful conversation with a friend to hold up my cell phone for her enjoyment as well. I knew the tunes well, but not their names and couldn’t keep them both in my mind long enough to call MB. I recalled and hummed the latter one to her, and she immediately named it: “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Giani Schicchi, by my favorite, Puccini!
The singer and the music transported me and ten days later, it’s still in my head. I couldn’t track down the singer, but Dame Kiri te Kanawa’s magnificent version is the clearest for my taste. Never mind the photo tribute on the video. Just close your eyes and enjoy the simple things afforded to us by, well, some of the most complex of technologies: recording, computer bits and bytes, WordPress, YouTube, wireless networks, oh, years of operatic training, and so much more that I haven’t a clue about. But the feeling—of letting myself be transported and sharing that beauty with others—is universal. In oft troubled and confusing times, sometimes simple things are best.