Night-time. A "sunny room": Warm orange, yellow hues, grand piano. Chocolate chip cookies, canned IPAs in an oversized ice bucket, old women volunteers wearing stern faces and slightly irritated each time you have to walk out because your fiancé is sick in the bathroom with an allergic reaction to the delicious sushi you just ate in a family-operated, 10-seater Japanese bamboo hut off Market Street.
This is Boston. This is how Boston up-and-comers get exposure. They get accepted to artist diploma programs at The New England Conservatory and sing for group muses hosted by WCRB, the classic radio station whose boss didn't think your audition tape delivery was what "they're looking for at the moment," even though what they clearly need is someone cool who knows her classical music, someone with a New York edge, someone who could easily be mistaken for a rock musician if she wasn't already so invested in opera and composing.
One of the sopranos sang, "The Silver Aria," -- something I know well because it's part of my "audition package." Another soprano sang a coloratura folksong in Chinese, and that rightfully wowed the house. Who knew Chinese could sound so lyrical, bright, and fun in coloratura?
The Latin tenor, David Rivera Bozon, delivered the greatest level of charisma, his personality seemingly stitched to the tones coming through his larynx. The two Spanish-language pieces by de Falla and Sorozábal remind you of the Cuban song cycle you're currently composing -- dramatic, sensual, luscious. Maybe there is something to the "Latin lover" mystique. As a half-Latin person who looks white, you never really bought that myth, but hearing the language sung, its seductive take on the trill and mordent, you suddenly wonder if all the proclamations could be true. Are you also that sensual? Maybe that's why it's unbearable to write art songs in English, even though that's the only language you dream in consistently.
Spanish was always the apt choice when I decided to write serious music. There's something about the way David sings it that fits right in with the rhythmic seduction of the accompaniment, the brewing undercurrent of passion slightly tethering edges of modest containment required in this classical scene -- maybe that's why it's taken so long for Spanish operas to emerge in the English-speaking world: They're darker, more robust than even the Italian. Or maybe, in order to get at the great passion of Italian arias, you need an Italian singer? These are questions I haven't answered yet, but this night of showcasing young talent who are at the same level as I happen to be right now, left me wondering. It's harder to simply enjoy work you understand in and out. But looking around the room and seeing the smiling faces, filled with wonder and awe, I understood that singers hold a powerful torch. We take people out of the mess of life, and provide something fantastical, seemingly impossible to outsiders of our little world -- whether we ourselves see it or not. Maybe it's all the countless hours, all the fails, all the critiques, that make us feel that it's never quite good enough, never quite fantastical enough, or easy enough. Yet the only time I saw the old lady volunteers just nearly smile was when the singers were onstage.