I tested the waters with Mozart, did the backstroke with Tchaikovsky…

I was fortunate enough to experience my first visit to Heinz Hall (in
more than 10 years) during the Mother’s Day Celebration on Friday, May
12, 2006. You’ll have to forgive me, while I was pleasantly surprised
with the first and third selections of the evening, I was completely
enamored with “The Being of Love”. Manfred Honeck, the evening’s
conductor, had such a presence about himself, and guided the musicians
throughout the evening. He received a standing ovation, with thunderous
applause and shouts of “Bravo” and “Bravissimo” – the musicians showed
their appreciation as well with shuffling and stamping their feet
(their hands are full after all). Mr. Honeck certainly appeared to be
loved and respected by his peers and his audience.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, was somewhat familiar –
as if I had heard it in commonplace pop culture before – maybe a
cartoon? (Who would guess that Bugs Bunny could introduce your child to
more than zany one-liners?!)

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64, was a joy – just
for the pure and simple fact that there were soloists – such as a horn
solo, and I believe an oboe and clarinet solo as well. I enjoyed that
tremendously – I love hearing soloists, especially those that are the
caliber of the PSO musicians.

After learning that the concert would include the world premiere of
Reza Vali’s “The Being of Love”, and researching the piece, and Mr.
Vali himself, I began to think about love – the spiritual, deep love,
of man, and of God (however you may define your own, spiritual God),
the many levels and layers of it, the complexity of it, etc.

Being a single, 20-something, female, this is certainly not the
first time that I have contemplated such subjects…and I suspect it
certainly won’t be the last time that I contemplate these subjects
either, but this time it was different.

I was looking at the subject of love from a more philosophical
approach…not just whether or not the current boyfriend of the moment
was suitable, someone I could love, share a lifetime with, etc. I was
not sharing a cup of coffee and rambling late night dissertations on
life with my girlfriends, I was extremely thoughtful about all of this.

I am fairly new, or rather, becoming re-acquainted with the PSO, and
certainly a stranger on every level to opera. Prior to Friday’s
concert, the only operatic experience I had was of watching videos of a
performance of “Don Quixote” in college (thank you to those core
credits for Music Appreciation). At the time, it felt a lot like what
one would imagine torture tactics to feel like – so, you can imagine
that I was slightly apprehensive about the upcoming concert engagement,
but excited nonetheless to experience something new.

From what I read online about Michelle DeYoung, the featured
mezzo-soprano, in Vali’s “The Being of Love”, I was extremely excited
to see her. She was said to have already established herself as one of
the most exciting artists of her generation (and that, she definitely
is!).

Ironically enough, upon learning that there was a featured soloist
(Ms. DeYoung) and the nature of the piece “The Being of Love”, my first
thought was one of a pop culture moment.

Allow me to expand upon that – it’s not as nutty as it sounds, I promise – in the movie, Pretty Woman, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts attend the opera.

As the two take their seats, they proceed to fidget with programs
and opera glasses, etc. – the lights begin to dim, Richard Gere leans
in towards Julia Roberts and says:

“People’s
reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They
either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love
it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never
become part of their soul.”

(and the "Overture" To La Traviata begins in the background)

(the quote above is from the movie, Pretty Woman, citing the source as the following website – http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/p/pretty-woman-script-transcript-julia.html)

I must say that I was completely enraptured by Ms. DeYoung. Her
facial expressions and her voice were so powerful at conveying the
emotions of the piece, that I was completely caught up in the piece,
and barely noticed that the words were not of the English language, but
rather Persian.

Movements 1, 3 and 5 are “imaginary” folk songs (melodies in the style of Persian folk songs that Vali creates himself).

Movements 2 and 4 are based on authentic folk songs from the
south-central Iranian District of Fars (around Shirâz – a city in
central Iran, close to the ruins of Persepolis).

The final movement was the inspiration for the whole set. Of course,
I had to research Rumi, the 13th century Persian mystic Sufi poetic
genius whose poem concludes Vali’s powerful new work –

The being of love,
is separate from any existence.
Love is the mystery
of God’s creation.

Through love,
the soul of the earth
reached the depth of the universe.
mountains arose,
moving to an ecstatic, celestial dance.

The
five songs reflect upon different aspects of love. The piece begins
with the very primitive love on earth and continues with sensual love,
and gradually moves to heaven and the celestial bonds of love, and ends
with the work by Rumi. (A special thank you to the program notes of Jo
& Elizabeth Kahn – I highlighted that passage during the
intermission of that evening’s concert and had to share with everyone)

The second movement, “Love Drunk” was based on authentic folk songs
and yet felt the most modern of all of the movements with the funky
beats, the metal mutes on the trumpets. It was unlike the other
movements – and rightly so, being “love drunk” is unlike any other
feeling associated with love.

The third movement, “In Memory of a Lost Beloved” was almost eerie
and transcendental in the music – ending with single strikes on the
piano keys, and single strike on the triangle. The entire audience and
the hall itself seemed to stand still for a brief moment, we all felt
that loss together.

I felt that the fifth movement, “The Being of Love,” was an
excellent showcase of Ms. DeYoung’s talents. Her facial expressions,
her emotions, her exceptional lung control (hahaha – just a newcomer’s
observation on her ability to sustain the notes for such a length).

The entire piece was a complex musical, philosophical, emotional
crescendo for the audience. I felt very honored to have been a part of
that audience, experiencing the PSO with new eyes and ears and also
experiencing a world premiere such as “The Being of Love.”

The performance of “The Being of Love” received a standing ovation
and Ms. DeYoung and Manfred Honeck (conductor) returned to the stage
several times to take their bows – along with Vali, himself. The
musicians shuffled and stamped their feet in appreciation along with
the thunderous applause of the audience.

I also had the great honor of sharing my row with Vali and his wife.
I found myself leaning forward during the piece just to catch a glimpse
of the man who had conceptualized this piece and gave birth to this
wonderful creative project, sharing it with all of us.

Honestly, I wanted to get Vali’s autograph across the front of the
program, but with all of the compliments, handshakes, etc., that he and
his wife were receiving after the concert had ended, I was unable to
get his attention for an autograph, and most unwilling to accost him
for one.

Upon general discussions with other concert goers (intermission and
afterwards) I was simply in awe of the fact that each of us experienced
the same program, the same music, and yet we each had very different
interpretations of such…and we each felt very differently about “The
Being of Love” – each noticing different elements of the piece, each
having varying thoughts and emotions evoked by the piece.

It made me think that this experience was very similar to that of
the experience of love – while two people may share the exact same
experience, what they carry away with them is very different.

To sum up my evening, on a rather funny, pop culture note, I will once again quote Pretty Woman

At the end of the opera scene, a patron turns to Julia Roberts and asks – “Did you enjoy the opera, dear?”

Roberts smiles and says – “Oh, it was so good, I almost peed in my pants.”

The patron appears confused and turns to Richard Gere – “What…?”

Gere smiles, and states, just slightly louder (implying a hearing
problem) – “She said she liked it better than Pirates of Penzance.”

(the quote above is from the movie, Pretty Woman, citing the source as the following website – http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/p/pretty-woman-script-transcript-julia.html)

I was certainly more composed than Julia Roberts’ character, but I was definitely moved by “The Being of Love”.

I tested the waters with Mozart, found it to be the perfect
temperature with Vali, and before long was doing the backstroke with
Tchaikovsky.

Thank you PSO musicians for introducing me to such a wonderful world such as this.

2 Responses to “I tested the waters with Mozart, did the backstroke with Tchaikovsky…”

  1. shama says:

    i think that manfred honeck is the best conductor of all. The way he conducts is just fabulous. You would believe you are part of the show. I hope i can see him someday.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Kristen,
    A belated welcome to our PSO blogging community.
    It’s good to have you on board!
    Jonathan

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May 15