Your birthday, April 12, and Father’s Day went by without so much as a Facebook post.
Sorry about that, but I do have something for you. And it’s much more exciting than you could imagine.
Do you remember, by any chance, the very first time I saw an opera? It was on television, on a Sunday afternoon. Cavalleria Rusticana. “Rustic chivalry,” you translated for me. Mommy was an opera lover, too. Noticing my interest, she gave me her Metropolitan Opera Guide (second edition, 1940) so that I could follow the story, in the chapter entitled, “Opera Turns to Crime.”
Of course, up to that point and many times thereafter, I had seen the operatic greats of the day on TV: Victoria de los Angeles, Franco Corelli, Richard Tucker, Mario Lanza, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, and the inimitable Maria Callas. Do you remember Dame Joan in the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor on The Ed Sullivan Show? And your telling me how hard it was to sing? On Saturday afternoons, the Texaco Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast filled our house with glorious voices, beautiful melodies, and Milton Cross’s animated commentary. I could see the joy in your eyes, and maybe just a little mistiness, when you heard Che Gelida Manina*, or one of the great Italian songs, like Core ‘ngrata, which we played over and over again that time, years later, when we made the long trip back to Maine. Our record collection was full of Italian songs recorded by many of the great tenors, like Corelli and Giuseppe diStefano.
You and Mommy saw that I had piano lessons and good seats for the Wednesday Club concert series. I went to Catholic school, where there was lots of singing. Sadly, although I think of myself as fundamentally very musical, I was an awful pianist and could never hold a harmony. But I paid attention to every note, every step of the way. Much later in life, I worked for a professional symphony with world-class musicians from New York and Philadelphia, many of whom helped me grow in my knowledge and listening skill, and later for a distinguished Bach choir with an extraordinary history. I could have worked in the “music business” forever if I’d been able to afford to—it was a privilege. But it was the exposure to music in my formative years that has served me for a lifetime.
Okay, I didn’t mean to babble, Daddy, and I can almost see you getting impatient at this point. You were never much of a talker. I get that. But you and Mommy (who definitely always had more to say) led by example, which is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. Thank you. And thank you for the music.
Now, it’s time for the surprise.
Meet Lorenzo Papasodero, who shares both our family name (you always said that “ero” was the correct spelling, remember?) and our roots, in your parents’ hometown of Centrache, in Catanzaro, in Calabria.
Daddy, he is a tenor with an absolutely glorious, soaring voice. He is young, still studying, but he is entirely devoted. I’m just shy of 100% certain that he is going to be a star. I’ve seen one article comparing him to a young Franco Corelli (be still, my heart!) and another suggesting he could be the next Pavarotti. Personally, I don’t believe in comparing one talent to another. Music is a gift from God, and whatever Lorenzo does, I’m convinced that he will do it very, very well.
Like so many artists unable to sing publicly now because of this horrible pandemic, Lorenzo is using social media to perform, and probably to push himself, given this enforced break in his evolution as an artist. But even his homemade recordings are fabulous.
An FYI… I found Lorenzo on Facebook, as I have many other probable cugini in Italy, France, Argentina, and Canada, thanks to the efforts of cuginetta Maria, who started our family page. You would love her! Whatever the flaws of Facebook—and they are many—it has given us a way to find and get to know our huge extended family. And now, it has given us Lorenzo. How proud and full of joy you would be to hear him sing!
So, a little late but no less heartfelt, still missing you and Mommy more than I can ever say, happy birthday, happy Father’s Day, to the best of the best.
*I was going to include a link to my favorite performance of this stunningly beautiful aria, but alas, I couldn’t choose from the tenors of my childhood. Domingo, Pavarotti, Carreras came much later, and they’re readily available. And there are fabulous European tenors who never did much singing here. Thus, for now, my suggestion is a site that contains links to some older recordings that allow you to listen to the differences in the voices. This will be just fine until Lorenzo records it!