This season I was lucky enough to be invited to attend two performances of Verdi's masterpiece, Don Carlo, in gorgeous productions at the Met--and I wanted to think of a way to share such a wonderful experience. This is the music I have not been able to stop hearing, in my head, even in my dreams, all week. The lament of an old man, his heart pierced by the knowledge that "she never loved me..." That the old man is a king--a cruel, self-absorbed tyrant who trifles with people's lives, who could take whatever he wanted, and did--means nothing. He has no power over love.
Watch the string section in this marvelous video, playing some of the most beautiful music ever written: the deep, majestic opening chords sounded by the horns, then the subdued, lyrical cellos and violins stepping slowly, carefully, through a minefield of pain that could be expressed explosively but is instead as understated as the hopelessness that creeps malignantly through a heart. What beauty in heartbreak, what quiet eloquence. It is rare to hear an old man sing of being loveless. When King Philip recalls the dismay in his wife's gaze as she looked at the grey hairs of his head when they met, my own tears fall. This link is to the best video I have found on the magical YouTube, by the esteemed Cesare Siepi. And here is a marvelous performance by Laszlo Polgar, if you want to listen to this piece fifty times, as I have done; I post it in honor of my Hungarian friends. Truly, this music is a miracle.