Mention this piece amongst a group of opera singers and you will hear gushing and sighing like you can imagine only in your wildest dreams. Contrarian that I am, I found I did not really understand what all the fuss was about.... until....
Summer 2005 (?), Opera in the Ozarks (also known as the hottest, sweatiest opera venue on the planet), middle of the night. Tara has decided that the surtitles for the opera scenes program need to be done "right" and thus is up basically all night typing in, formatting, and arranging titles for a two night extravaganza of like 25 scenes or whatever. It was probably 3am... I had seen a couple of the singers do the mid-night walk of shame back to their dorms, observed one of my colleagues quietly throwing up in a nearby wooded area, been eaten alive by mosquitoes, typed in more translations than one person should in the course of an evening, and then I came to this scene. I did not direct the scene and in fact had only heard it done at college recitals, etc, by overly-eager (not quite ready) young singers with more passion than skill, and thus was not prepared for the overwhelming sophistication and introspection of the lyrics. Maybe I am setting myself up for ridicule here... I am prone to hyperbole, but at that moment the lyrics really spoke to the deepest part of me and I found myself weeping all alone in that outdoor theatre, lit only by a computer screen.
What did it? The Marschallin's words.
Quick plot summary: the Marsch is a slightly older woman who has loved the young and beautiful Octavian (sung by a woman...don't get confused). Octavian has recently met and fallen in love with Sophie, a lovely young girl perfectly appropriate for him, who shares his feelings. In this scene, Marsch is letting him go.
(Paraphrasing the good stuff below. Octavian basically gazes at Sophie and talks about how when he looks at her he can see nothing else.)
I made a vow to love him in the right way, as a good woman should....even to love the love he has for another woman... I promised. But in truth, I did not think that the task would come so quickly. There are many things in this world that we could not believe would be, if someone else told us. But some day, our wounds will make us believe, even if we don't think it possible...
I feel like one at church. Holiest thoughts fill my soul, and yet I am possessed by most unholy and sinful thoughts. I want to kneel at her feet, yet I also want to harm her, for I feel she gives him to me and yet robs me of part of him.
There stands the boy, and here I stand, and with his newfound girl there he will be happy...in the way that men understand happiness. [Go] In God's name.