The Opera Singer

It has been a tough few days. You may recall my mother-in-law died on October 2. Her funeral was on Friday, the 29th.

[From my Instagram Stories, October 30, 2021.]

Even in life’s sad moments, there may be moments that uplift us, too. As I think it constitutes far more the latter, I thought I would share this experience for a Monday post. At the post-funeral gathering (drinks and some food at a place near my in-laws’ – now, unfortunately, former – house in London), I ended up for a time sitting with a couple who had been close friends with them.

That couple, now in their mid-80s, had been at our wedding in 1999, but I had known them since then only passingly. The husband is a retired opera singer originally from Wales, and as we chatted and I realized he was happy to talk about his career I encouraged him to do so by asking him lots of questions. Successful retired opera singers – he had started his career in the late 1960s at the Royal Opera House – I thought to myself, are not exactly commonplace, and of course there was always a chance I would never see him again.

Early on, he asked me if I “knew” opera. I replied – truthfully – that I would not say I *knew* opera well. I added – also truthfully – that what I could say was I know generalities OF opera and some of the great performers and greatest pieces.

An opera performer. Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

A bass vocalist, he had performed at countless renowned venues around the world over his long career, but because I was from New York he emphasized that he had performed at Carnegie Hall about half a dozen times and some sixty times (60!) at the Met. For probably an hour at least, he sat next to me with one anecdote and memory blurring into the next one: “I was singing Verdi’s Requiem at the Met…” He had known well and sang with likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Leontyne Price, just to name two greats.

The couple’s son, who is about my age, told me as we at one point walked off to get more drinks at the bar: “When my father starts storytelling… you are going to hear everything. He played tennis with Pavarotti.” Indeed his father is also one of those people you would describe as a BIG personality; effortlessly he just naturally dominates a table or social situation comprised of us “littler” people… and he does so not because he is overbearing or obnoxious, because he is certainly NOT those things, but simply because he just “fills the room.” In his case it is easy to understand why he does: after all, he was an OPERA singer and there is probably no other stage performance that demands such outgoingness and self-confidence.

Near the end of our chat (if I had a speaking voice even a quarter as impressive as his, I would be narrating my own audio books that’s for sure), after we had talked some about my novels, his wife softly asked me: “Are you writing another book?”

[From my Instagram Stories, October 28, 2021. Text Copyright me, 2021.]

I was not sure how to answer that because I don’t actually have an idea yet for a new novel beyond the one that is nearly finished. You may know here I am still battling with finishing that current one and I am thinking of taking about a year or so off to clear my writing head. After this next one appears, you guys will have more than enough to read from me for the time being. LOL!

Worse, sitting next to her husband, I felt about 2 feet tall and at best age 9.

Then an answer hit me and after a pause I replied: “I was not entirely sure, but I’m thinking now my next book will be about a retired Welsh opera singer.”

I don’t think I will ever forget the laughter from them at that answer. We finished the evening talking with them, and I felt in a sense guilty: I don’t think I ever had had so much “fun” at a funeral’s after-gathering. As we all parted to go home, they invited us to lunch in December or January at their home.

After having been visiting among others for a while, my wife – who is much better “working a room” than I am – joined us as we happened to be talking about my books and asked the couple: “Has he told you yet about his uncle?” When his wife said I had not (which was true), my wife made it clear that they needed also to hear about him. When they showed interest in hearing about him then and there, my wife replied by teasing them, “Oh, no, we will save him to talk about over that lunch.”

So, it is another Monday. Indeed, life must go on. Hope you have a good start to the week at least, wherever you are. 🙂

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