Monday, February 6, 2012

Meet the Volunteers: Ding Ding



Stereotypically people of my age don’t consider being an opera lover extremely cool.  It can even sound a bit weird, unfortunately.  Anyway, I’m among that “not cool” category.  Too bad, isn’t it!  It was not until I settled in New York for my college education at Columbia four years ago that I had the chance to get full exposure to the opera world and see live performances at the Met.  I still remember it was the last performance of the season of Dvorak’s Rusalka that to a great extent changed my life.  Completely mesmerized by “Song to the Moon”, so beautifully sung by Soprano Renée Fleming with her signature creamy voice, in my heart I shouted, “The time has come! The time is now.” (Quoting Sycorax in Act II of The Enchanted Island) I immediately fell in love with opera, madly, if you call it.  I became a frequent visitor to the Met and subsequently joined the Met Young Associates. 
Last summer when I was talking to the Coordinator of the Young Associates to try to find ways of getting more involved in the opera world and the Met in particular, this volunteer opportunity with the MONC Eastern Region jumped in just at the perfect timing.  I thought it would be fantastic to do something to help young talent on their way to perhaps becoming the Renée Fleming or the Plácido Domingo of the future generation.  The idea of being able to make a real impact is very exciting to me!
I love volunteering with the MONC Eastern Region Committee simply because our team is the best!  Everyone is great to work with and we truly make the effort and try our best to contribute.  It’s just like being in a family where everyone is so supportive.  It always amazes me how people manage to put different bits and pieces together whenever the curtain raises, ex. Zeffirelli’s La Bohème.  This is exactly how I perceive our volunteer work as well. 
Lincoln Center, particularly the Met, is my favorite place in New York.  For this single reason I even moved into the neighborhood.  The cultural atmosphere there is simply unsurpassable, and living five minutes away gives me a good excuse to visit the Met on a more regular basis.  Imagine having seen Rodelinda EIGHT times this season!
I listen to operas of different periods and styles – a bel canto freak, Verdi and Strauss enthusiast, Baroque fan, French opera lover and Wagner novice.  My favorite opera is Der Rosenkavalier.  As an Art History major specialized in 17th and 18th century European art, it is interesting for me to observe the European culture at the time, ex. the levée in Act I.  Furthermore, the opera shows how perfectly the words and the music blend together with multi-layered complexity.  Above all, this bittersweet comedy lightly but strikingly touches upon philosophy and presents a genuine human drama that everyone has to deal with in real life – the inexorable passage of time and aging.
Joyce DiDonato, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Anna Moffo, and Carlo Bergonzi have the most plays on my iTunes, besides Ms. Fleming.  I also search for historical recordings and am always thrilled how the quality of the voices could remain so fabulous with relatively rudimentary recording technologies at the time. Claudia Muzio and Maria Jeritza are among my favorites. 
Due to the genius of those composers and librettists, directors and singers, opera represents the collective memory for generations and generations while continuing its magic to the contemporary world, and to me it is like a lifelong love affair.