I Lived for my Art...
Aysel Basci on finding refuge in opera.
A rare gift of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the Metropolitan Opera’s Nightly Opera Streams, a complimentary program offering online access to outstanding performances from the past fourteen years of the Met’s Live in HD series. Long an opera fan, I love the elaborate costumes, tragic stories, historic settings, and—above all—grandeur of the operatic music. For years I seized any opportunity to catch a performance, whether live at Teatro dell’Opera in Rome or broadcast at a local movie theater. How ironic that my most memorable opera experience has become watching opera from home during a global pandemic, when an escape from reality has never been more urgent or more special.
While watching Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, one of my favorite operas, I find myself anticipating the arias’ familiar notes. When the melodic voices fill the air, it is pure magic. Watching from home gives me a new perspective, as if seeing and hearing Tosca as I never have before. At the end of Act II, the tempestuous Floria Tosca laments her fate after her beloved is wrongfully sentenced to death:
“I lived for art, I lived for love,
I never did harm to a living soul!
In the hour of grief
Why, why, Lord,
Why do you reward me thus?”
Her aria personifies powerlessness in a way that only opera can, and her despair and grief when facing an impossible dilemma resonate with me. I imagine the deep despair and grief those infected with coronavirus and their loved ones must be feeling. I then compose myself, remaining positive while leaving such laments to opera stars.
As the death toll from the pandemic rises, I avoid the statistics and instead wrap myself in another majestic opera performance. I forget reality, if only for a couple of hours. The Met’s nightly offerings have become rays of light brightening my socially distanced life.
Aysel K. Basci is a nonfiction writer who was born and raised in Cyprus and moved to the U.S., in 1975, at the age of 19.
Giacomo Puccini’s (1858-1924) Tosca is an opera in three acts. It was based on French playwright Victorien Sardou’s La Tosca. Puccini’s Tosca premiered on January 14, 1900, in Rome.