Its a fair thing to say that classical music, and more specifically opera, is what brought me and my husband together. We met while working at The Denver Post, but our first date seeing Verdis Un Ballo in Maschera at Opera
Colorado may have been a sort of test. He didnt want to marry anyone who wasnt into opera, and I wanted someone who wouldnt squirm at the sound of squeaky violins and tinkly pianos, as one of my ex-boyfriends once described classical.
Weve seen symphonies, chamber-music concerts and yes, operas in our quarter-century together. Mostly operas. Shortly after we moved to the Washington, D.C. area I got him season tickets for opera as a birthday present. We just kept going. Its been wonderful!
Weve seen — no pun intended — scores of operas, including multiple bites at my two favorites, Mozarts The Marriage of Figaro and Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier. And the exhibition A Night at the Opera that the Library of Congress is opening today will probably get visited, repeatedly, by my spouse because its heavy on items by his two favorite opera composers: Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, both of whom are observing 200th-birthday celebrations this year.
If opera gets inside your head even at the Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd level youll really enjoy this exhibition. It displays several manuscripts in the composers own hand one from Verdis opera Attila and another from Wagners Walküren (The Valkyrie); a third from Alban Bergs Wozzeck and letters — from Berg to fellow composer Schoenberg and from Puccini to Alfredo Vandini. It can inspire awe to be a few inches away from something these greats actually touched.
And the exhibition features programs and the stage managers original score from George and Ira Gershwins Porgy and Bess, from the Librarys unparalleled Gershwin collection.
There are also many beautiful visuals: first editions of opera scores (including a 1787 piano-vocal score from Mozarts Don Giovanni and the full score from Wagners Lohengrin) and photos of some of operas greatest stars through history, from Enrico Caruso (as Radamés in Aida) to Lauritz Melchior (as Lohengrin) to Marian Anderson as Ulrica in Ballo) to Lily Pons as Lakmé and Alexander Kipnis as the title character in Boris Godunov.
Speaking of Boris, there is a wonderful wall-size rendition of the coronation scene from Boris and there are gorgeous set designs, in watercolor, by Oliver Smith for his 1960s productions of Carmen and Don Giovanni. The exhibit also features the original Galileo Chini set design for Puccinis Turandot from 1926.
The Library of Congress has superb music collections, and this exhibition brings forward the cream of its huge opera holdings. Dont miss it!