A song from my sickbed, and a memory

Please forgive me if this post seems to drop out of nowhere; I’m stuck at home for a few days with, ironically, walking pneumonia. So there isn’t much to do except stroll around You Tube, like young Susanka.

Here is a piece of music that will break your heart: the final Trio from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in a performance from 1983 at the Met Gala. Conducted by James Levine, the singers Elizabeth Soderstrom, Kathleen Battle, and Fricka von Stade are glorious.

If you don’t believe me, just listen up to the 4.00 minute mark and tell me you could walk away.

The set-up is simple: An older woman gives up the love of a younger man to a woman his own age. The character in the middle, sung by von Stade, is the young man, “the pants role.”

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0KvIGx1Kwg 635×355]

I first saw this opera when I was 22 at the National Theater in Munich with my late Aunt Lucile, who had decided to take me on a two-month opera tour of Europe. On consecutive nights in Munich, we saw Die Meistersinger, Woyzeck, Bacchus et Ariane, and Rosenkavalier. We also attended the festivals at Bayreuth, Bregenz, and Salzburg.

We stayed next door to the National Theater, at the famed Hotel Vier Jahreseitzen, and each evening watched as the conductor and singers came into the lobby to the applause of everyone (white ties abounded, as I recall).

Aunt Lucile Morley was my father’s aunt — she never married, and it was said her only true love died in a WW I dogfight over France. She told me once she had a few “dates” with Lord Russell (Bertrand), but she seemed to me far too conventional a woman for such a risqué fellow.

Lucile was a singer herself, an alto, who from her home in Austin toured the UK and Europe as a young woman specializing in what were then called “negro spirituals.” Her finest moment was singing on the same program with tenor John McCormack at the Royal Albert Hall in honor of the Queen Mother.

And, come to think of it, I wonder if my Aunt Lucile had memories of her young British pilot, as the Marschallin sang the opening lyrics of the trio: “Hab mir’s gelobt” — “I chose to love him”?

Deal W. Hudson


Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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