We've been raised -- those of us who simply weren't born yet when Fritz and Tito and Maria and Renata were singing -- we've been raised with this sense that somehow the good days are gone forever, that we missed out on the really great stuff.
There's something to be said for that argument, even if those prickly generations of old school music fans, with their Marias and Titos and all that, they did miss out on the years when Verdi himself conducted his Requiem for the first time in a Milanese church, when Wagner (as in Richard, not his wretched descendants) was doing his thing and Von Bulow was conducting. And you can go back even farther down the rabbit hole of music history. And it eventually becomes silly.
Anyway, Opera Chic, tonight, realized that she may have missed on some seriously genius stuff because she wasn't even born. But tonight she has seen and heard Thomas Quasthoff sing Winterreise at la Scala, and she's not sure she'd trade this experience, as of now, for anything else. Whatever the golden age of classical music might be, it sure was present on la Scala's stage tonight, with all due respect to the great music of the past.
Not to mention, Maestro Quasthoff sang with Daniel Barenboim at the piano and a visibly moved Alfred Brendel in the audience (that's one of the coolest things about la Scala; Maurizio Pollini lives here in Milan so quite often you find yourself sitting a few rows away from the maestro, impeccably and meticulously dressed the way his music would make you think he dresses; Carlo Bergonzi used to show up a lot, too, to check out the new singers, see what the kids are up to, always generous with praise and encouragement and insights; tonight we did indeed get a most admirable visitor, Maestro Brendel, who might have missed his old line of work a little more than the usual).
Opera Chic is still too shaken by the wonders she has witnessed, so the full review is coming tomorrow.
Let her just add, as a sidenote, that one small gesture, at the end of the evening, made Opera Chic realize why we all forgive so much to that overworked, spread-out-too-thin, overconfident in his admittedly large genius, Daniel Barenboim -- and to his Napoleon-sized ego, quite obviously large even for classical music superstar standards. We forgive him so much not only because whenever he's properly rehearsed and really focused (the way he was tonight) he can play -- or conduct -- like very few (if any) of his contemporaries can -- his talent is that scorching.
We forgive him so much because of his generosity, because it's real -- because as Schubert's journey was over and the audience leapt up and cheered and raved and yelled and stomped their feet (eventually for something like 15 minutes) in a way you don't really see often at la Scala, Barenboim only emerged from deeper inside the stage once: he sweetly left the spotlight to Quasthoff, to let him enjoy his moment. Then he got near Quasthoff's tiny podium, smiled at him, bowed his head in sign of respect, and then simply caressed Quasthoff's cheek. Once, almost stealthily, with great tenderness.