Thursday, September 25, 2008

Confessions of an Opera Addict, Part III

Voices at the Villa

In the early '90s, I got that long-delayed "job-job," doing PR for the performing arts seasons at Villa Montalvo, a mansion in Saratoga, California. Part of the season was a week-long residency by the San Francisco Opera's Merola program, which conducted its final performances at the outdoor Garden Theater. I vivdly recall hiking the trails behind the estate, hearing the best young voices in the country filter through the redwoods.

One of those voices belonged to mezzo Reveka Mavrovitis, who was appearing as Carmen. I met her while coordinating some interviews with the local press. In 1995, I was in New York, getting ready to read from my choral novel Frozen Music at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble, when I spotted Reveka's name on a cast list for the Met, a production of Fedora. I immediately bought two tickets, and asked Adelina, the beautiful half-black, half-Jewish PR lady at the B&N, to accompany me. While Adelina was off at the ladies' room, I discovered the marvelously clever advance-purchase beverage trick, and felt like James Freakin' Bond when I went to the table at intermission and handed her a champagne.

Reveka was playing a minor role, but there was quite a hubbub about the lead soprano: confetti, dozens of bouquets, numerous ovations. Somebody told us it was one of her last performances before she retired from the stage. For me, the highlight was visiting Reveka backstage, and having her actually remember me (or putting on quite a good act). The bonus came years later, after I had obtained a better knowledge of opera history, when I dug up that old program and rediscovered the name of that lead soprano: Mirella Freni.
Photo: Mirella Freni

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