The Voice of VeniceBy
This morning around noon — about the time the sun had begun to turn the stone sward of via Garibaldi into a griddle — I heard in the middle distance the lyric blaring of the neighborhood tenor.
He’s tallish, and heavy-ish, and not at all decrepit even though his hair is white, and he is sometimes attended by a small entourage of drinking buddies/music-lovers. And for some mystic reason I have never had my camera with me when the muse has struck him.
He’s not bad, actually, though the decibels he prefers lead me to think he spent several seasons somewhere singing without any microphone, or maybe he sang opera at hog auctions. I can picture those swine just flying out of there on the strains of Verdi or Mascagni.
I think he imagines the accompaniment. Sometimes the spirit will move him to plunge into the depths of “Addio alla madre.” This morning it was “E lucevan le stelle,” from Tosca. He goes for the heart-rending stuff — I think it’s because the stronger the emotion, the more he gets to turn up the dial. His friends don’t look as if their hearts were particularly rent, but they applaud anyway.
The most striking feature of these moments musicaux is how they just start — BANG! — and off he goes into cadenza-land. Our man obviously doesn’t have an orchestra struggling to keep up but I’m not sure he notices that.
Like any clever performer, he retains a slight elusiveness. Days, weeks will go by and I won’t even see him. Sometimes I’ll see him but he’s not singing. And then there are those times I hear him but can’t locate him. Maybe he’s resting in the nearest bar, which may not have been the one he was in when the sacred fire fell.
I sometimes wonder if people make requests. Maybe they make bets on what he’s likely to come out with next. Or maybe they just stand back when the divine flame ignites his vocal cords.
I’m tempted — and I will do it someday — to broach a small conversation, perhaps when he hasn’t got his claque around. I wonder if he would be inclined to talk, or if he’d be likely to reply in arpeggios. I, of course, would be ready with a witty rejoinder in the Lydian mode.