Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Japan: Week 15

15 - Opera. Week ending Sunday 23rd June

I need to catch you all up, I think. To anyone who doesn't know me in "real life", I'm terribly sorry if you thought I'd fallen off the face of the planet. No longer in the incredible place I write about, but still here, nonetheless.

The week-days at this point were filled with studying and felt-pens and re-living exam stress of the like I had not experienced since the GCSE years. It's the sheer quantity of subjects you're supposed to be able to be interested in and theorise about which always got me.

However, as any perfectionist student will tell you, upon glancing up from their textbook, the way to study to the extent that it is feasible for you to hold yourself to such ridiculously high standards is to give your mind a break once in a while. Appreciating the beauty existing in so many places and ignoring the futilities of your worries for a few short hours is a wonderful way to gain some distance from those revision notes. Enough that when you return you'll realise how much you learnt from what you were trying to.

To arrive at the point, the appreciation of beauty which soothed my soul and calmed my fraying nerves was 'The Marriage of Figaro' by Amadeus Mozart, performed by Basel Theater, a Swiss company, at Aichi Arts Centre on 22nd June. This had been arranged for us by the university many weeks previously, and I was at once excited at the prospect of seeing the opera again, but this time in its original Italian. At the time it was merely from a cultural perspective; I will always enjoy an event held at a theatre. I hadn't calculated that this would be the weekend before deadlines would finally creep on top of us, and how necessary the performance would be to my sanity.

We were invited along with Japanese students taking culture classes in Global Studies at NUFS, and instructed to wear formal attire and bring opera glasses... I arrived in the closest dress I had to 'formal', but unfortunately sans opera glasses.

As it turned out, they were unnecessary. We had fabulous seats, ones I would have chosen if I could have my pick of the auditorium. The very front row of the first tier up, but not dead centre so that I could soak up the atmosphere from the viewers as well as the performers. Perhaps it was the fortunate acoustics which made this production so beautiful.

But I doubt it. It had been a while since I'd heard an orchestra of such a high standard play music by one of the most talented composers the Earth has ever known, and it could be needless to say that I was moved. I struggled to remember the plot-line (my spoken Italian and written Japanese not being up to much, and that being an understatement) and cursed myself for not looking up a synopsis before I left, as had been my intention. But in the end it mattered very little. The story is one of love, and all the tribulations which go along with it. This is how great minds become immortalised, they were the ones who figaro-ed out how to write down the stories the human mind obsesses over (Sorry. Not sorry). The plot contains jealousy, multiple story-lines, and the only truly confusing bit in the end revealed its meaning to me because I know the Japanese character for 'mother'.

So, the plot was sufficiently under control in my mind. It was unimportant, compared to the talent of the musicians. I discovered the perfection of orchestral music all over again that evening. Memories of all the ensembles and people I had played with often filled my mind, and these, coupled with the clarity and beauty of an orchestra in full voice tugged on my heartstrings and brought a tear to my eye more than once. In that place, 'Cherubino's Aria', sung by Franziska Gottwald, and her voice as pure and crystalline as water was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.

I'll be forever grateful that music has no language barrier. Not English, nor Italian, nor Japanese can mask the unadulterated joy caused by the soaring notes of the like of Basel sinfonietta.

And that, friends, is how a heart, tattered from stress like mine, can find its peace in music. And so we go home, and carry on revising.

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