Music and theater and opera and art and the whole damn thing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dream: Nilsson explains her Norma

I am in a small Swiss café after a hard day sightseeing landscapes that (appropriately) resemble the oeuvre of Paul Klee, and as I scan the menu for anything affordable (snails, perhaps ... no, one snail ... welcome to Switzerland), I realize the woman at the next table, hiding behind dark glasses, is Birgit Nilsson. She catches me looking at her. I say, "I've read your book and I know you don't like stalkers, but I'm just the biggest fan of yours ..." Graciously, she invites me to join her.

In a café with Birgit Nilsson! The sky's the limit! Three snails! And dunkelweisen to wash them down.

Nilsson reminisces. She especially recalls her aborted desire to record Norma with Franco Corelli (though he'd already done it with Callas, of course). And suddenly, join with me now in those thrilling days of yesteryear, we are in her hillside villa in the mountains outside Zurich, and the record company, frantic, is threatening law suits, and Corelli is sobbing and hysterical all over the landscape, and Nilsson in the middle is very calmly explaining that she thought she could sing it, but on closer attention to the score realizes this is out of the question. And we circle - besuited lawyers, belawyed suits, Corelli, Nilsson, her husband, his wife, Karajan maybe (no; Serafin), Christa Ludwig (the proposed Adalgisa - of course, she'd sung it with Callas), Tito Gobbi (what was he doing there?), Jon Vickers (who was not singing Pollione if Corelli was, but my subconscious is not easily explained), and me, all of us circling an enormous tree whose flowers (black, gray, brown, maroon, cobalt blue) resemble ribbons tied into flower-shaped knots) and we are circling and chanting as if celebrating some pagan rite, which perhaps explains what I am doing here, and then we all go into the house for a very Swiss sort of breakfast with scones and muesli and rashers of trimmed bacon, and akvavit in the coffee, and the execs simply do not understand Nilsson's reasoning and Corelli does but he's more upset about the damage her decision will make on his own career and the sun rises over the pure white modernist lines of the rather unattractive chalet ...

In the old days, someone would have asked me to sing opposite Nilsson (or maybe even instead of Nilsson), but my subconscious seems to have figured out, over the years, that I am not going out on stage, don't even hint it.

1 comment:

Max Cornise said...

When Olin Downes asked her during one of the Met Opera broadcast intermissions, "Why haven't you ever sung Norma?" she replied "Too many little notes!"