This composite image is over seven years old. (Hopefully, I’ve gotten more sophisticated with my PhotoShop skills since then!) I used this image for the cover of a card I made and then had members of the MET Orchestra sign to send to then Mets First Baseman John Olerud who had a few nights before, we learned from the papers, attended a performance of Berg’s Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera House.
We Mets fans (and baseball fans) in the orchestra at that time were so surprised and touched that Olerud had been there–and at the same time were so frustrated that we had missed recognizing him or seeing him there (was it the tie?)–that we wanted to send him a little note just saying something along the lines of "We heard you were here. Glad you came. Boy, you picked some repertoire for your first opera! Come back again and, hey, maybe next time see something a little more accessible if you found Berg a bit hard on the ears like, oh, La Boheme, for instance!"
I made the card and the orchestra members signed it–none of us expecting a thing in return. Lo and behold, I received 30 or so Mets caps in the mail from the New York Mets organization some weeks later. Obviously, Olerud was responsible for the thank you in return.
But back to the image of Pavarotti.
The point I wish to make is that in choosing an image for this card, I used a picture of Pavarotti. Not a picture of him in La Boheme, actually, but as Cavaradossi in Act I of Tosca. But that’s the point, really. It would not have mattered what costume, what role, what picture.
To most people, Pavarotti was THE image of opera.
And for good reason. Call it what you will: innate talent. God-given gifts. He had it.
Pavarotti had the goods.
That "ping" in the high notes. Musicians refer to the special timbre of his voice making him a true "Italianate tenor", usually associated with a high male voice of great power, with a certain clarion brightness and, yes, a "ping" or "pop" on the uppermost notes.
But now, back to baseball.
Among the many things I enjoy reading in Sports Illustrated are the brief sidebar interviews with athletes, asking a series of four or five questions. Often, one of the questions–in the case of a baseball star–is, "What was your ‘Welcome to the Major Leagues!’ moment?"
From the many issues I have read, I’ve seen some extremely entertaining answers to that question.
Now, bear with me for a moment here.
I started my young professional life as an oboist in a woodwind quintet in Pittsburgh and Principal Oboist of the Wheeling (West Virginia) Symphony for one year. I moved on to become Principal Oboist of the Spokane Symphony for four years while simultaneously holding down various other jobs to make ends meet AND taking auditions for positions in more prestigious, i.e., "major league" orchestras as those positions (few and far between as there are only four oboists in an orchestra ) became available.
After four years, many frustrating attempts, and lots of lost airfares and money spent on hotels in cities across the country, I ended up the winner of the audition for the position I currently hold and have held for the past 15 years.
I mention the above saga not to engender any sympathy from the reader but merely to set the stage for the following:
I moved to New York in August of 1992 to begin my new job. My first assignment? A recording session of an opera–Puccini’s Manon Lescaut–which I had never played before and certainly had not rehearsed nor performed with the Metropolitan Opera.
This did not seem to concern them in the least.
MY "Welcome to the Majors Moment", then, was walking into the Manhattan Center recording studio on West 34th Street in New York City, shyly saying hello to the few people in the MET Orchestra whom I barely knew, nervously finding my seat, self-consciously warming up, and, finally–when all were assembled, the orchestra had tuned and had practiced the first passage to be recorded–out walked, larger than life and to immediate applause by the orchestra, the Maestro: Luciano Pavarotti.
Seeing Pavarotti walk into the room,
hearing that voice only a few feet away from me,
and having the privilege of playing along and supporting that voice that day:
THAT was truly my
"I know I am now in the Major Leagues!" moment!!