Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Very Different Story

Not a Fairy Tale

     With any luck, You Are My Song should be available for purchase by the end of the month. I’ve included some difficult elements in this story: divorce, alcoholism, a hate crime, a family tragedy. The South in the 1950s and 1960s had its share of problems, especially for people who didn’t adhere to the “norm.” Jamie, mainly through some of his friends and family, faces some difficult moments.
     One of my reader reviews on Amazon for Eli’s Heart states “The story was fairy tale, full of music and wonder.” There is a fairy tale element to the book; there had to be, given Eli Levin’s dual challenges of a serious congenital heart defect and a prodigious musical talent. It could have taken place anywhere and in any era.
     Jamie Logan, on the other hand, the protagonist of You Are My Song, is very much a product of small town America in the 1950s. A product of a small Southern town in the 1950s. He is a good-hearted, naïve boy when the story begins. He has a lot to learn about life, about himself, about what he wants and what he wants to do. About what it will take for him to achieve his dream.
     Jamie is fortunate that he is white, and that he’s straight. He learns through some of his friends and fellow college students that being other than white and straight could lead to complications. To his credit, he does what he can for his friends who face these problems, and grows as a man and an artist because of it.
     Jamie just wants to sing, and it’s not that simple. Despite the many attributes he has, and the fact that he is more than willing to work hard at perfecting his craft, the “gold ring” he is after is not easily attained. Good things happen to him and for him, but there are definitely challenges he has to face, both personal and professional.
     What was most enjoyable about writing the book was revisiting “opera world” by listening to – and watching – recordings and videos of operas, and appreciating all over again those glorious voices I have admired and loved for many years. YouTube is great. I saw full length productions of Carmen, La Traviata, La Bohème. I saw the Met’s HD broadcast last year of Tosca and recently of The Merry Widow (and plan to attend The Tales of Hoffmann soon – a bonus!). I watched again my DVD of Manon Lescaut with the wonderful performers Kiri te Kanawa and Placido Domingo.
     I listened to numerous recordings, both my own and on YouTube, of a number of tenors from the 1950s and 60s: Jussi Björling, Giuseppe di Stefano, Jan Peerce, Richard Tucker, Franco Corelli, Mario del Monaco, Nicolai Gedda, Fritz Wunderlich, and yes, Mario Lanza. Great tenors, all of them.
     I was reminded of both the immense satisfaction an opera singer can experience and the intense frustration he can face. It’s not an easy life. But as Jamie learns, if you are born to do this ─ sing opera ─ you will try to find a way. And there’s a chance if you have the voice and the drive – and the luck – you might know the amazing sensation of standing on a stage with fellow artists and singing with a full orchestra, without a microphone, and feeling your voice soar to the far reaches of the opera house. You will have achieved something few people ever achieve.