You are never prepared for the transformative moments in your life. I’ve had a few. The first time I saw Mesa Verde from the top of an adjacent mountain. Watching my family praying Mincha, each in his own spot, amidst the deserted ruins of Segesta. Lightning striking a Bristlecone Pine while my son was standing next to it, peeing. Waking in the morning aged 10 and realizing I was in love with Shakespeare. Waking at 24 and realizing I was in love.
Such was the evening I spent at the Disney Center on Monday night. Matthias Goerne, no longer a youth, singing… no becoming… the lovelorn young miller’s apprentice in Schubert’s heart wrenching song cycle of Wilhelm Müller’s Die Schöne Müllerin, with the aging Christoph Eschenbach transformed by our sheer imagination to the miller’s daughter, all the while sitting with intense concentration at his piano.
The world slowed down; we were transported to an age of complete identity with nature, ours and God’s: indivisibly water, woods, trees, emotions, imaginary relationships, thoughts and voices, and everywhere the color green, the color of life, love, springtime, growth and ultimately the grave, when our feelings cease to fluctuate and grass covers us all.
Goerne was consumed by his role. His utterly beautiful voice soared and softened and was one with his entire body which bent like a reed, straightened and writhed in the agony of delight, love, happiness, jealousy, bitterness, anger and utter sorrow. His face followed; it did not matter that he does not look like a lovelorn youth or that his accompanist wasn’t a foolish maiden. He had me utterly under his spell.
The Disney Center was half empty. It should not have been. People of all ages, colors and experience should have been battering down the doors.
At the sweet, bitter end Goerne and Eschenbach slowed to their stop, and we all waited, waited, and waited… then, finally, they woke from their trance, faced the audience and we gathered up our strength to stand and applaud and bring them back until the two old loving friends walked away for the last time.
It was a performance that was hardly performance, and I with a few others bought a CD which normally would be found at half the price on Amazon, just to commemorate an evening of awe. The two great musicians came down, sat next to each other at a little table and beatifically, gratefully, signed their names on the CD. Yet it was us, the worshippers, who were saying Thank you, Thank you, and amazed at seeing them smile. How do you recover from an experience like that?