VINYL DIARY #9: Opera, Immigrants, Lasagna And Nickelback

vinyl diary 9 opera and Nickelback

Leoncavallo PAGLIACCI

Victoria De Los Angeles, Jussi Bjoerling, Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, Paul Franke, Robert Shaw Chorale

RCA LM 6084 Red Seal 2 LP

Release date unknown


Sundays are becoming opera days, chez moi. Italian opera invokes fond memories of Nonna Giustina’s homemade lasagna. Those perfumed aromas of freshly cut basil and garlic added to simmering pots on a tomato spattered stove. “Never use dried oregano, this isn’t a pizzeria.”

Sage counsel from the deepest well of experience I could draw upon. Vivid memories of baseball sized meatballs cooled off on the formica counter, rendering them easier to slice for the lasagna.  It used to take Nonna all morning to prepare her succo and stack that massive pan with layers of delicious memories, but she’d wake up at 5 AM to get it done.  Sunday meals were a sacred ritual, the food and wine were of utmost importance. Famiglia. Nonno Salvatore took care of the wine in the cold room while Nonna had the kitchen on lockdown; teamwork. The local Italian radio program accompanied the entire process. vinyl diary opera and NickelbackTo European immigrants, especially those fresh off the boat during the 50’s and 60’s, this was a much needed connection to their homeland. Radio Italia consisted mostly of news from back home and ads for local Italian businesses, a simultaneous watering of old and new roots.  Famous Neapolitan folk songs and excerpts from operas like Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci peppered these Sunday broadcasts as pots simmered and homemade wine was siphoned from cask to bottle. These songs and excerpts soundtracked both the history of my family’s roots and my own earliest musical memories.

Happy memories are primarily why I love Italian opera. Spinning Pagliacci on a Sunday morning reminds me of my Nonna’s lasagna. That delicious slice of history has since been passed down to me; it is a proud tradition which now nourishes my own family. In my experience, the music is as essential an ingredient as the fresh basil and the mason jars of diced tomatoes. It is my hope that my loved ones will not only remember the aromas and the flavors, but the accompanying sounds as well. Moments and memories like these are just about the best reason to listen to any piece of music. Oftentimes, they are the only reason that matters. The fact that online hip folk might deem opera musically irrelevant misses the point altogether. Youth is wasted on the young, experience deepens knowlege. Art is not a lifestyle accoutrement; art is life.

Attach the best memories to the “worst” music, and it is instantly transformed into a crucial ingredient in life’s most crucial moments. If a Nickelback lp is what takes you there, then Nickelback are the best band in the world, to you. Frankly, I’m not convinced Nickelback are all that terrible anyway. I don’t listen to radio so I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a full song, much less an entire album. That doesn’t make me cool, it makes me ignorant on the subject. I just know that making fun of Nickelback doesn’t mean a fucking thing. It’s the Trump meme of 2010, not based on any type of relationship with the actual art in question. Anyone who loves music is too busy listening to it to bother with memes about shit they don’t like. Are these people actually listening to Nickelback or not? If they are and they think it sucks, then why are they listening to it in the first place?  Unless you’re into horticulture, choosing to focus on the dirt bed part of a rose garden might just mean that you’re doing it wrong.

Yeah, so opera is awesome and Nickelback memes aren’t really all that clever or funny. If mashing up those two things got anyone interested enough to check out Pagliacci for themselves, then I love Nickelback today.