On the Sublime

“But his voice filled my spirit with a strange, sweet sound. In that night there was music in my mind. And through music my soul began to soar! And I heard like I’ve never heard before…”

Last night, I had a rare opportunity to witness what people may call the sublime.  Per Wikipedia, “[i]n aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublīmis) is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.” While I’m prone to hyperbole on occasion (in fact, I rather enjoy it most of the time), I do believe that I did, in fact, serve witness to true operatic greatness last night at the Kennedy Center, where I saw Plácido Domingo perform Oreste in Iphigenie en Tauride.

I know, Dear Reader, that I needn’t waste your time telling you that a man who’s had such a famously vast and storied career (134 roles, 3,500+ performances, 12 Grammy’s, 2 Emmy’s, and a partridge in a pear tree) is “great”.  Yet I believe there is a true disconnect between accepting that a person is great at face-value, and truly understanding it beyond the celebrity hype machine and reviews of trusted critics and scholars. I’ve known for more than 20 years that this man has a gift, a talent far beyond those of his peers. There’s a reason why he was part of The Three Tenors, a group famous for being the best of the best. Even so, I didn’t expect to come away from this performance with the insight into the man and his gift that I feel I now have.

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