Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 11 thoughts

Last weekend, my mother and I went to the San Francisco Opera to see "Heart Of A Soldier", an opera by Christopher Theofanidis based on the life of Rick Rescorla, head of security at Morgan Stanley, who rescued over 2,700 people on September 11, 2001, by evacuating them from the WTC South Tower, ignoring Port Authority directions to remain at their desks. Returning to search for more survivors, he was killed when the building collapsed. As I was sitting in my ornate but uncomfortable seat in the beautiful picturesque opera house, watching the story unfold, I thought about how deeply strange it was that I and all of the members of the audience have memories of this historical event that we are now seeing reenacted; we all were witnesses of sorts, because it happened in our life time, just 10 years ago. Isn't opera supposed to be about ancient myths, glorious battles and tragic love stories from many centuries ago? Can someone really write an opera about something this contemporary, raw, immediate? My answer is yes. Creating art is a culture's way of coping. Just as some of us use art in our personal lives to express what cannot otherwise be expressed, to come to grips with what is beyond grasp, a culture's artists hold this space for all of us, so we can partake. As the haunting, stylized, stark images filled the stage, respectfully created through simple black and white light effects - thousands of falling pieces of paper, an opaque curtain slowly drawing down as the towers are leveled - we watched with tears in our eyes, our souls aching with the collective memories of this unfathomable horror and suffering. Yet we were left with a sense of hope and belief in the goodness of mankind, in the face of pure evil the story of a true hero. Yes, the stuff that great opera is made of. And so the opera serves to remind us of what truly matters in life. Love, death, pain, kindness, community. A fitting tribute.

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