In the movie Callas, Forever, Maria Callas played by Fanny Ardant says God answers prayers, but the problem is that we ask for the wrong things. Regardless of religious beliefs, most of us ask for things or want something at one time or another. I spend a lot of time wanting the wrong things. But as I awoke today feeling aged, worn out, and irrelevant, I wanted to be enlightened, to find meaning in the wasteland that life sometimes appears to be. No small order, right?
The answer came. My request was answered at the Millennium Concert Series performance with soprano Lara Ciekiewicz and Tadeusz Biernacki in the form of poetry, musical poetry. Their collaborative music was a revelation that penetrated to the deepest of one’s core.
Ciekiewicz’s voice resonated in a powerful magic that spellbound everyone. Tears swelled in my eyes from her opening notes of the Kálmán piece.
Ciekiewicz. Her presence — captivating. Her voice and acting — nuanced in a palette of colours. Her generosity — boundless. To choose a word for the collaboration between Ciekiewicz and Biernacki — transformative. Ciekiewicz’s voice pulls the audience toward the centre of an answer, to life’s very meaning itself, with the gravity of a black hole whose centre is a supernova explosion of beauty. The answer, my friend, is music. It must be.
During Dvorák’s Gypsy Songs Lara prefaced the pieces by saying they are about love and death. The piano and voice carried us on a meditative journey, a peaceful one resonating with a message that everything is okay. And in that sacred space of the Roman-pillared hall everything was okay. I felt an answer in that delicate state of being present that life’s questions will be resolved with a surety equal to the piano’s final notes of the seventh piece.
With the Mozart aria, “E Susanna non vien…Dove sono” from Le Nozze di Figaro came more tears on my part. Any doubt that had bred in me before about anything vanished as music transported the audience to extra dimensions. Who needs space travel when you can travel through music here in the musical city of Winnipeg? Listening to Mozart, especially sung in the clear yet resonant tones of Lara Ciekiewicz, can only be described as a spiritual experience.
The musical theatre selection uplifted and also guided the heart and spirit. In the Sondheim piece “No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods was the text that people make mistakes. Forgive my ignorance for the context of these words, but they brought to me the peace of a confession and an offered forgiveness.
Lara introduced “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music by presenting it as a protest song and to illustrate the relevance of music on the world stage. She told us to do our part and be good, if recollection serves. The song did good for the audience as she invited us to sing, to participate, to join her in song in a white musical purity.
I’m privileged to recently have attended concerts performed by Evgeny Kissin, Leon Fleisher, and Rolando Villazón. Kissin’s virtuosity is unparalleled. Every note Fleisher plays unveils his genius. And Villazón. His joy, playfulness, sonority, and relaxed posture are as instructive as years of vocal lessons. But I feel privileged here in Winnipeg too to bear witness to the paragons of musical gifts offered by talents such as Lara Ciekiewicz and Tadeusz Biernacki. Thank you for sharing your gifts.