Shadow of a cloud: a prayer for Jonas

There are those moments in the life of every budding obsession when, by some miraculous means, our appreciation soars to new heights; so high, in fact, that we have no conception of ground level anymore, and couldn’t return there if we tried. At least, we couldn’t return there as though we had never experienced transcendence.

In my initial post, I wrote of the first time I had heard the voice of our tenor (yes, 7:30am on February 5, but who’s keeping track?) via a YouTube recording of the Pearl Fishers duet. It was ~ in the words of C.S. Lewis describing the writing of his friend J.R.R. Tolkien ~ “like lightning from a clear sky”. After this, I began to watch opera again, and as if for the first time; and of course, I listened innumerable times to that bromance beauty with Jonas and Dmitri.

Hey, can't they even spell his name right??
Hey, can’t they even spell his name right??

The second great moment (for me personally) happened also at 7:30, but in the evening, two and a half weeks later. One of the cinemas in Medford, the larger town a little north of us, screens some wonderful theatrical and opera productions, including the Met Live in HD operas. On February 23rd of this year they had a screening of Jonas Kaufmann’s An Evening With Puccini, from his concert at Milan’s La Scala. As any Kaufmanniac knows, this concert is a priceless treasure. For an opera newbie, who loved Turandot as a child but who knew little of Puccini’s repertoire in general, it was magic ~ and Jonas a magician casting a spell from which I have never recovered, and I know I’m not alone. With the brilliant Jochen Rieder conducting, it is a thing of beauty.

(Here, I must also tip my hat to my youngest brother, who had the misfortune of sitting next to an embarrassingly sobbing sister in the theater that night.)

Of course, besides the exquisite “Nessun Dorma” ~ and the likewise exquisitely endearing encore of it at the end, which I’ll not spoil for those who haven’t seen it ~ there were two pieces in particular, among the many that were new to me (and most of them were…newbie that I was/am!), which brought me metaphorically to my knees: a piece from an opera that I’d never seen (La Fanciulla del West) ~ more on this later ~ and one that was not a Puccini aria, but a piece by the Italian priest Licinio Refice, with lyrics by Emidio Mucci. It is called “Ombra di Nube” (1935). It would appear that our tenor is particularly fond of this piece, and works it into a number of his concerts.

Here is a YouTube recording of “Ombra di Nube,” sung at another concert (warning: the sound gets suddenly too loud at the applause at the end):

Ombra di Nube

The sky was an arc of dazzling blue;

a brilliant light shone down on my heart.

Shadow of a cloud, do not bring me darkness;

do not obscure the beauty of life for me.

Fly, cloud, fly far away from me;

let this strange torment of mine be swept away.

Bring back the light, bring back the blue!

Let me see the clear sky for all eternity!

Not only to listen to, but to watch Jonas sing this is to witness something transcendent; he is on another plane altogether. Every word is delicately, poignantly sung, as from one who has experienced the tormented plea, and fragile hope, firsthand. By some mysterious means, he brings us with him.

(It is no wonder that a number of us ~ myself included ~ have since asked that this piece be played at our funerals.)

With Jonas’ recent announcement of another cancellation, this time of his Paris performances in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, he reveals that he has sensed for some time that something has been wrong with his voice. Sure enough, the side effect of a medication has indeed done some damage, which will require rest and time off to heal.

The news, of course, must be disappointing for so many who had tickets to see our tenor in the near future. (I can only imagine, as one who prays to see and hear him in person at least once before I die.) That being said, how much must our tenor himself be wishing that this “strange torment of mine be swept away”!

My hope and prayer is that this is only the “shadow of a cloud”; once the cloud has passed by and our light returns ~ for Jonas’ extraordinary gift has indeed been a light in many lives ~ it will be all the brighter for our having experienced the shadow with him. Now, every time I hear him in a recording, it is with the greatest gratitude to have heard such beauty, though not yet in person, in my lifetime.

Thank you, Jonas, for sharing the gift of your great artistry, and your great heart. Rest, and be well. Take all the time that you need; for what you’ve already given us is beyond price.

Meanwhile, I silently pray:

Bring back the light!

Do not obscure the beauty of life for me.”

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12 thoughts on “Shadow of a cloud: a prayer for Jonas

  1. Hello dear!! So happy to found you again! ! I wrote to you before but then we got lost!! Your word are so moving and it express what we are all feeling,yes “bring back the light see Angel”!!!!thank for this beautiful words! Sending a big hug from Montreal 💖 and sending love and good wishes to our “CurlyAngel”💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖

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    1. Curly Angel is good, that’s how I feel also. Want him to keep on singing, selfish though that is. He needs to take care of his health! I guess we just need to get his CD’s where they show only his best. Must be a hard life trying to always be at the top. The public expects it. I wish him the best……

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  2. Thank you, dear Rosaria! ❤ I'm so happy to be back, and to hear from you again! Yes, it was an eventful summer, and work transitions the last couple of months. Oh, thank God for our "Curly Angel"! He saves the day, always! I hope you are doing well, and that you had a good summer? At least over here, the weather is starting to get cooler…I love autumn 🙂

    Love and good wishes to you, and our Jonas, from out West too!

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  3. Rachel, I have missed you. Glad to have you back but wish we were sharing unbridled joy instead of this sadness-tinged hope. Again, he brings so many of us together.
    June 21, 2016* he walked onto the Musikverein Wien – smiling only slightly, arranging the music, watching conductor Jonathan Nott preparing to begin. Me. third row on aisle, mentally record every second while reminding myself to breathe occasionally. Recalling the vocal score I had spent 3 months trying to memorize. (Why? – topic for another time.) Orchestra begins, I was ready, 4 bars, 2nd page goes by quickly, Nott setting quite a pace. ‘Mit voller Kraft’ (with full force), C Schon D winkt E der F Wein…Yes, a voice, THE voice, HIS voice**. This is a conversation between the singer and orchestra so there are many moments when the orchestra is alone, giving me (and the singer) time to breath. I was ready for the next note, the memorization paying off…but wait, he is moving his whole body, or just the head, facial expressions changing, I have to watch even his breathing is varying. One too many inputs …notes, markings forgotten, almost feel hypnotized, something more than notes, markings, text…he is living the music with every fiber of his being, I began breathing with him, or trying to, and let myself be in the conversation of the music. For the next 50 or so minutes I let him lead me through Mahler’s ultimate view. Only a few times dis he seem to waiver on the path. Places not yet totally absorbed perhaps but I hardly noticed. Found the necessary “cough breaks” between the songs an annoying intrusion. Until the last, before Der Abschied. And then a simple gesture etched in my heart. As he waited for the conductor to begin, he crossed his arms in front of his chest, hands gently curved at his waist. A hug for himself before that final jourey. I did the same. And then we set off…if you know this music the destination is unmistakable…ewig…ewig……..ewig. By then I could only look into his eyes, my tears graciously paused long enough to experience the final …..ewig…… I was blessed to EXPERIENCE Jonas Kaufmann’s guidance on Mahler’s ineffable journey.
    Afterwards (the Viennese audience was kind enough to allow the silence this piece demands before applause) there were surprisingly few waiting at the stage door. He came out rather soon and signed quickly autographed programs and headed off to a local bistro. I heard “Hunger” several times. As it turned out, it would have been my best chance to say something or have a picture taken. I was in a “state” and think I mumbled a probably incoherent “Thank you Herr Kaufmann…” I am not sure he even heard my blubbering. Fortunately I was being guided by friends (from FB) who led me to food and refreshment as I slowly came back down to earth. His party (and my friends) often dine after shows at this same bistro. I did not photograph or approach him as he ate and chatted with friends. I just hoped my rays of gratitude somehow reached him.
    Sorry this is so long. I have been wanting to write it all down. Edit as you see fit, Rachel.
    A fellow Kaufmanniac,
    Nola Colman
    * Jonas Kaufmann sang all 6 songs of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Historic – no one has done this before.
    ** I have 4 recordings of Kaufmann plus 9 other complete recordings and many more of the tenor songs alone – it IS my favorite music)

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    1. Nola, this is absolutely stunning!!!! Thank you for sharing this experience of the Mahler; I felt like I was right there too (and I think I was actually holding my breath unawares quite often while reading your experience. This deserves a post of its own…I am not as familiar with WP yet as I ought to be, but I’d love to make it a whole separate guest post? Any thoughts on doing that? Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.

      I am so glad to be back, and will try not to let the chaos and transition that sometimes comes (as they did this summer) keep me so long away again!

      Gratefully,
      Rach

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