Monday, October 31, 2011

Arrigo Pola and the Family Pipes

Several decades ago, when my dad was a child, his father -- my grandfather, of course -- was cast in a production of Il trovatore at the regional opera house.  Although many of the details have been obscured by the passage of time, my dad remembers that he played with my grandfather's prop sword, which seemed to be a real sword, whenever my grandfather came home from rehearsal.  My dad also remembers his father practicing at home, singing with an otherworldly set of operatic pipes this side of Luciano Pavarotti (more on him later).

After many weeks of rehearsal, the night at the opera arrived.  Of all the siblings in the household, my dad was chosen to go with his mother -- my grandmother, naturally -- to watch my grandfather perform in the opera.

Before the show started, my dad heard a voice warming up from behind the curtain.  In his mind, my dad knew that this was his father's loud and clear singing voice.  When they raised the curtain, however, the voice was not my grandfather's, but that of Arrigo Pola, the star of this production of Il trovatore.  Please take a listen to Pola's rendition of "Ah! si ben mio," which is from the aforementioned opera:



A few years later, Pola would transform a young singer named Luciano Pavarotti into the legendary tenor.  This pupil that would outshine his teacher so much, that you can't really find a clear photo of Pola on the Internet.  You would also be hard-pressed to find recordings of Pola, other than 11 tracks on YouTube and a single audio interview.  It would be just my luck that this blog entry would be up there in the few searches for Arrigo Pola!

As for my grandfather -- several decades later, his wife would sit at the piano, while he would sing in a clear, albeit less powerful, tenor voice.  I was less than a year old when my grandfather passed away, so I can't recall his beautiful tenor.  In any case, from the moment Il trovatore opened that night, my dad would associate Arrigo Pola's voice with his father's.  Recently, my brother found the few Pola recordings on YouTube, and he shared them with our dad.  Sure enough, my dad heard his father through those recordings.

Would you care to listen to another recording of my grandfather, I mean, Arrigo Pola?  This one's from the sad clown opera, Pagliacci:




As for me, I am on a quest to find the family pipes.  I doubt I inherited these particular set of vocal cords, even though I inherited the desire to attempt at some sort of singing. Strangely enough, in 2004, there was a really good operatic singer who sang at a college commencement ceremony that I attended.  The singer had long hair, and I had long hair (I still do).  The punchline being sort of obvious:  Lots of people complimented me for that singer's performance.  I gladly accepted the compliments, on his behalf, of course.

As for the photo to the left -- that's as close to the sad clown as I'll get, in all likelihood.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot:  Happy Halloween!