When I was about 13 years old, my mother took my sister and I to see Franco Zeffirelli's film, La Traviata. It was screening at The State Theatre in Sydney, a magnificent heritage venue. The interior decor is styled with a resplendent mash up of Baroque, Gothic and Deco. Massive chandeliers, red velvet drapes, intricate floor tiles, a piano that rises from the stage and severely uncomfortable seats. The whole place has a magic, golden ambience. It was the perfect venue to watch La Traviata.
An old Italian man was sitting next to us. At some point during the film, my mother surreptitiously drew my attention to him. He had tears quietly drenching his cheeks as he mouthed the words of the arias.
When the movie had ended my mother spoke to him in Italian and they shared their delight in the wonder and beauty of it all.
As we walked back to the car, we were all in our own private little Traviata worlds. The lights and sounds of the city felt like an assault after the magic of that darkened theatre. None of us spoke for some time. All of us wanting to keep our own experience and sensations intact. To savour without interruption.
My mother seemed so graceful with her sleek black hair and her understanding of art and beauty.
Something of my Italian heritage was revealed to me that night and I think it was the first time that I experienced the emotional intensity that opera can invoke.