Have you ever had one of those perfect evenings? You know, the ones where you spend a couple of hours sharing great food with a small circle of good friends, just kicking back, talking about anything and nothing, and really relaxing? I had an evening like that the other day. You can always tell when you’re having one, because you’re sorry to see it end. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of many other great people every single day, but days like this cannot be planned. You can’t “make” them happen; there is some indefinable thing about then which cannot be prepared or planned for.
I was at Paul’s house with Kristina and Audey. We were celebrating Audey’s birthday before he left for Atlanta. It was just the right size group: four, and everyone seemed to be in the right mood. Paul made a mean chicken Caesar from scratch while we opened a bottle of merlot. Later we suprised Audey with a cake and Kristina gave him a watch with two faces on it so he could keep track of time in Atlanta and Orange County.
We talked about a million different random things, but one of them totally blew me away. A mutual friend of ours (who just a season or two ago sang with us at Opera Pacific) has hit the big time. His name is Charles Castronovo. We always knew he had a fabulous voice, good looks, and a real passion for opera. But never in my wildest dreams did I figure I’d be hearing what Paul told us: he’ll be making his Metropolitan Opera debut next season as Beppe in Pagliacci opposite Placido Domingo. Paul related how it was just a few years ago that he used to watch Charles play the guitar and sing at a local park.
If you’re not into opera, the significance might not hit you. Basically, once you’re on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, you’ve reached the pinnacle. And who the hell lands at the Met after training at Cal State Fullerton?! You expect the big time singers to train at Juilliard Opera Center or the Curtis or AVA or something.
What makes it so freaky is that he’s my age (twenty six, for those of you who are not keeping track)! In a world where thirteen year old gymnasts win gold medals and earn millions by appearing on cereal boxes and touring around the country, you might say “so what?”. But in the opera world, people don’t usually make it so quickly, partially because it takes years of experience to master such a difficult art form and learn the repertoire, and partially because the male voice doesn’t mature until the around age 30. Still, if there is anyone worthy of and able to handle such rapid success, I think it would be Charles.
Once I managed to get my mouth closed, Paul and I decided that we were going to do everything possible to be in New York for his big opening night.