I have a confession to make. I had quite an experience the other night. My heart broke, and my body collapsed into a crumbling blubbering mass. At first I did not understand what had happened to me upon hearing that voice.
Because that voice and the power that pierced through the crevasses of the never-cry rock of my heart was beyond explaining–though now I try.
The words in the Italian were unintelligible and superfluous. It was the sadly moving melody channeled by the force of the cords of the tenor’s voice–that is what did it. That is what broke through into the realms of the core of my being–into the secret chamber where lurks the hidden desires and dreams which serve as mortar that plasters and binds our bricks of tenderness into stone.
As I sat there stunned, weeping uncontrollably in waves of joy and sorrow, at 4: 00 am in front of the television set, a blue dawn of understanding began to come over me. I remember saying to myself, “I get what they see in opera now. I get it.”
The catharsis produced in this art form is similar to the effect of Shakespeare’s tragedies, which I taught many years. I have also experienced it in the sadness and loneliness of traditional country songs by Vern Gosdin and George Jones among others. Nothing sadder than lost love as in “You don’t know lonely until it’s chiseled in stone” or “He stopped loving her today; they placed a wreathe upon his door; soon they’ll carry him away. He stopped loving her today.”
The human need for catharsis is universal. And it seems that most cultures try to meet the need to have our hearts broken. We must need it–the humbling, the vulnerability of a man whose defensive walls break down leaving him sobbing vehemently.
We fight it at first, of course, doing our best to stop the raindrops from our eyes, knowing innately the emotional sea change that will ensue. And yet, deep down we want to be broken. If we did not, then the patently sad movies, books, plays, songs, and operas would cease to sell copies and tickets.
God evidently made us this way, with this need and desire to be purged and purified through brokenness. After all, He did say that He is near to them of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I just did not know that He would use Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” sung by Mario Lanza to do the breaking. Kenneth Wayne Hancock