Love, From Modena

“People think I’m disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion.
There is a great difference.”
Luciano Pavarotti

His mother worked in a cigar factory. His father was a baker. And the north central Italian city of Modena was the place where he was born in 1935. Seventy-one years later, after touring the world, touching millions, popularizing the art of opera like no one else, and reaching the highest heights of fame, Pavarotti would die in Modena, his birthplace, a contented man. Mighty medieval province of Modena. It is the sports car capital of the world – Italy’s “Motor City” – with Maserati, Lamborghini, and Ferrari calling the town home. Enzo Ferrari himself was born and raised in Modena. And then there’s the balsamic vinegar, which the artisans of Modena have been fermenting for hundreds of years. Sexy sports cars and balsamic vinegar are great of course, but Modena, Italy will forever hold as its most esteemed legacy, giving to the world the greatest tenor who ever lived.

The orange stucco rooftops of Modena:

A couple of weeks ago, I posed for open life drawing at the National Art League in Queens, a modeling gig I’ve been doing for over a decade. We turned on WQXR classical radio, as we often do, as a musical accompaniment. During my second 20 minute set, the transcendent voice of Pavarotti surged out of the speakers, and my eyes began to well up with tears. My reaction was not just the emotional response to his magnificent voice, although that certainly played a part. It was more than that. It elicited complex, painful feelings in me about what’s been going on in my life, namely familial relationships and revelations about those relationships that I still can’t fully accept or process. My mother no longer contacts me. She has, incredibly, removed herself from the sphere of my life and has, instead, decided to consign all her motherly love, loyalty, and attention over to her son. Her manipulative, self-serving son. He has brainwashed her, and it’s been distressing to witness over these past several months. It’s as if my mother has forgotten that she has TWO children, and whatever genuine, loving bonds used to exist in this dysfunctional family are now circling the drain.

Pavarotti’s voice is affecting not just because of its raw power, but also because of its purity, and by purity I mean love; the love that propels it through melody and dramatic arcs, in recording after recording, and live performance after live performance. Pavarotti stated many times in interviews that his sheer love of singing and desire to spread joy through music are what animated him. As I posed that night at the National Art League and my emotions stirred and tears dropped from eyes, I became intensely aware of the moment – where I was and what I was doing. It too was about love. I was modeling. Engaged in the livelihood that breathed new life into me 13 years ago and that I love with every fiber of my being. I was also in the presence of friends that I love, specifically my longtime friend Paul who was monitor for the session that night. Paul has shown me, in ways I won’t go into, what a thoroughly decent, upstanding, and genuine person he is. It’s an honor to know him. He is full of love.

At the Opera by Georges Jules Victor Clairin, 1900. I had to post this not just for the opera theme but, girl, those gloves! Rocking the whole outfit 🙂

Pavarotti’s quote about devotion strikes a chord with me in that it distills achievement, success, happiness, gratification  – whatever you want to call it – into a kind of simplicity.  And simplicity shouldn’t be a bad word. Relationships between people function best when the essence of their connection is solidly simple. How often do we hear of a break up because things “got complicated”? Or that someone felt the need to abandon a career because things “got complicated”? Devotion is love, and once love grasps us in its arms, our vision, purpose, and dedication become clearer. I don’t love art modeling because I’m good at it. I’m good at it because I love it. As a child of a working class family in Modena, Pavarotti could have become a small farmer, shoemaker, or vinegar fermenter. Those are all fine vocations. But his love steered him to singing, and it’s wholly evident in his voice. The love that once existed in my family has become tragically compromised – and made complicated – by one toxic person wielding his self-interest like a weapon. If only the simplicity of love had been upheld, and fought for, and acted upon free of bias, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But here we are.

In February of 1972, a 36 year old Pavarotti secured his place in opera immortality when he performed the aria “Ah! Mes amis, quell jour de fête!” from Donizetti’s comic opera La Fille du Regiment at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The aria contains a near impossible nine high C’s, which Pavarotti executed with inspired, love-drenched gusto. With devotion, if you will. The crowd went wild, and the young tenor was summoned back onstage for a record 17 curtain calls. Let’s listen to Pavarotti singing that aria for our Music Monday. It is not a live recording of that momentous night in 1972, but Pavarotti’s love and devotion are in full force. You can skip ahead to around 4:40 to get to the magic 🙂

18 thoughts on “Love, From Modena

  1. kdmedina says:

    Stunning. Everything I love about opera. I shall lear operatic stage laughing before I die.

    There are a few great tenors, but he’s deserving of the affection he has had.

    Sorrow surrounds us for a season, but there are tender mercies. xx

    • artmodel says:

      Ken,

      Tender mercies, yes … thank you. And stunning is the word for this Pavarotti recording. Leaves you breathless at the end!

      Thanks for your comments! Thinking of you and your own turmoils. Be well.

      Claudia

  2. Kathi Kirkpatrick says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your family. It causes me pain because I can relate. My mother never had anything to do with me since I can remember. Never hugged me, never said she loved me. I escaped at 18 & never went back.

    You are such a wonderful human being Claudia & I feel honored to know you!

    Love,
    Kathi

    • artmodel says:

      Kathi,

      I cried at your comments 😢 But I’m glad you escaped. We have to do what we have to do to survive, and find light.
      You know my mother and understand that this is not who she truly is. This change in her has occurred over the past year or so. I can’t describe how much I miss the old Mom – the REAL Mom.

      Kathi you too are a wonderful human being! I am honored to have you in my circle of friends. I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of compassion and support.

      Thanks for your comments, and I’ll see you soon!

      Claudia

  3. Dave Rudin says:

    Let us not forget, too, that the great soprano Mirella Freni also hailed from Modena. I had the good fortune to make my Metropolitan Opera debut as a supernumerary with Pavarotti in “Aida” in 2001, and while he was certainly the greatest lyric tenor of his generation, I imagine that there are (or at least, were) some fans of Enrico Caruso who might contest who was number one.

    Regarding your family situation, I am very sorry for what you have written and what you are going through and I hope that one day your mother will see the light once again. (Sadly, your brother is not the only person capable of conning people these days.)

    At least the Mets finally won a game yesterday.

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      Wow, that’s so cool! Good fortune indeed. A supernumerary is like an extra, yes? And I do tend to overlook Caruso and his devotees in the ‘greatest tenor’ debate! I just love Pavarotti so much 🙂

      You hit the nail on the head with your comment about my brother ‘conning people’. That’s exactly right. He relies on propaganda and falsehoods to keep up his charade. And it has now spread beyond just my mother into other family members as well. He’s a petty, vindictive tyrant.

      As for the Mets, yeah I watched that game and am straining to watch most of the games. But we lifelong Mets fans are used to this unfortunately. The offense is a disgrace. Poor Jacob deGrom!

      Thanks for commenting, Dave 🙂

      Claudia

  4. It is the power, balance and tonal quality behind that high C that is truly amazing. I sing baritone, and while I might be able to hit a high note accurately, I might only be able to hit it at one volume, and possibly even louder than my regular forte for all of the other notes I am singing – not balanced.

    The beauty of loving what you do is that you are so happy while doing it. Which stimulates you to do even better, each time getting closer to perfection. Making you even happier.

    As regards family, I am learning that aging can be cruel for both the elderly and those who love them. It’s almost as if the elderly have forgotten not to be gullible. And they get taken in by people with agendas. A rude shock, because I expect that age will only affect mobility and forget that there may well be an insidious decline in mental abilities.

    All the Best,

    Ken

    • artmodel says:

      Ken,

      I love these comments, thank you! And your description of hitting high notes was really informative. I see what you mean about balance. Yes Pavarotti definitely succeeded in that area. Just amazing.

      And this –> “It’s almost as if the elderly have forgotten not to be gullible”. Totally spot on with regard to my mother. She believes everything my brother tells her, without question. And that makes having just a basic conversation with her nearly impossible. She doesn’t seem to understand this. It is precisely my mother’s aging state now that amplifies my frustration with all this. I’ve always wanted to take care of her at this point in her life, and I had been trying my hardest over this past year. But her extreme bias in favor of my brother is almost militant at this point, and it comes at the expense of other people’s feelings. I keep imaging how my brother wouldn’t be getting away with all this if my father was still alive.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. And yes I am hugely lucky to find happiness in modeling. I don’t know what I’d do without it 🙂

      Claudia

  5. artmodelandrew says:

    “I don’t love art modeling because I’m good at it. I’m good at it because I love it.” Well said, and not just a clever turn of phrase: the last ten years of Museworthy posts supports that claim.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew, thank you!

      Museworthy is kind of an ongoing testimony for this wonderful fortuitous career. Best thing that ever happened to me 🙂

      Appreciate your support, friend …

      Claudia

  6. Thank you for sharing and the awesome recording. I too love Pavarotti. Missed seeing and hearing him live in Verona by one night. Thanks again, Tom Relth http://www.relth.org

    • artmodel says:

      Tom, so glad you enjoyed it! I never got to see him live either, but at least we have these fantastic recordings for posterity.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  7. Bill says:

    Love may be simple, but the problem is that almost nothing to do with love seems to share that simplicity. Even in Pavarotti’s case, I think there were times when he said, “Thank God I can escape to this stage once in a while.” You probably feel the same way when you model — it’s a gesture of purity that stands in contrast to some of the challenges you are facing away from the model stand. Throw in Pavarotti’s voice and the contrast is even more stark. We need the escape but it also leaves us even more aware of the gap between what is and what should be.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/3668821/Pavarottis-last-great-tragic-role.html

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      My theory about simplicity is actually not so simple! You make such a good point. Yes, there are instances where the purity and simplicity of the love expression are in stark contrast to everything that exists outside of that realm. I wish I could bottle the feeling I have when modeling and transfer it to all other areas of my life. But I can’t, and the disparity becomes even more glaring.

      That article you linked makes me so sad. These estate battles after someone dies are just horrible, with family members at war and the deceased’s wishes being ignored. Perhaps Pavarotti did feel the same about his love onstage while singing as an ‘escape’, in which case he had something in common with an artist’s model from NY 😉

      Thanks, Bill, as always …

      Claudia

  8. ” I became intensely aware of the moment – where I was and what I was doing. It too was about love. I was modeling. ” And this but one reason it is a dream of mine to be able to draw you from life . . .

    • artmodel says:

      Todd,

      We will find a way to make this happen! Don’t give up hope. And you flatter me … you’re so kind. When that time does come I hope I don’t disappoint! 😆

      Thanks for your comments.

      Claudia

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