Spanish Red, Tosca & The Difference Between Listening and Hearing.
Last month I was tasked with pairing wine with arias for our ongoing partnership with Opera Delaware. The event was billed as Opera Uncorked, and it offered a chance to showcase the artistic beauty that parallels both music and wine.
Brendan Cooke, the dashing and talented pizzaiolo and Director of Opera Delaware offered me several arias from which I could choose to pair my vinous selections. The exercise produced some lovely pairings, while some required a little more imagination on both the part of the “listener” and the drinker. Luckily the vocal talent was exceptional and the setting beautiful and intimate.
My favorite pairing of the evening was Vissi d’Arte, from Puccini’s Tosca paired with Bodega Rejadorada’s 2015 Temple bottling. As Brendan had mentioned to me, Vissi d’Arte is sort of like Opera’s national anthem. And though I had “listened” to the aria several times before, I’m not sure I actually “heard” it. As Wesley Snipe’s Character, Sidney Deane, in White Men Can’t Jump taught me, “there’s a difference between hearing and listening.” Up until last month, I had merely been listening.
Brendan’s notes for me, prefacing Vissi d’Arte were as follows: “In the midst of an uncomfortable conversation with Scarpia about the fate of Tosca’s lover, Tosca sings of the two great driving forces in her life: love and music.” After reading Brendan’s notes I decided to stop simply “listening” to Vissi d’Arte.
I queued up Maria Callas’s 1956 rendition of Vissi d’Arte and read the full translation. It was at this moment I began to “hear” Tosca, and in my distant memory I began to recount the tragic story of Antona Garcia.
Pictured on the front of every bottle that leaves Bodegas Rejadorada is a little gilded gate that resembles a miniature golden patchwork quilt. The golden gate is symbolic of Antona Garcia, who in 1476 made the ultimate sacrifice to save her city. Toro at the time was occupied by the Portuguese. Antona, a Shepard’s wife, sided with Queen Isabella I of Castile against the Portuguese support of Joanna la Beltraneja.
In an attempt to aid Isabella, Antona supplied information to Isabella’s army, helping lead a valiant, albeit unsuccessful attempt to take the town. Unfortunately, in the aftermath, she and her co-conspirators were rounded up and executed. Antona, for her part, was hung from the gates of the town. When Isabella’s forces finally took Toro, the gate she was hung from was gilded in her honor.
I used to sip Rejadorada’s Temple bottling and think of Antona. Now when I open a bottle of Rejadorada I must now think of both Antona and Tosca. Two very different women, one real and one imaginary. Both tied to the same grief, and tethered to the same Job-like refrain “Why Me?” Sempre con fè sincera diedi fiori agl’altar. Nell’ora del dolore, perchè, perchè, Signore, perchè me ne rimuneri così? (Always with true faith, I gave flowers to the altar. In the hour of grief, why, why, o Lord, why do you reward me thus?)
Rejadorada’s Temple bottling is as dark and heavy as Tosca’s heart and as bold as Antona’s courage. Comprised of 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo), It carries its 12 months of oak aging and 14.5% alcohol well. Though it tip-toes to the point of being overdone and extracted, it stands at the precipice with sturdy legs and square shoulders. In the glass, the wine attacks with cedar, vanillin, smoldered blueberry, black cherry and pan-grill. This is not for those who celebrate subtly, but neither did Tosca or Antona.
Like Antona, at some point in our lives, we will ultimately find ourselves festooned to the fences of both life’s absurdity and deaths inevitability. Forced like Antona to question even our most noble decisions and plead like Tosca to a silent heaven. “Perchè, perchè, Signor, ah, perchè me ne rimuneri così?” (why, why, o Lord, why do you reward me thus?) However, as the curtain opens and closes with each act within life’s cruel Opera, the stage remains a glow with music, art and wine, “which smiles with more beauty,” than any one player’s sorrowful song.
The show must go on!