Kashu-do (歌手道): R.I.P. Salvatore Licitra

The last time I saw Salvatore, he was all smiles!  He had just brought the house down in that Deutsche Oper Tosca.  I came to his dressing room after the show with a couple of mutual friends.  I embraced him and said: “You sound so different!”  He said: “I was in bed for the last couple of weeks with a back problem…” as if to apologize for how he sang.  I replied: “I mean you sounded magnificent! You’ve always been good, but tonight you were absolutely amazing!”  He said: “Really?”  then he smiled his disarming boyish smile:  “…it did feel really good tonight!”

One has to be careful how you compliment a tenor.  Just tell him he was wonderful so he does not get the impression you mean something else.  That night, in his acting, so subtle, in his singing, so powerful and flexible, in his enjoyment of the curtain calls, I saw a happy boy at play!  And so it is with great tenors in particular.  After our short conversation, he left with his manager and some other official-looking types more than likely to agree on engagements for the coming decade or more.  After that performance, I believe  every impresario within earshot of that Tosca performance would have wanted Salvo for every performance he could sign to.  There was no reason to expect we would freakishly lose him in such an unexpected, ridiculous way!  As he left, he said with that playful smile: “let’s get together tomorrow!”

Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity!  He had stuff to do and so did I.  We did not communicate, assuming we would have caught up soon enough!  We had many close friends in common and several of my students had sung with him and would have again.

Of this terrifically friendly tenor, with whom I shared a fun-filled, simple dinner at Island Burger, in New York,  I have little to say because I am shell-shocked at his passing.  When I found out about the accident, I felt awful but hopeful.  I kept thinking: “that is not the way a great tenor dies!” I was positive he would recover.  It was not to be!  The most philosophical me can come up with many reasons why this had to be thus.  One of my favorite Shakespeare settings by Gerald Finzi says it best:

                               Thou thy earthly task hast done
                                      Home art gone and ta’en thy wages

Indeed Salvo must have accomplished his task.  That Tosca is sealed in my mind as one of the most wonderful nights of opera I had lived, as I expressed here on the blog right afterward.  You meet someone and you just know that you would be good friends.  Salvatore left us at age 43, very young! Two years younger than me.  It was my hope we would have lots of laughs together, because he was the laughing kind of guy.  Instead I find myself flowing tears in my wine, for a guy I did not know all that well.  Maybe this one hits me very hard because I felt a burgeoning friendship got truncated.  Maybe it hits me hard because he was a tenor with a similar voice as mine and I was hoping to share a lot with him. Certainly it hits me really hard because we are about the same age and this wonderful man had so much more to give the world and so much more to enjoy.  For damn sure, he touched me profoundly as a human being and as a singing-actor!  
Thank you for the short time together, Salvo and to quote one of the arias you sang beautifully:  “Chiusa è la tua memoria nell’intimo del cor…”

Lunedí, il 5 Settembre 2011

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