Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 24, 2017

A magical night

The days leading up to Kansas State University’s spring break were hectic. I had to grade papers, work on upcoming events and attend various meetings related to faculty searches and curriculum revisions. The situation wasn’t helped by husband Art's and my recently-completed whirlwind trip to Upstate New York to interview family members of a woman we’ve been researching.

Art had told me some time ago that we were going on a mystery trip for break. Although I knew I could use the time away, all I really wanted to do was catch up on sleep and house projects that required some much-needed attention.

But I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good to just “let go.” So I asked whether I should pack sweaters or a swimsuit. He said I needed items similar to what I’d worn in New York. OK, we weren’t headed to a Caribbean island!

We took off Saturday morning. I had an inkling we might be going to his home state of Wisconsin. So when we headed east and then north, I decided my instincts had been pretty accurate. And after a 10-hour drive, we ended up at our friend Jo’s place in southwest Wisconsin. I was pleased. She has a cozy home out in the country, and I was ready to settle in for a few days of easy conversation and wine sipping.

That was not to be the case!

On Sunday, Art announced that we three would be spending the next two nights in yet-another mystery location. Off we went again, this time with Jo accompanying us.

We traveled along the western side of the Mississippi River. I wasn’t sure what our final destination might be, but I was content to stop every now and then to look at historical markers and watch the many eagles soaring across the wide expanse of water.

Then, about 50 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Art announced that we would be going to see Il Volo on Monday night.

My heart nearly stopped!

Art and I had first seen the three young Italian singers just before Christmas. The PBS special featured them performing with the great tenor Plácido Domingo in Piazzo di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. While I have always loved music, my reaction to Il Volo - Italian for “The Flight” - was by no means the norm. I fell as madly in love as those teenage girls in the 1960s did when The Beatles hit the charts.

At Christmastime, we showed Jo several YouTube videos of them performing in various venues. I think she fell harder than I did. The next day, she asked Art to play them again.

But it was more visceral than that.

“Wow, they’re really hotties, aren’t they?” she said.

I laughed.

“My sentiments exactly,” I agreed.

Art describes women’s reactions to the trio as something he calls “aural sex.”

I’ve had a soft spot for tenors ever since Art and I saw Luciano Pavarotti and Domingo in separate concerts 15 years ago. More recently, we soaked in the beautiful music of The Celtic Tenors and The Ten Tenors at K-State’s McCain Auditorium and the K-State Tenors - three faculty members from the university’s music department.

So to say I was excited about seeing Il Volo would be an understatement. Their 2017 tour - "Notte Magica (Magic Night)”- is also a tribute to the Three Tenors - Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras.

We arrived at the State Theatre on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis nearly an hour before the 7:30 p.m. start time. Art stood in the middle of the street to get a photo of Jo and me under the marquee. I wanted Jo to take a picture of Art and me as well.

“I’m not going to stand out there,” she said.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” Art replied.

Jo promptly went into the street and snapped a few photos.

While we waited for the doors to open, we watched people arrive. Young women in fancy dresses and spiky heels mingled with older men and women, some dressed casually and some “dressed to the nines.”

The theater, designed in the Italian Renaissance style, originally opened in 1921 and was restored in 1989 and re-opened in 1991. Once in our seats, we marveled at the walls covered in murals and the glittering chandeliers. But I was really eager for the performance to begin.

And soon it did! The trio, accompanied by a full orchestra, sang, “Nessun Dorma,” “Granada” and “O Sole Mio,” along with pop tunes “Maria” and “Tonight” from “West Side Story,” and “My Way” - made popular by Frank Sinatra. They also sang a version of “Ave Maria,” written especially for them. They said they hoped to one day sing it for Pope Francis.

With nearly every piece, tears welled up in my eyes and I felt a lump in my throat. The rich, clear voices of baritone Gianluca Ginoble and tenors Piero Barone and Ignazio Boschetto filled the theater and captivated all of us. Some audience members couldn’t contain themselves, jumping up to applaud after every song.

Between numbers, the young men bantered with each other - mocking each other’s accents, saying how much they loved American burgers and hot dogs, and reminding us how Italian words, such as "crescendo" and "intermezzo," are commonly-used music terms in most cultures.

We wanted the concert to go on forever, but alas, it came to an end. We slowly made our way to the exit, but not before Jo and I bought Il Volo T-shirts and a CD.

“If I die tomorrow, I’ll be happy,” Jo said.

Indeed. As promised, it had been a magical night.

Top-left: Jo and Gloria in front of the State Theatre in Minneapolis; top-right: Il Volo in concert. The theater decor helps create the illusion of being in Italy; bottom-left: Il Volo - (l-r) Gianluca Ginoble, Ignazio Boschetto and Piero Barone in a promotional photo; bottom-middle-left: Gloria and Jo in their "fan" T-shirts; bottom-middle-right: one of the many historical markers along the Mississippi River; bottom-right: eagle sightings were common.

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