Notebook

Rare Joy

‘Violetta’s playing was improving, was becoming more free. She discarded everything extraneous, everything non-essential, and found herself. This is a rare and supreme joy for an artist. She had suddenly crossed that boundary, which is impossible to define, but beyond which lies beauty. The audience came to life, amazed. […] Borne along and buoyed up by a wave of general sympathy, with tears of artist’s joy – and of real suffering – in her eyes, the singer gave herself up to the wave of support; her face was transformed and, confronted by the awesome spectre of suddenly approaching death, the words broke forth from her in a burst of prayer which rose to the heavens: Morir sì giovine! The whole theatre shook with frantic clapping and rapturous cries.’

Ivan Turgenev, On the Eve, tr. Michale Pursglove, ch. 33.