Dec 31, 2009|
At moments like this, only three words come to mind: Please. Don’t. Suck.
It’s a mantra I started to chant the second I realized Chef Enrico Innocenti of Duetto restaurant wasn’t going to cook for me; he was going to sing.
Enrico waltzed in clad in his chef whites after an introduction replete with stories of him singing and cooking since he was tall enough to reach the kitchen table of his Tuscan home.
“Amy,” was all I could muster up in my lackluster self introduction. Somewhere in there, I should’ve included a minor detail about my own background: I have been known to behave like an immature child when it comes to artistic appreciation.
This is not to say I haven’t had my fair share of exposure to it. In college, I sat through multiple castings and video shoots with my brother, who was in film school at the time. I witnessed firsthand “method actors” at work. While others saw ingenious interpretations of complex characters and a devotion to the craft, I giggled inappropriately every time a nude scene came along. People pretending they are someone else while nekkid is hilarious.
What troubles me most about being serenaded is the awkward face-off that inevitably results. The singer projects that painful “into it” expression, and expects in return some sort of “digging it” look from the audience. A look I’ve yet to perfect since my face tends to straddle between fake-smiling and constipated-smiling.
“I’m going to sing a love song for the lady,” announced the chef.
I held my breath. The right amount of wine, lighting, and acoustics can do for a musical performance what retouching does for photographs—smooth out the rough patches. But, it was two o’clock in the afternoon and the restaurant was empty. I was in for the raw version.
“Do you need to warm up?” I suggested, knowing that even the most serious karaoke singers half-ass the first few songs before gearing up for the showstopper.
But by then, the beginning chords were already playing. Please, don’t suck.
What happened next surprised me. He didn’t suck. He performed a full-scale aria from Italian composer Pietro Mascagni, belting out the countervailing melodies in perfect pitch. There was even one of those extra long high notes that warrant applause for sheer display of lung power.
When it was over, I clapped like an eager groupie.
Here’s what I realized: As a chef, a little too much salt in the sauce can be remedied with some extra tomatoes; as a singer, one sharp note and there is no rewinding the track. So when it is performed well, an opera is certainly more deserving of applause than any bowl of pasta.