Scenes from the Wedding of Beatrice Portinari

Saturday, 3 June 2006 — 2:38pm | Classical, Music

I have a fascination with sculptures inspired by fictitious characters, like that of Sherlock Holmes outside the Baker Street tube station in London, or the bronze Eleanor Rigby seated on a bench in Liverpool underneath a dedication “to all the lonely people.” Today I learned that in Madrid, there is a monument to Cervantes that comprises a stone sculpture of Dulcinea del Toboso. If you know your Quixote, you know why this is interesting: how, exactly, does one visualize a fiction within a fiction?

I may or may not have had a point there.

Somebody important to me got married today, and I wish her all the best.

There’s nothing quite like a musician’s wedding, because the musical programme is bound to be exquisite. Today’s ceremony featured a live string quartet that ran the whole gamut of tearjerking Italian opera before the Bach processional, among their selections the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (which you might recognize from the film Raging Bull) and “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (itself notable in Peanuts lore as the aria that Peppermint Patty skates to in the television special She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown). The recessional was Gardel’s Por una cabeza, which is the tango of choice in too many films to count, one of which concerned the Holocaust and also had a critical scene featuring Bach.

It was all very pretty and perfect, and I’ve come to the conclusion that wedding ceremonies just aren’t the same without live music. And I’m not just saying that as an egotist who once took a Catholic wedding as an excuse to play selections from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Then again, as a Lutheran service, the proceedings were musical through and through. Hymns have a way of pushing you a bit higher than you can go, but I always appreciate the reinstatement of music as an activity of the community, which you see so rarely these days aside from jazz jams and the national anthems before a hockey game. In some cases, it may be for the best. I never did figure out the melody to “Ring out a cheer for our Alberta”, and I blame the fact that I don’t think anybody else did either.

What you don’t see every day, though, is a surprise sermon preceding the vows that doubles as a chemistry experiment involving fish tanks, food colouring and Barbie dolls. It was scripturally over the head of this here heathen, but engrossing all the same.

Some time ago I made an observation about wedding music that I’m surprised I never posted here. It took less than a century for Wagner’s Lohengrin (“Here comes the bride”) and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” to become wedding pieces standard to the point of being cliché. Given sufficient momentum, there’s nothing to say that in less than a hundred years, the same can’t happen to John Williams’ celebration march at the end of Star Wars, complete with Chewie not getting a medal. I, for one, will do my part.

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