I should have recorded the Mahler. We talked about this for a long time later, though I can’t remember what we said. She currently prefers to sing in German, so there was that, but there were other reasons—some things about love and sadness and poetry, I think.

I had driven after work from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to see my old friend Lauren sing her Master’s opera recital at Louisiana State University, with the intention of recording it. I got stuck in traffic and missed half the performance, ducked in at intermission and realized I only had enough battery to record one of the two songs she had left. Knowing nothing about either of them, I picked on the basis of language: Italian won over German. A mistake.

I picked Italian because Lauren had spent two summers in Italy studying opera, and as far as I can tell they were some of the happiest times of her life. She knows the language, or can speak some of it, but I really made the decision based upon a photograph—Lauren on the back of a scooter driven by a handsome Italian man. She’s smiling and waving a flag. Someone seems to be offering them pizza. This is what I think of when I think of Lauren in Italy.

Upon listening, the Mahler piece she sang was far superior, but how could I have known? Who knows anything about opera! We agreed that I had chosen poorly, and when I told her about the photo, about why I had picked the Italian piece over the German one, she said that the man on the scooter had been her boyfriend, and that before Italy had won the World Cup—cause for the celebration—and he offered to give her a ride around the square, he had not spoken to her for a week. After her ride, he made the same offer to ten other obliging women.

Lauren spent much of the night after her recital crying, but that was because of a different man.

This is the song I recorded, the Italian one:

Giacomo Puccini — Quando M’en Vo, with the Septet that follows

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