Lessons about Heaven from my favorite opera

Someone has said that good music is music which is written better than it can be played.

I’m on a Turandot kick right now. I love all the Puccini operas, but this one has been special after I found how different it is from all the others. I’m not a musician, cannot read music or play an instrument.  But I do love good music. I swoon at certain kinds of music, however, and this is one of them.

For years Turandot was not as well known as Puccini’s other more popular operas (La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly). In fact, few people had even heard of it. One day I found out why.

The liner notes on a CD of highlights from this opera explained that the soprano who sang the part of Princess Turandot was required to do things most singers cannot do. Here is critic Benjamin Folkman:

As late as the 1950s, facing two significant barriers, Turandot was a relative rarity in opera houses. First, it’s spicy harmonies was too modern for opera-devotees’ tastes. Second, the opera was (and is) too difficult to cast. Sopranos who would jump at the change to star in Puccini’s other operas all turned down the role of Princess Turandot. It requires a special type of voice. A Turandot must bring a supreme soprano’s tonal weight and thrust to a sort of unrelieved high-register writing normally comfortable only for piping soubrettes.

That’s what he said. I looked up soubrettes. It refers to flighty, thin high-pitched voices.

What then has made Turandot so popular today? After all, people today love it.

Answer: Someone did it right.

Folkman: The legendary laser-voiced Turandot with which Birgit Nilsson thrilled a whole generation of opera lovers. Also, Luciano Pavarotti brought the great aria Nessun Dorma into households and made it a favorite.

Stop and ponder this. For over 30 years after his death, Puccini’s opera sat there waiting for the right singers. When they appeared and showed what could be done with that music, nothing has been the same since.

I’ve heard that the great virtuoso Nicolo Paganini used to write violin concertos so difficult no one could play them, including himself. Then, after writing it, he would work on it until he could.

Good music: written better than it can be played.

The Christian life is a lot like that. The standard it lays out before us is beyond our ability to live up to on a consistent basis. But there it is, and we are not going to be bringing it down to our level. Not with Heaven’s blessings, we’re not.

Take the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In chapter 5, the Lord says our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees if we expect to make the Kingdom of Heaven. He says we are to be as perfect even as our Father who is in Heaven is perfect.

Good luck with that, right?

Here are my conclusions. You’ll come to your own….

1. God’s standard for His children is always perfection. His goal for us is “the glory of God.”

2. We will always fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)  Thankfully, His Word assures us God is not taken by surprise in this. He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14).

3. We must hold to God’s standard while at the same time jettisoning the perfectionism we place on ourselves.

Now, perfectionism may sound right, but it’s a killer. It says if I can’t do something perfectly, I’ll not even try it at all. That is a sure-fire prescription for failure. We do well to remind ourselves repeatedly that the service we render to our Father in this life will be less than perfect, our knowledge is partial, and our motives are so complex. But let us go forward anyway.

4. We will keep working, keep serving, keep loving, and thus keep growing in Christlikeness.

5. Only when we someday stand in His presence will the sanctification process be finished and we shall be perfect. We will know as also we are known (First Corinthians 13:12).  See also I John 3:1-3.

6. And in Heaven, when we sing the “new song,” the greatest surprise of all will be this: we will sing it exactly as it is written. With voices to die for.  Blended with one another as we have only dreamed of.  Worthy of Heaven’s Throne Room.   And won’t that be something!

I can’t wait.

7. Choir practice starts now, friend.  Everyone will be able to praise God in Heaven.  it would take no faith at all there, since we will have arrived.  The gospel song says “When we all get to Heaven, we’ll sing and shout the victory,” and that’s correct.  But the trick is to do it now, to praise Him in the thick of battle, to celebrate the victory while the enemy is still ranting and boasting.  That is the kind of singing that honors our Lord, the kind of celebration Jesus loves–because it’s done with faith.   And without faith, it is impossible to please Him.  Hebrews 11:6.

None shall sleep** there when our voices praise God, friend.  I suspect Giacomo Puccini and others of his ilk–Handel, Bach, you name it–will weep softly.  And maybe someone will hear them saying, “That’s what I was aiming for.  That’s what I wanted.”

None shall sleep = Nessun Dorma.  A little play on words.  lol.


3 thoughts on “Lessons about Heaven from my favorite opera

  1. I am looking forward to that heavenly music. Since I do not have a lovely singing voice, My heart rejoices when I think that I will in Heaven😊

  2. I’ve never cared for opera – I don’t understand Italian or German or whatever language that’s used. Nevertheless, your illustration is spot on. Thanks!

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