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      I SEE YOU by Thomas Putnam

      b4 7 21I've been listening to a lot of operatic tenors in the past few weeks. THE LAST ROMANCE is full of operatic tenor music. I've spent time with lots of YouTubes of the big ones like Pavarotti and Lanza and Domingo and Carreras in front of audiences of thousands with full orchestra. And just as many college students with a fellow student at the piano in front of a few people in a classroom. I've known so many of the arias they're singing and sometimes it's a bit overwhelming to hear these incredible voices—some famous and some not famous—sing painfully beautiful melodies. 

      I'm also listening a lot to Andrea Bocelli and am drawn to clips of him and his son Matteo singing duets. Beside being moved by their voices and by the melodies, I find myself particularly drawn and moved by their touch. When I first noticed it I was watching a very choreographed and videographed performance of “Fall On Me” which always reduces me to tears. But from time to time one of them will touch the other, usually on the shoulder. Just a gentle touch. A clear connection. I am here. 

      As I said, it was a very planned, choreographed performance. But I watched a number of live performances in a number of different venues and years. And the same thing happened: one or the other would reach out gently and touch the other's shoulder. Remember, Andrea Bocelli is blind, has been since he was twelve. He's never “seen” Matteo.

      I have written in other blogs about the African Zulu greeting “sawubona.” It means “I see you.” It has a long oral history and it means more than our traditional “hello.” It says, “I see your personality. I see your humanity. I see your dignity and respect.” When Andra Bocelli touches his son's shoulder he doesn't need his eyes to express “sawubona.” The touch says it all. The duets themselves—father and son—makes the connection: “sawubona, I see you.”

      In Zulu tradition, one response to “I see you” is “ngikhona.” It means “I am here” but it's deeper. It tells the observer (or in Andrea Bocelli's case, the touch-er/duet-er) that you feel you have been seen and understood and that your personal dignity has been recognized. If you get a chance, watch a few YouTubes of Andrea and Matteo Bocelli duets and see/feel/hear the connection. (I love the paths directing a play takes me; and be prepared to hear John Tobey Jr in performance.) Sawubona.

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