You have succinctly described the great sublime mystery of the power of opera. You hear, you see, you feel. It brings you to that moment, transported here and now, yet something else, something from the past; now in the present. All the arts are together- Acting, drama/theatre, sometimes dance, music, Live singing/vocal, live symphony, stagecraft, painted scenes, etc. etcetera...Its so profound to me i really cannot even discuss it. The closest experience to it for me, sometimes but not always, is receiving communion. Accepting Jesus, accepting God: into my soul, my self, my life.
Sometimes when i "attend the opera", i want to cry from the depths of my soul, right there in the theater. And this is how i feel about the Sopranos sometimes: just awestruck by the masterful orchestration of all the arts in one moment of almost well, bliss. Transcendant, it parallels the eternal. Beyond genius, sublime.
imho, if you ever go see La Rondine
performed live, you will be thinking of the Sopranos moment you referred to. You will always be thinking of that profound scene when the ducks fly away (from or to?) home, maybe to return. You will be able to experience Rondine
in a way you never, if ever, did before. When you watch/hear the first act, which introduces the aria we are discussing and the heroine, and then later watch/hear the last act, when she flies off like the swallow (yet returning like the swallow to somewhere, someone else), the opera will inform your experience of the Sopranos, as will your Sopranos experience influence your perception of La Rondine
Another theme here: like Jesus leaving ('dying'), we have, or learn to have, faith He will return: thats the story of the Swallow. Most people think of the Swallow as the bird that returns. But for it to return, it has to have left. We can have faith it will return. And it does.
Knowing all this, imo, it can't help but inform your interpretation of watching the first scene of The Sopranos and then the last scene. Remember how Chase said that the last scene will tie up something from the first scene? By the last episode, Tony no longer experiences ducks flying off as fearful: he seems to have gained faith, imo. Notice his demeanor when he is raking leaves before he goes to see Junior and then Holsten's. The ducks are heard above. Tony is at peace in his home. He has his family and is not in a state of fear that he will lose them. Perhaps he has, or operates from, faith now. Hearing the ducks didn't transport him to a fearful state. Maybe it even comforted him. Hearing is believing. Hear, if you have ears to believe.
The story being told in the opera is just almost an excuse to communicate the music and vice versa. Yet they are intertwined forever, complimenting one another. Separately, the music stands alone beautifully (like most soprano arias); but together with the story... indescribable. I am thinking of Chase's original vison and hope that each episode could stand alone on it's own: like an individual soprano singing their individual aria. Yet taken all together over time, they formed a true opera of combined sopranos voices. A masterpiece. The opera music and the story and the lyrics can be a collaberation among different artists, or spring from one brillant mind; or a combination-- like Chase and The Sopranos