Monday, March 04, 2013
What to do with the massive figure of Richard Wagner, who bestrode the 19th century performing arts like the proverbial colossus? He wrote the texts to his operas incorporating politics, philosophy, history, myth, religion psychology, and literature; write the music in the vanguard of the development of new styles in what he pretentiously but with dead accuracy termed "music of the future;" he often stage directed and/or conducted his operas along with having a major hand in their design. Wagner was the uber-creator, to use the "uber" that has become fashionable recently, and therefore his works should be staged today in accordance with everything he did, yes?
Well, no. Wagner was a restless, inquisitive, constantly evolving genius (in addition to being a thoroughly exasperating person on any number of levels) who was rarely satisfied with his own work, most famously when he told the cast of the first production of The Ring of the Nibelung that "next time everything will be different." Patrick Carnegy in his wonderful book, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre, is convinced Wagner realized that 19th century theater technology and production style in which he had always worked were simply inadequate to produce his works as he ideally envisioned them. Had he lived even another fifteen years, he would have seen advances in lighting, projections, costuming, and three dimensionality on stage he would have leaped at -- he was always drawn to the new and gave famous advice to those who would come after him, "children, make the new."
That's a good idea, applied to Wagner--or Verdi or Handel, or any opera composer, any playwright, or any stage director. We are not a 19th century audience; we don't know what they knew and don't attend the theater the way they did. Any reading of the history of opera will reveal that the interpretation of some of the greatest works has changed radically as society has changed. Carmen, for example, used to be an evil temptress who destroys an innocent young man for her own self-gratification. She is now seen as a strong, independent, thoroughly honest woman who is drawn irresistibly to the one man who has the potential of destroying her. That's one example -- the entire repertory is seen differently today than when the operas were premiered because we are very different people.
Director François Girard has conceived the MET's production as taking place partially in the never-healing wound in the side of the King of the Grail Knights, Amfortas. That wound, the cause and the symbol of the massive decline in the Holy Grail knighthood, dominates the production until the moment just before the opera ends when Parsifal, having recovered the spear that pierced the side of Jesus during the Crucifixion, restores it to the Grail Temple. A touch of the spear on the wound heals the wound and the way is clear to rebuilding the knighthood. In the striking photo below, Parsifal reunites the very male symbol of the spear with the very female symbol of the Grail cup. Here are two photos of the Metropolitan's new Parsifal.
Eurotrash has reared its ugly head, and this preposterous, jejune, imbecilical little exercise in pseudo-intellectuality is a somber omen. I watched clips from the Opera de Lyon, the original malefactor of this travesty, and it's a sight to see -if you want to get really depressed. I fear we as a society are so dumbed-down by now, are so out-of-touch with the greatness of this and other works, that spectators from now on will respond only to kitchy staging. It's really a microcosm of the demise of culture in general. So, let's thank our lucky stars for the previous Met production, still available on DVD.
I suppose Euro-trash Wagner shall now premiere at the Met. If my goal was to stage these Wagner's great works in a way that would open them to nothing but ridicule and laughter, I could hardly do better than what is generally being done today. Does anyone out there actually like this crap?? Maybe bring back the old vaudeville tradition of pelting the stage intermittently with tomatoes, eggs, cabbages...etc. would discourage productions such as these. The MET audience members better bring a good supply. It'll have to last four hours.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Actually, the scheduling of this series is rather strange. The DVDs of Season 4 were being hawked on PBS before PBS showed a single one of the Season 4 episodes. And reports were coming from England, where it is seen many months ahead of here, discussing some of the main plot points.
I have always wondered about the attitude that if you know the ending to a play or movie it's "ruined" for you. I have encountered it a lot, and it makes it seem as if every play, movie or opera is a "who done it." Perhaps, because I am in the theater/opera profession, I know that there is so much more going on in a production than just the outcome, the final scene. So, after all the complaints that my friend had ruined the latest series of Downton, I added this comment:
"Am I to take it that there is no value to seeing a dramatic presentation if one knows the ending in advance? The characterizations by the cast; the beauty, appropriateness and skill of the designs; the quality of the writing; the social relevance or political comment in the theme -- none of these is worth seeing and enjoying if you know that "he or she dies in the end?"
"OMG, I guess I just ruined a lot of Shakespeare, most of the Greeks, and the entirety of 19th century opera for you all!"
Saturday, February 16, 2013
"To those who preach that same sex marriage harms heterosexual marriage, please produce:
"Proof that one, just one heterosexual marriage was terminated because gay people can get married, or that one wife told her husband she was leaving him because gay marriage rendered their marriage meaningless. Or:
"Proof that one engaged couple called their parents and said that since gays can marry there's no point for straights to marry any more, therefore they are canceling the wedding and just going to continue to live together.
"Hasn't happened! Heterosexuals have a strong track record of destroying marriage -- close to 50% of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce, and that statistic began BEFORE gay marriage ever existed. Wake up -- my husband and I are not the enemy. We believe in marriage. We believe in OUR marriage -- that's why we got married, not to destroy yours. Please use some common sense."
The column, titled, To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’, written by Suzanne Venker, discussed a “new way” of thinking about gender, which was being preached by “feminists”, causing men and women to have “no idea who’s supposed to do what”.
Ms Venker wrote: “Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”
She effectively goes on to blame women for a “battle of the sexes”.
The image in question was of an Alaskan lesbian couple, Stephanie Figarelle and Lela McArthur, who got married at the top of the Empire State Building in 2012.
Fox News has since replaced the picture of the couple with a stock image of male and female symbols.
Suzanne Venker was the niece of conservative anti-gay leader, Phyllis Schlafly, who has spoken out against equal marriage in the past.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Thursday, January 31, 2013
"I've always said that when gays marry they make the "rules" for themselves and are not bound by heterosexual customs. Most of our friends keep their own names as Fritz and I have done. The husband of a very dear blogger friend of mine changed his last name as his family had treated him so badly he didn't want their name any more. Another couple of blogger friends joined their last names with a hyphen. It's all good, it's whatever they felt comfortable with."
The other question that comes up in relation to gay marriages is monogamy. To me this is a complete red herring. It's based on the fallacy that heterosexual marriage is monogamous, something that's been proven quite decisively to be untrue. To me this is another instance where gay couples decide for themselves the terms of their relationships with no obligation to toe anyone else's line.
It's entirely possible that my take on this issue is due to the fact that I was never a bar guy. That aspect of gay life never appealed to me. There was a great deal of smoking, drinking and outright alcoholism in my family. I saw the consequences. Health was broken, lives shortened. If bar culture is held to be the defining mark of gayness, then I guess I don't qualify.
I look at the new gay leaders, the senators and representatives, the writers, media personalities, the vibrant, creative couples like Dan Savage and Terry Miller and I don't see decline or the end of gay. I see a bright future for everyone, straight and gay, as society becomes richer by our full inclusion.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Comments on Random Pictures from the Web
The first, and, I suppose the most likely, was Captain of the militia at Lexington Green when the first shots of the Revolution were fired -- in Massachusetts, be it noted and not New Hampshire as Michele Bachmann believes. He is recorded as saying to his men, "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." The British killed a cousin of his in the skirmish. Later that day he rallied his men to attack the regulars returning to Boston in an ambush known as "Parker's Revenge".
The other John Parker was the armed guard assigned to stand at the door to the box in Ford's Theater the night Abraham Lincoln was shot. Mr. Parker was absent from his post, allowing John Wilkes Booth to enter the box and shoot Lincoln. As one of the arguments of the NRA is that mass shootings can be prevented if there is someone with a gun to stop the shooter, this John Parker might have been chosen to demonstrate why their argument is valid. I don't really think he's what they had in mind but his place in history is interesting in this regard.
Glenn Beck is proposing something similar in Texas with an estimated price tag of $2 billion. I'm not a gun nut so I'm probably not qualified to comment, but I wonder what the quality of life in these hermetically sealed armed camps will be like. I imagine that at least some of the population will have to go out to work because I doubt the Citadel can support the entire population with just the gun factory and museum.
1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
2. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
3. He, who laughs last, thinks slowest.
Friday, January 18, 2013
This kind of small tile comes mounted on sheets of mesh from the manufacturer, so it isn't the fault of the tiler, except that the tiler should have noticed the problem immediately and discarded the sheet. So I'm left with a question -- do I leave it alone or do I have the two tiles chiseled out, reset and grouted? Fritz advocates leaving it alone. So does a tradition in the weaving of magnificent "oriental" rugs and the setting of elaborate Muslim tile work -- as only Allah is perfect, there must be a small flaw purposely worked into any art so as not to challenge his perfection.
But now I know it's there, and it's bothering me. It's not the kind of thing that wakes me in the middle of the night. But whenever I go into that bathroom, I'm aware that there's a flaw down toward a corner of the wall, and that it contradicts the room's visual layout which is very Deco and therefore very geometric. Also, guests who use the room and close the door can see it very easily as they come out of the shower or sit on the toilet. On the other hand, nobody's ever mentioned to me so maybe nobody's ever noticed. But then again, maybe they did and are just being polite. All of these opposing points keep occurring to me. Suggestions?