Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lucia di Lammermoor

First, Lucia. So this was pretty well attended, even at the encore performance. I swung in pretty late and had to sit closer than I like, though I picked the opposite side from the man who talks about knowing the bass-player in the orchestra. I was kind of hoping some people would talk to me, but no. There were some student-types in the audience, too. At intermission, I did step into a conversation about "Milk;" the folks didn't know who he was, or what the film was about, so I enlightened them, and also told them there was an opera, "Harvey Milk." But how could they have missed the movie buzz?

Okay, the host was pretty funny--can't remember her name, but she was last year's Lucia, and she had a quirky and over the top way of introducing the acts. She got a lot of laughs. Since this production was long (over long, maybe) we got interviews of all the stars, and the director, and the stage manager, and the electrician (which I liked--yay, trades!). And all through the intermissions, we got thrilling and sometimes funny views of the set activity backstage. One poor fellow thought he was cranking away at one rolling piece, only to find he wasn't hooked up. "Oh, shit!"

They have the same moor-set from last year, which is so big they have to wheel it outside onto the avenue after the first act, and drive it away. No room backstage. Cast is dressed, I'd say, in turn of the century costume. I thought the look of the set and costumes was good. I wasn't as pleased with Donizetti's music--the overture I liked, but I didn't much care for the arias.

What was interesting was that the tenor who was supposed to sing Edgardo was sick, so we had the third tenor in this role, this season--coming straight form Eugene Onegin. He did a fine job. The fellow who sung Enrico was appropriately slimy. Anna Netrebko did a good job of going mad--and you know, all along I was thinking--she looks like someone I know. And then I remembered, she looks like Gabe, our carpenter from VT Works for Women. Not that Gabe went mad on site--although I wouldn't have blamed her if she did.

There were two intermissions (at 20 minutes a piece) plus all the interviews, and the Placido Domingo retrospective, and "The Audition" trailer, so we didn't get out until 11pm. At the concession counter, the pimply teenager said, dully, "The opera's having another intermission. We'll close the counter when it's over." They must tell the actual Met-goers that the HD performances are longer. So, I'll say this wasn't my favorite opera, but it was one of the first my mom saw, years ago, at a public school music class outing in junior high. She was living in White Plains or Mt. Vernon, and I guess the class went down to the (old) Met a couple times. Of course, we have supertitles now, which is nice, since I haven't read the librettos.

And then, in an unrelated thought-stream, I just got done with my third batch of manuscripts. It was a lot to wade through, this time, since the writing was technically better, but the actual formulation of the studies (or practice concepts, or policy papers) was less than great. The last one I read, after I was done, I felt like the authors had woven a smokescreen of jargon having to do with public health paradigms all around a basically so-so qualitative study of a group of PH nurses. I felt like I was scratching my way through shredded wheat. And it wasn't a bad idea... it just wasn't executed as well as it should have been. Lessons

Orfeo ed Euridice

It's like I have season tickets! And my box is behind a guy who won't shut up about knowing the bass player in the orchestra. So I've never seen an opera like this. It was like an operallet. There was a lot of dancing, and a huge amount of choral music, and a cast of about 100, I'd say. I think there was a clavier in the pit.

But let me start from the beginning. So this is an early opera by Gluck, in Italiano. The lead role, Orfeo, was written for a castrato, but is now sung by a mezzo-soprano in a "trousers role." The whole thing is one act--no intermission. So it begins at the funeral of Euridice, with poor old Orfeo singing the blues. The nymphs and shepherds dance their farewell, but Orfeo tells them to get lost. Everyone is wearing blue-gray, except Orfeo, wearing black, and the chorus (up above in a sort of fire-escape type thing... well, look at the pictures from the Met). Did I mention that everyone is wearing Isaac Mizrahi? Also, did I mention that Jimi Hendrix is in the chorus?

So, Amor comes down from the skies in a pink polo shirt and chinos, and tells Orfeo what he can do to get Euridice back. Very puckish. So Orfeo grabs his guitar and goes. The ghosts (wearing gray, and then stunning white) come and dance, and Orfeo has to beg to get through. He calls on their mercy, since they were lovers once, and at this point, the dancers begin to pair off. Male/female, male/male, female/female. Very avant garde decision--I liked it. Meanwhile, the chorus (which is everyone who has ever died, in the underworld, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Mark Twain and Truman Capote and Crazy Horse and Frederick Douglass) sings. Finally, they relent and Orfeo grabs Euridice and goes--duh, of course, without looking at her.

So they travel through the underworld, which is a glistening, sparkling black oily mountain. I think the set designer might have balled up gobs of electrical tape and then doused it in roof pitch. But Euridice spoils it all, by singing about how cruel he is, not to even look at her, and oh, the passion must have died, oh my, oh dear. Finally, after a lot handwringing, Orfeo looks at her, and of course, she dies and is carried back to the underworld. Well, I knew this was a tragedy, right?

Wrong!!! Just as Orfeo is about to shuffle off this mortal coil, Amor appears again. S/he says: "No, don't kill yourself! You've proved your love!" And Orfeo is reunited with Euridice, and they return to earth, where the nymphs and shepherds are dancing in bright, bright colors--m/f, m/m, and f/f as before--and Orfeo and Euridice kiss, and then there's more dancing and singing! Hoorah!

I liked this opera, even though the music was a little early-classical for my tastes (I'm more of a Romantic period type) and some of the songs or dances seem over-long, when there's no intermission. But I think the director and designers did a great job of making this opera into a visually compelling and relevant (even modern) production, and the woman who sang Orfeo (Stephanie Blythe) was, of course, quite good. I am a little puzzled as to why Gluck changed the story--but I was, after all, touched by the end.

Manuscripts, La Rondine

So I've been editing manuscripts for PHN (Public Health Nursing). This is to earn my keep a bit between full-time jobs. I edited a Taiwanese manuscript for English (though it was pretty good, considering--it's just that Chinese doesn't have apostrophes and things) and APA format. There was a Texas qualitative study that involved only 10 people--about self care. I thought, how can you reach saturation with only 10 people and the most open-ended questions ever? The article was written well enough, but there is the fundamental weakness. There was a light and fluffy history piece--which is fine. More please! And a slightly cumbersome but well conceived article on methods of prenatal care on preterm birth populations. I have four more to work on now.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to publish something. Something. I think if Kristin (artist) and I (writer) can collaborate on a children's book, I think--I think!--we can actually make a buck. Kristin's art (Sweet Enemy Art) is swell for this (and her paintings are amazing too, but a bit darker). Meanwhile, I am trying to get a story in some kinda magazine. I submitted "Pig Roast" to The Sun. Sending "Chicago Interval" to Green Mountains Review. Have a couple of poems that are almost ready for Poetry East. Been snubbed already by Ploughshares. And I've got to finish "Mamertinus etc." I've hit a bit of a rough spot in the story. I have the beginning and the end, but no middle. In other news, I may have to beg for a real job. One that pays. Please, please, please.... And speaking of begging--how 'bout that end of "La Rondine?"

"La Rondine" (another Met Live in HD special) was pretty good. I thought that it was going to be a comedy, but alas, it was a (light) tragedy. Made all the better by the fact that Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are married. So even if they're bloody mad at each other, they still have to go on, and fall in love at the cafe over beer, spend all their money, and weep uncontrollably over Magda's ultimate decision to tell Ruggero the truth and go back to the unpassionate, but wealthy lover (Rambaldo) she left behind. I thought, in the first act: "boy, that kissing looks real!" And it was. By the way, the maid (Lisette Oropesa) was great. She reminded me of Annette, in Mysteries of Udolfo. By the way, Magda does not die! (Is this a spoiler?)