Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
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"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Friday, May 4, 2007

I am the Prince of Poland

Or rather, I was the Prince of Poland last Saturday evening. Being an unrepentant opera fanatic, I couldn’t miss The Liberation of Ruggiero from the Island of Alcina, written around 1525 by Francesca Caccini. The singing, by four professional opera singers trading parts, was lovely, but the acting, I admit, was a little stiff. I suppose that’s to be expected when it’s being presented by the Northwest Puppet Theatre and all the actors are marionettes.

Ruggiero is the first opera known to have been written by a woman, and was originally performed in Florence to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Poland. In the prelude, the prince is welcomed by the god Neptune (who has no reason for being there except for the fact that the story takes place on an island), so things don’t make much sense if the prince isn’t around. That’s where I came in.

When I came in, I was one of the first to arrive—on purpose, of course. I’m 4’10” and wanted to make sure I got a good seat. And there before me was the best seat in the house, front and center with an excellent view. This was no ordinary theatre seat. It was a wooden chair with arms and a high back, fancy carving, and a red velvet cushion. My aching back said “Yes!” and I took it.

Before the music began, a woman came out and welcomed us, reminded everyone to turn off their cell phones, and introduced the audience to the Prince of Poland. That was me.

I was sitting on the throne! That made me the Prince of Poland. I was presented with a crown, which was altogether too brachycephalic for me, and a sceptre in the form of a wooden folly stick, which was introduced as my prime minister. His grin did remind me a bit of Tony Blair. During intermission the crown fell off and bent itself into a more comfortably dolichocephalic shape, so I no longer had to wear it dangling over my right ear.

During my evening of royal privilege, I strove to behave with the appropriate self-contained dignity and airy condescension. Only two people were allowed to kiss my hand.

By the way, next year the puppet opera will be Don Giovanni. Maybe I’ll get to seduce someone.

Bio (culled from ten minutes on the web):
Francesca Caccini, (1587 - 1645?) often called La Cecchina, (The Songbird), was born in Florence, Italy, on the eighteenth of September, 1587. Her father was a prolific composer; her mother, stepmother, brother, and husband were singers; and her younger sister, Settimia, was a singer and composer. Francesca herself was a singer, instrumentalist, composer, and lyricist; her performances were admired by Claudio Monteverdi. Although she was one of the most prolific female composers of her time, if not of all time, all that has survived of her work is Il primo libro delle musiche, a collection of songs, and Ruggiero alone of her five operas.
For more, see: Francesca Caccini


little gator said...

My greataunt Gertrude is 106 today!

Thread tie-in-

Her entire family was Irish, yet she had a brother named Casimir. St Casimir is the patron saint of Poland.

Now anyone who knows my family will figure out who I am.

Maggie Jochild said...

I am NOT the Prince of Poland, I am the real and original Maggie Jochild. Thanks, Jana, for giving me an excuse to look up -cephalic words. And Happy Birthday to Aunt Gertrude!

When I was 21, I lived with a woman of Polish ethnicity and ever since have been interested in this culture. A few years later in San Francisco I attended the showing of a film made in the late 1930s (had Jack Benny in it) whose premise depended on the cultural belief of that era that Poland was a breeding ground for intellectuals and artists. A small lecture before the film informed us that prior to Poland being occupied by the Nazis, Poland was, in fact, seen as one of the most intellectual centers of Europe. The stereotype of "dumb Polack" arose after the Nazi occupation, and is best explained by the psychological tendency to blame the victim: If a nation allows itself to be occupied, there must have been something wrong with it in the first place. It was quite an eye-opener for me.

I see that lie and calumny very much in evidence today. Jews willingly were led like sheep to the Holocaust (and is why God is against them). Iraqis didn't fight back against Saddam Hussein (and therefore Iraq deserves to be invaded by us). The students at Virginia Tech had been "emasculated" by no guns allowed on campus and therefore they did not fight back. When, in fact, shining examples of the opposite are true in every case.

shadocat said...

I'm not the Prince of Poland either, but I've been told I have some Polish ancestry; I guess I could always say I was the Pauper of Poland...

It sounds like you had a wonderful experience, Jana! Now I feel the need to find out more about Francesca's other work!

shadocat said...

OK, Jana had to give me a gentle push, but here I go...

About 30 years ago, a guy asked me to go with him to see the National Theatre Co.'s production of Antigone. I confess, I was not so into him, but I was a big theatre geek, so I jumped at the chance. It was not until we arrived at the theatre, that I found out it was the National MARIONETTE Theatre Company! "What!", said I. "A PUPPET show??" My date shushed me and calmed me down with a promise to go to Winstead's later, if I'd just shut up and watch this with him. Giddy with the promise of steakburgers, I consented.

I soon had reason to feel GREATLY ashamed of myself. The production was incredible!! The lighting, the musical background, and yes, the performances swept me away---I soon was drawn into the world of ancient Greece, and completely forgot I was watching "puppets" at all. It was a truly moving experience, and I believe in some ways more dramtic because of the use of marionettes, versus live actors. And the marionettes were so real, not just their appearance, but the way they moved---it was just wonderful. I was forced to admit that my date was right, and I was WAY wrong---(However, I still didn't let him out of his promise of steakburgers at Winstead's...)