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.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"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!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Feminist Wagnerian

Greer Grimsley is one sexy Dutchman. And a hot Wotan, and an absolutely sizzling Telramund. Seattle Opera’s summer production—the first opera of the season—is generally something big. And in Seattle, something big often means Richard Wagner. Last Wednesday it was the Flying Dutchman, with Greer Grimsley in the title role. Great stuff.

As Rebecca Brown has pointed out, it’s kind of strange to be simultaneously a feminist and an opera fan. Sure, there are a lot of strong female characters in opera, but they all end up either dying or getting married, usually the former. Sometimes the man dies, but unlike the woman he never dies alone; if the man dies, the woman dies too. But just try finding an opera in which the man dies and the woman has sufficient strength of character to survive him. The only one I can think of is Werther, and that’s iffy.

Especially problematic for the feminist opera fan are the operas of Herr Wagner. Allow me to borrow from Perry Lorenzo, Education Director at Seattle Opera and Lecturer Extraordinaire. All of Richard Wagner’s operas are about one thing: Richard Wagner. They go like this: There’s this guy, and he’s alone and lost, usually in the wilderness. And he’s searching for something... something beautiful... for a woman, who will devote herself utterly to him, who will die for him, and bring him redemption. And when they finally get together at the end of the opera, and she dies—or maybe he dies first and then she dies—there’s a tremendous transformation scene which is impossible to stage and doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but is overwhelmingly beautiful and moving nonetheless. Despite Wagner’s insistence on the primacy of the “Eternal Feminine”, this is not exactly a story to warm the cockles of a feminist’s heart.

So we come to the Dutchman. Everyone knows the legend: A Dutch sea captain, trying to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in a storm, vows to round the Cape even if it takes till Doomsday. The Devil hears him and, for his hubris, curses him to sail the seas forever; he can only be saved if a woman proves to be faithful to him unto death. If she vows fidelity and fails, he will return to the sea and she will be condemned to Hell. A perfect recipe for a happy marriage. The Dutchman has tried it often and it has never worked, big surprise.

The opera opens on a modern Norwegian fishing boat, after an overture that cannot be heard as anything except a storm at sea. The Dutchman comes alongside in his 18th Century sailing ship; it is his once-in-seven-years chance to find a faithful wife. He boards the fishing boat and offers the Captain, Daland, a chest of treasure for the chance to woo his daughter Senta. Delighted at the prospect of a rich son-in-law, Daland takes the Dutchman home where Senta has been hypnotically staring at a painting of the Dutchman that just happens to be hanging over the fireplace. We’re talking pathological obsession here; she can’t talk about anything else, even to her boyfriend, Erik.

The Dutchman arrives, and he and Senta stare at each other without speaking for twenty minutes while Daddy babbles mindlessly. This extended silent staring is a sure-fire sign of Wagnerian love-at-first-sight. Finally they start singing. Funny thing, though: throughout this passionate duet (and it is passionate!) hardly anything is said about love. It’s all about her faithfulness and his redemption. Her obsession is less love than it is religious vocation. And he wants release from his curse.

As they prepare to marry the next day, Erik comes around and begs Senta not to dump him for a cursed man. On Wednesday evening the tenor practically ripped out the audience’s heartstrings with this song, but Senta is unmoved. Not so the Dutchman, who somehow manages to interpret Erik’s plea as proof of Senta’s unfaithfulness. He refuses to listen to her and sets sail for another seven years. She proves her faithfulness-unto-death in the only way she can: she jumps into the sea and dies, still faithful. In this particular production she doesn’t drown; she grabs some high tension wires before she jumps and electrocutes herself. Flashy. Then we have the redemption music as the curse is lifted, all glorious and up-lifting in spite of everything.

I know, the story, when it’s told like that, is offensive, and even perverted. When I first started listening to Wagner on the radio with nothing but synopses to go on, my feminist principles absolutely shuddered, and I didn’t much like Wagner. But somehow, when I attend an actual performance, with great singers and actors and direction, none of the ideology matters. I don’t exactly put aside my feminism or my modern ideas about human relationships, but for those few hours at the opera house, they don’t seem to be of overwhelming importance. Against all rational expectations it is a magnificent, inspiring theatrical experience. And I’ll be back again in ’08 for The Ring.

Wagner, by the way, eventually got a woman who devoted herself to him utterly, his last wife Cosima, though she didn’t die for him. She survived him by many years, and fought like a tigress protecting his artistic legacy. Great male artists get supportive wives like that often enough that it doesn’t surprise us. For women artists it is not as common, but it does happen. Alexandra David-Neel’s husband acted as her literary agent and handled her finances through all the years she was tramping around Tibet with her Sikkimese adopted son, studying in monasteries and meditating in caves.

More to come in the comments about my first Dutchman, proper opera attire, and on-stage sailing vessels.


Josiah said...

"I have been told that Wagner's music is better than it sounds." —Mark Twain

"I like Wagner's music better than anybody's. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says." —Oscar Wilde

I have no particular animus against Wagner, but he's not my favorite composer either, despite having heard a rather inspirational lecture on the "Tristan chord" from one of my favorite instructors at college, who wrote a book on Tristan und Isolde in the '60s. This was Elliott Zuckerman, an elderly New York Jew with one blind eye which was permanently askew from his piercing gaze. I always picture Mr. Zuckerman when reading the character of Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter books. I once chatted with him about Gilbert and Sullivan, and he told me that he once had the misfortune of seeing an all-male production of Iolanthe. He said, "You can imagine it — 'We are dainty little fairies'. It was awful." (I believe his objection was aesthetic, not homophobic.)

Jana C.H. said...

Josiah, I was going to use the Mark Train quote as Quotation of the Week, but at the last minute I went for Bizet instead. And I've already used the famous Bellini quote on the MOC, so I didn't want to use it again.

I can't call myself a true Wagnerian. I enjoy Wagner's operas when they're done well--which for me means more than just good singing. I think of opera primarily in terms of theatre, as Wagner did himself. It's the sheer theatricality of Wagnerian opera, not the music alone, that knocks my socks off.

I have to agree with Mr. Zuckerman about an all-male Iolanthe. Arrrg! And double-arrrg! because Iolanthe is my favorite G&S opera.

Jana C.H.
Saith JcH: Do what you want with Wagner, but mess with Gilbert and Sullivan and you die!

Josiah said...

"He's a fairy down to the waist—but his legs are mortal."

I did Iolanthe with the Yale Gilbert & Sullivan Society, before I left that august institution under less than ideal circumstances. I was a peerless Peer, if I say so myself. "Ah, blue blood!"

Maggie Jochild said...

One of the best documentaries rentable out there is "Sing Faster: The Stagehands Ring Cycle" -- described as "With its four operas, seventeen-hour running time, and required rehearsal time of a full month once the sets have been built, staging Wagner's Ring Cycle in a daunting undertaking for any opera company. Jon Else goes backatage at the San Francisco Opera to capture this rare event from a unique perspective: firsthand from the stagehands. 'While the gods are out onstage singing about the great problems in the world, we are doing all the hard stuff,' says one stagehand in the middle of his eighty-five-hour work week during dress rehearsals. According to the blow-by-blow account of the libretto we get from the ongoing poker game backstage, the 'sexy' Rhine maidens struggle to get their gold back, and the Valkyries sing 'loud...really loud.' The relaxed attitude alters immediately during scene changes, when everyone springs into action like a well-oiled machine. Then we embark on a visual trek through Styrofoam rock formations and over painted mountaintops, learning the secrets of classic Wagnerian special effects: fog, fire, thunder, earthquake, and of course a dragon."

Of course a dragon.

And, speaking of LIVE sopranos, the one opera CD I own is my beloved "Angelica", which I play often. "Essentially, the album is opera songs performed with rock spirit -- big beats, big chords, big dynamics and pure intensity." I love "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" performed by the Boys' Choir of Harlem and the techno version of "Quando M'En Vo" from La Boheme by Dweezil Zappa, but the one where I turn the volume ALL the way up and close my eyes to sing along is a driving, driven "Un Bel Di" from Madame Butterfly, sung by Sewell Griffith. Divine.

There's an article about the album's concept at Angelica

You can hear samples at
Angelica samples The album is out of print in the U.S. but used copies can be found.

Jana C.H. said...

Re: Stagehands. Besides being in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest on-stage fire ever used in theatre, Seattle Opera is big on flying. In a previous production of The Ring, five of the Valkyries flew on life-size plastic horses, and in the current production, the Rhinedaughters “swim” overhead as Alberich struggles on the bed of the river. In both cases there are two stagehands for each singer, one to control horizontal movement and one for vertical. This is dangerous stuff. Someone could get injured or killed flying around an enclosed area with the singers moving independently. I’ve heard the singers and stagehands develop quite an emotional bond, and at curtain call each singer takes her bow accompanied by her two stagehands.

I promised I’d say something about on-stage sailing vessels. The problem with ships on-stage is that in real life they don’t stand still. Even in the calmest water they’re moving a little bit. This presents little or no difficulty when there’s only one ship, especially when you don’t see the water anyway, as in Billy Budd or H.M.S. Pinafore. Even in Florencia in the Amazons, in which all the action takes place in a small boat which rotates mid-stage, and the stage itself represents the Amazon River, the fact that the boat itself doesn’t move is not a distraction. It moves in one’s imagination.

But the first act of Dutchman requires two vessels side-by-side, a square-rigged sailing ship and a modern fishing boat, which one imagines moving relative to each other. The Dutchman, however, has to move from his ship to Daland’s boat and back. In this production, a door like a small drawbridge opens in the hull of the Dutchman’s ship and lowers to form a gangplank from one vessel to the other, and the Dutchman walks across.

The gangplank stays down for most of the act. As the Dutchman crosses over he stands on it for a while and sings. When he offers Daland treasure, two of his crew bring out a treasure chest four feet high (or else it’s standing on a tall table) and leave it perched on the gangplank for who knows how long. At one point Daland go up to look at the treasure and stands there for a while singing. Meanwhile imaginary water is pouring in through the open door in the side of the Dutchman’s ship.

I’m quite the armchair sailor, and this is too much for my willing suspension of disbelief. The image of the two vessels, connected only by a gangplank, rocking gently back and forth as a rigid unit keeps hammering at my imagination. And the thought of the Baltic ferry that capsized and sank a few years back when the loading door in its hull accidentally opened at sea cannot be totally suppressed. If only that treasure chest would go away I think I could ignore the whole idea, but there it stands, solid as a rock, blatantly mocking everything I know about ships. And this is Seattle: there are plenty of people in the audience who know a lot more about ships than I do.

Stephen Wadsworth is a gifted, highly experienced, internationally-known opera director, and I know nothing, but this is how I would have done it. We can’t bring the Dutchman over in a bosun’s chair because it looks silly. In Pinafore a few years ago we had Sir Joseph come onboard in a bosun’s chair to emphasize what a landlubber he is. The Dutchman is a real sailor, and as such he should go clambering agilely down the hull, but nobody wants Greer Grimsley to break his neck. So we compromise.

The door opens in the side of the side of the ship and the Dutchman walks across without pausing to sing. The gangplank goes back up. When treasure is needed, the Dutchman signals to his crew, and two of them lower a small treasure chest across with ropes; this stays on Daland’s boat. When it’s time to leave, the door opens, the Dutchman walks quickly across the gangplank, and the door closes. It’s still nautically impossible, of course, but the audience’s nose isn’t rubbed in it, and willing suspension of disbelief is maintained.

Why didn’t Stephen Wadsworth ask me?

Jana C.H.
Saith E.G. Forbes: Never spoil a good story with too much truth.

DDalto said...

The Twain quote is very droll indeed, and we Wagnerites are quite fond of it, so I hate to be the one to point out that Twain never said it. Edward Wilson Nye, a 19th Century humor writer, did, and Twain quoted him.

Twain did say this, though:

"I have witnessed, and greatly enjoyed, the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide."

Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography, Chap. 19.

Josiah said...

I stand corrected, ddalto!

Maggie Jochild said...

So, Josiah, do you think the monogamy of swans is where that old song comes from? You know:

Swanee, how I love ya
How I love ya
My dear old Swanee

Josiah said...

Maggie, I'd groan, except that I've often been responsible for far worse puns. :^)

Jana C.H. said...

Ddalto, thanks for the correction on the Nye quote. I have changed the attribution on my taglines list, and have added the genuine Twain quotation, though it’s a bit long for a tagline.

Has anyone ever seen Das Barbecü? It’s a short musical commissioned by Seattle Opera, requires only five actors, and consists of the last three-quarters of Götterdämmerung, set in Texas. It opens with a certain singing cowboy named Siegfried Wolf waking up with a terrible hangover, chained to a bed, and wondering who this Getrune person is who claims they’re getting married that day. The barbeque itself is intended to celebrate the wedding. Erda lives in a dugout, the three Norns do rope tricks and sing a song called “Hog-tie Your Man”, the three Riverdaughters are eking out a living doing water ballet in an unheated pool, Hagen has narcolepsy, Alberich is declared “Public Enemy Number Point-One”, Brünhilde blows up the dam on the river and sets the entire wedding on fire, and Wotan and Fricka finally get back together. All in various styles of country music.

I saw it when it first came out, and have the CD. It’s a hoot even if you don’t know much about The Ring, and a double-hoot if you do.

Jana C.H.
Saith Ed Gardner: Opera is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings.

shadocat said...

" All of Richard Wagner’s operas are about one thing: Richard Wagner. They go like this: There’s this guy, and he’s alone and lost, usually in the wilderness. And he’s searching for something... something beautiful... for a woman, who will devote herself utterly to him, who will die for him, and bring him redemption. And when they finally get together at the end of the opera, and she dies—or maybe he dies first and then she dies—there’s a tremendous transformation scene which is impossible to stage and doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but is overwhelmingly beautiful and moving nonetheless."

Jana, don't hate me, but the first thing that came to my mind when I read this was my favorite cartoon of all time, "What's Opera, Doc" (The one where Elmer sings "Kill the wabbit, Kill the wabbit, Kill the wabbit!....etc.)

Jana C.H. said...

Shado, I love "What's Opera Doc?" It's even better than "The Rabbit of Seville", which is going some. I wish I had them both on DVD.

Jana C.H.
Saith Thomas Pynchon: A person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like while listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland.

shadocat said...

I loved the "Rabbit of Seville" too! My kids used to have a VHS tape of some Warner Bros. cartoons with both of them on it, but it was worn out long ago, and I can't remember the name of the tape! If anyone knows of a similar DVD out there, I'd love to hear about it.

Josiah, if you're still reading this, just wanted to tell you, I read "Doubt", and was moved to tears. What a great play! I suppose part of the reason it affected me so strongly was that the play takes place in 1964, so I was in 3rd/4th grade at that time...btw, I heard that "pillow" sermon 4 or 5 different times while I was growing up, by different priests---now i wonder what they were REALLY trying to say!

Maggie Jochild said...

Today's (19 August) Writer's Almanac informs me: "It's the birthday of Ogden Nash, born in Rye, New York (1902). He wrote 'To keep your marriage brimming, / With love in the loving cup, / Whenever you're wrong, admit it; / Whenever you're right, shut up.'"

He died of Crohn's disease in 1971, but he sure had a lasting impact on popular culture (and me as an impressionable young reader). My favorite of his is:
The one-L lama, he's a priest
The two-L llama, he's a beast
And I would bet a silk pajama
There isn't any three-L lllama
(Nash appended a footnote to this poem: "The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh."

My cat Dinah's favorite is:
The panther is like a leopard,
Except that it hasn't been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say ouch,
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.

There are online sites to him that include poetry and aphorisms at
Poemhunter for Ogden Nash and
Tribute to the Poet

Josiah said...

My favorite Ogden Nash poem is "The Tale of Custard the Dragon":

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Shado, I'm glad you enjoyed (if that's the right word) Doubt. I hope that the tears were catharctic rather than traumatic. It is a great play — I'd love to have the opportunity to play Father Flynn some day.

We saw Doubt when Cherry Jones was touring as Sister Aloysius — an amazing performance. Cherry Jones is of course, as Maggie would point out, a pearldiver.

And speaking of the quest for gems of great value, you may be interested to hear that Erin submitted a query to Russell Galen, agent for S. M. Stirling, and he requested her manuscript! Now the waiting begins — but he didn't want it exclusively, so Erin is also submitting to other agents. It's a long road...

Maggie Jochild said...

OhmiGOD, Josiah, that's incredible news about Erin and her manuscript! I am so proud for her, and you, too. I will definitely send "publish her" energy out there.

And, yes, Cherry Jones is not just a pearldiver, but one fucking hell of an actress. I first noticed her in M. Night Shylaman's movies (okay, I know the spelling of that isn't right but I'm not going to look it up). She made my gonads quiver. Then I saw her win the Tony for something or other, and when they called her name, she planted a big kiss on the woman next to her, going on to thank her most beautifully once she was on stage. I'm fine with us losing the membership of Anne Heche when we have folks like Cherry Jones on our team.

I'm sitting here this morning, writing away on my own sci-fi novel, Skene. Wrote a scene where somebody died and wound up blubbering so much I got my keyboard wet. Catharsis is where you can find it, I guess.

Speaking of that novel -- Josiah, do you want to read it in first draft stage? If so (and you definitely can say no, I know you're a monogamous boy and I can imagine that extending to reading the unpublished works of others), resend me your e-mail, I can't find yours if I ever had it.

Josiah said...

Erin saw Cherry Jones play Viola in Twelfth Night in about 1988. Erin says that she had a crush on Cherry Jones too.

I approve of authors who cry over their own work. (I'd have to, I'm married to one!) It shows emotional commitment. I'd be happy to read your MS, Maggie, and have emailed you.

shadocat said...

Yup, those were cartharctic tears alright. I would give my right arm to play Sr. Aloysius (that is, if I were still able to do theatre). I was all ready to e-mail our local professional theatre company that they should do this play, when ,voila!, I saw that they are already set to do it, in October.Yay!

Jana C.H. said...

Seattle Repertory Theatre is also doing Twelfth Night this season, though I forget exactly when. I expect to see it.

Hey, I have another Wagner event to tell you about—one that might sound more interesting to most of you than actually going to his operas. Last Saturday, Seattle Opera’s “Wagner and More” club held a reading of a screenplay by Jonathan Dean, the supertitles-and-lectures guy at Seattle Opera. The name of the film is Monster God, and it’s about Wagner writing The Ring. Jonathan described it as a cross between Amadeus and The Lord of the Rings. It’s partly a costume drama about Wagner, whose life was almost as crazy as his operas. But every once in a while we get into Wagner’s head and see how he imagines his operas, with the help of 21st century computerized special effects. This is contrasted with Wagner’s frustration at what his productions, with 19th century stagecraft, really looked like.

The reading was fun, with half a dozen actors reading various parts, helped along by music and slides. Don’t expect Monster God in theaters any time soon: they don’t even have a studio interested, and Jonathan Dean has no resume of screenwriting to show off. But when it does come out, remember: you heard it here first!

Correction: I slipped up when I said Seattle’s Ring will be next summer. It will be in August 2009. The Ring has a long lead time, and one can easily get mixed up. They just announced the cast, and everyone’s excited about it.

Jana C.H.
Saith Georges Bizet: To be a great artist is not necessarily to be an honorable man.

shadocat said...

"Monster God" does sound pretty cool---I am sorely in need of an opera/musical/operetta education, and sorry about my lack of education thereof----it makes it hard for me to discuss "The Flying Dutchman" with out picturing the amusement park ride at my high school summer job many years ago. I'd like to think the blame lies with our educational system, and not with me, but I don't know if I can sell that case. Anyway, so sorry for the lack of knowledge!

Jana C.H. said...

The easiest way to learn about opera is to go see some. They have captions now, so it's like seeing a foreign movie with subtitles except the words are at the top of the stage. Seats aren't too expensive if you don't mind sitting in the second balcony. That's where I sat for my first Ring.

If your local opera company has lectures about the operas they put on, go. Seattle opera has a lecture before each opera, and Q&A afterwards with Speight Jenkins, the general director. They have other lectures and panel discussions as well, though my two favorites are no longer given.

That's where I learned most of what I know about opera. My paragraph about Richard Wagner's operas being about Richard Wagner was cribbed directly from Perry Lorenzo's pre-opera lectures.

Except Gilbert and Sullivan. I have done loads of reading about G&S, but have attended no lectures to speak of. I'm not nearly as knowledgable about musicals and operettas as I am about opera.

Jana C.H.
Saith Arthur Pinero: Where there is tea there is hope.

little gator said...

I hope you've all heard Anna Russell's interpretation of Wagner. If not, look it upshe's out on cd now.

kat said...

I'm pushing up my sleeves and jumping in.
The thought that one can't be a feminist and an opera fan is troubling, Jana. Your description of opera plots makes me think that you haven't seen enough opera. Particularly enough Baroque opera. Gender bending and strong women kicking butt were pretty common place.
Now, I realize that anything pre-mozart is not often heard on the american opera stage, but some of us are working very hard to fix that.
women wailing and dying came relatively late in opera history, actually.....well, except Donna Anna, but we'll forgive Mozart for having created her, since in the same opera he gave us Zerlina, who tells us in no uncertain terms that she likes it rough....

Anyway, I'm not trying to attack or anything, it just bugs me to high heaven when people repeat opera cliches. I tend to jump when that happens.

Oh and wagner once wore white gloves while conducting a Mendelssohn piece so that he "wouldn't sully his hands with the work of a jew."

kat said...

oh, and shadowcat?
whatever you do, don't start with wagner.

Jana C.H. said...

Well, Kat, I’m in my twenty-fourth year as a season ticket holder in Seattle, I’m quite fond of baroque opera, and I never said you can’t be a feminist and an opera fan. I said being both at once can sometimes feel a bit odd. I acknowledged the strong women characters, and focused on the matter of operatic women always dying with their men because I thought it would be the most amusing angle for people who are not fans of opera. Opera clichés are funny, and they wouldn’t be clichés if they didn’t occur with a certain frequency.

I wasn’t intending my article to be a serious analysis of opera, which would bore my readers silly. It was a light, “I went to the opera last week” piece. I wanted to include reminiscences of my first Dutchman (which was also my first opera), and my views on wearing garb appropriate to each show (all I could manage was a t-shirt with a Norwegian flag, but I saw a woman in full traditional Norwegian regalia). But I couldn’t fit it all into 800 words. As you can see, none of it was meant to be serious.

Anyway, you are quite right to advise Shado not to start with Wagner. Mozart is good for beginners, and so is Puccini. I started with Gilbert and Sullivan, and jumped from there to Henry Purcell (records, not performances). When I moved to Seattle in 1983 to start graduate school, I bought season tickets for Seattle Opera and just plunged in. When I saw my first Ring, most of my knowledge came from having read Norse mythology and from hearing Anna Russell. Not to mention those terrific pre-opera lectures.

Jana C.H.
Saith Anna Russell: That’s the beauty of grand opera, you can do anything so long as you sing it.

little gator said...

I've always thought Carmen was a perfect opera for anyone including beginners. It sounds beautiful, and it has a clear, simple story. Most people have heard at least bits of it.

What does hoyataho mean anyway?

Jana C.H. said...

Little Gator--

As Anna Russell said about the Rhinedaughters' song, "I won't translate it because it doesn't mean anything."

Jana C.H.
Saith Floss Forbes: If you don't know the tune, sing tenor.

Maggie Jochild said...

Yo, Kat! Welcome to the MOC. Another opera fan, with strong opinions -- you came to the right place, babe. For those of you who don't correspond with her privately, Kat's e-mail signature is the following: Io la musica son, ch'ai dolci accenti, so far tranquillo ogni turbato core. Et or d'amore et or di nobil ira, poss'infiammar le piu` gelati menti.

I had to get her to translate it for me, because Babelfish was just giving me gibberish. Let's see if any of you can name it and claim it.

The docu I mentioned earlier, Sing Faster, has more than one scene wherein stagehands are discussion their relationships with the Rhinedaughters. As in, well, RILF.

kat said...

I have to admit to having had a really knee-jerk reaction, when I could have read more slowly and carefully.

anyway, I don't think that serious analyses of opera are boring at all....if you get one that is not concerned with stereotypes, but rather what's actually going on. It can be quite entertaining.

I think it's important to remember that the plot is frequently not the point of an opera. Often, stories are taken from mythology or history (until the mid-19th C, that is, when there are more original stories....'cept for Wagner).

To people wanting to read a little about opera, "Opera for Beginners" is good. It's really funny.

I would actually recommend that Shado start at the very beginning. The first extant opera is Monteverdi's "l'Orfeo." There's a great recording with John Elliot Gardiner conducting, and it will give a point of reference for all that came later. Monteverdi's great masterpiece is "The Coronation of Poppea," but that one really has to be watched, not just heard. There's a version on DVD available on Netflix, but I haven't seen it yet, so I can't vouch for quality.


Yay for josiah! The Tale of Custard the Dragon is my favoritest poem of all time!!!

kat said...

In "Sing Faster", when the stagehands talk about trying to land a Rhinemaiden? I totally know one of the Rhinemaidens! We studied with the same voice teacher.

Maggie Jochild said...

TOO funny, Kat. It's a small, small world.

I'll have to work in this opera connection to the "Kat" who turns Myra on to McVities in my novel. She's already an oddity in Myra's list of exes, that would be just one more delicious thing about her.

And, I'll check out "Opera for Beginners", I'm getting seriously interested by all this talk of it.

This isn't strictly opera, but the first time I went to MWMF, a young UK dyke named Cheryl (I think -- I have a naked photo of her, but I forgot to write her name on it) taught me new lyrics to the classic Funiculì, Funiculà. I've taught them to countless women over the years, and pass 'em now:

Last night, I went home and masturbated
It felt so good
I knew it would
Last night, I went home and masturbated
It felt so nice
I did it twice
You had have seen me on the short strokes
It was so grand
I used my hand
You should have seen me on the long strokes
It was so neat
I used my feet
Bashing, crashing, thrashing on the floor
Sliding down the bannister, humping on the door
Some people say that you'll
grow warts or go insane or some such fate
But I can hardly wait
Till I get home to masturbate

kat said...

oh my god that's hysterical!!!

that totally beats the alternate lyrics to the Messiah that my friends made up while in Conservatory..."There were shepherds imbibing in the fields, drinking scotch over the rocks by night"...
Other musical funniness: My friend Paul once messed up the words to a Handel aria while onstage. He sang "Trees where you shit..." Instead of "sit." The poor Texas boy nearly died of embarrassment.

oh, and whats the difference between an orchestra and a bull?

kat said...

grr....I'm already defensive about my craft and then I see a Yahoo news headline that reads "Stressed Opera Singers Turn to Drugs"....

little gator said...

The Bestialists' chorus

"For we like sheep."

I knew Anna would know what to say. Did you know she only died in the past year or two?

Pathetic and frivolous translation of Kat's sig:

"His music's sweet accent has tranquility with a turbulent core of onions. Love, or Di's noble Ira, inflames her gelatinous thoughts."

Dear old Custard had a sequel, which i only foudn recently. I'll go hunt fo rit.

little gator said...


kat said...

wow, little gator, that's a creative translation you found.....
I'll tell you if you like, or we could keep coming up with fun (but very, very wrong) translations of my email tag.

The sequel to custard is printed in the Nash collection "Custard and Company" with illustrations by the glorious Quentin Blake.

Oh, and Maggie? I accidentally lied. the book is called "Getting Opera" and is by Matt Dobkin

Jana C.H. said...

Kat, great to have you aboard. Until now I didn't know there was another opera fan reading the MOC. Together, we will seduce the other MOCcers into our strange and mysterious cult. As you can see, there's usually a silly angle to anything I write. Be warned!

I've posted a couple of other articles on opera, one about a Seattle production of Princess Ida in which I participated (though not on stage), and another about a puppet production of The Liberation of Ruggiero from the Island of Alcina, written around 1525 by Francesca Caccini. You might want to check them out. The next opera I'll be seeing is Iphigenia in Tauris, and I'll probably post about that as well.

Welcome to the MOC! If you've seen a recent opera production you'd like to discuss, jump in. There's no such thing as off-topic around here.

Jana C.H.
Saith WSG: To everybody’s prejudice I know a thing or two.

little gator said...

I didn't find that translation. I did it all by myself. Sure, I'd like to know what it really says, but I'm in no hurry.

Let's hear some more gelatinous thoughts first.

kat said...

Is the Iphigenie going to use the same production as San Francisco's recent performance of the same opera? I know that SFO was sharing the production, but I can't remember with whom.....
I reviewed that show for San Francisco Classical Voice:

If the Seattle Iphigenie is a shred as fabulous as the SF one, you're in for a treat. Gluck is a way more exciting composer than most give him credit for.

On the other topic, I encourage everyone to find the Blake illustrated Custard collection. It's beyond brilliant.

kat said...

"I am Music, who with sweet accents
can calm each troubled heart,
and now with love and now with noble anger
can inflame the most frozen (or frigid) minds"

The speaker is the Allegory of Music.

17th century arts (I've seen paintings with this too) use "allegory" to mean the personification or embodiment, rather than it's actual meaning...

Maggie Jochild said...

Ah, Little Gator! You sly reptile, working mention of the "Turbulent Onion Corps" into your translation.

I was briefly a member in 1977, before the FBI used grand jury probes to scatter us all. I still have a faded T-shirt with the "ticking clock" logo, remember? The clock shaped like a big purple onion, and the letters of the sound emanating from it spelled tick-TOCk, tick-TOCk. How clever it was. And it was quite an effective chant, in marches and at rallies -- thousands of furious radicals in a rhythmic ticking (or TOCking, more to the point). I also liked the threat of "Peel it back / Make 'em cry / Root crops hold up / Half the sky".

Any other former members of the Corps out there? (Simper fie!)

kat said...

you sure it's not "semper cry"??

Jana C.H. said...

Seattle is co-producing its Iphigenia with the Met. I was told at the last opera event I went to (the screenplay reading last Saturday) that Seattle is the only opera company in the country that has the facilities to co-produce something with the Met.

Nuccia Focile is singing Iphigenia in the Gold Cast, and Marie Plette in the Silver. Brett Polegato is Orestes is both. Gary Thor Wedow conducts, and Stephen Wadsworth is stage director as he was for the Dutchman.

Here’s a link to Seattle Opera’s website:
There you can find details about Iphigenia.

Seattle Opera’s last opera by Gluck was Orpheus and Eurydice back in 1988 (I still have the program). It was a spectacular production, especially the contribution of the Mark Morris Dance Group, which was just leaving Seattle that year to join Theatre Royale de la Monnaie in Brussels. Seattle Opera cited Orpheus as one of its outstanding productions for years afterwards, and people (including me) still remember it.

Kat, I read your review of San Francisco’s Iphigenia, and it sounds like it was absolutely stunning. I confess I have hardly ever seen opera anywhere but Seattle. Seattle does a great job, and of course it rents plenty of productions from other companies, but it’s too bad not to have a broader experience. I could go on overnight trips to Portland and Vancouver and stay within my budget, but any trip involving airfare starts to cost serious money. I have often heard about how good San Francisco Opera is; I would enjoy seeing it for myself.

Jana C.H.
Saith WSG: Nothing is more annoying than to feel that you’re not equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.

Jana C.H. said...

Did someone mention filking the Messiah? Here’s one of my creations. I wrote it for Seattle’s Raging Grannies, but they were not up to the musical demands. I have never heard it performed except when I and a two or three Grannies were trying to belt it out in a hallway without even the benefit of a pitchpipe.

Impeachment Chorus

Full chorus:
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
Cheney and Bush.

That’ll teach ’em. That’ll teach ’em.
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
Let’s give ’em the push.

For the Republic stands in great danger,
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
That’ll teach ’em. That’ll teach ’em.
Not from a terrorist or a stranger.
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
That’ll teach ’em. That’ll teach ’em.

Split between 2 half-choruses as necessary:
Stop this unconstitutional tyrant.
Let’s impeach ’em, etc.
I can’t contain my fury or my rant.
Let’s impeach ’em, etc.
Join me in low or middle or high rant.
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em, etc.
Impeach them!

The Constitution stands-- Still it stands.
The Constitution stands.
It’s in our hands, it’s in our hands.

For We the People govern forever.
For We the People govern forever, etc, etc.

Forever and ever, We the People, We the People,
Forever and ever, We the People, We the People,

Forever and ever, We the People, We the People,
And Cap’talists---
Forever and ever, We the People, We the People,

Forever and ever, We the People, We the People,
Liberals, Conservatives.

For We the People, We the People, We the People,
For We the People govern forever, etc.

Liberals, Conservatives. Liberals, Conservatives.
For We the People govern forever.
Liberals, Conservatives. Liberals, Conservatives.
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
Let’s impeach ’em. Let’s impeach ’em.
Impeach them!

In honor of my favorite poet, W.S. Gilbert, “Liberals, Conservatives” should be pronounced “LiberALS, ConservaTIVES.”

Jana C.H.
Saith JcH: We all need to impeach the president, ’peach the president, ’peach the president.

Anonymous said...

funny you should mention that. I was born into the world alive.

"I wore an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time."
--Abe "Grandpa" Simpson, sekrit member of TOC

oops, didn't log in before i started, so it's little gator

little gator said...

Maggie=I'm so ashamed.

I can't remember how the "Hickory Tickery TOC" chant went.

Jana C.H. said...

Gator-- And I'm a gal.

Jana C.H.
Saith WSG: What's the use of being half a fairy?

kat said...

yeah, Seattle Opera gets almost ignored by a lot folks (most of whom are totally NYC centered), but those who care make sure that it's got a great reputation.
I've read about so many fantastic productions up there. Especially ones that are unconventional or super creative.

I was surprised when, in college, I attended the Opera America conference. It's a 3 day thing for singers to listen to panels of various experts, get resume advice, blah, blah, blah.
The panel about "A houses"--that is, the big guns, included the general director of Seattle. He was the most informative person on the panel, frankly, and actually seemed to care about young singers.

Only being able to get to the places immediately around you in the Pacific Northwest has got to be frustrating. I'm in the same boat, but the San Francisco area has so much music, I can never get to everything around here, even.

Just this week, for instance, the west coast premiere of Ned Rorem's "Our Town" is being put on by a good regional company called Festival Opera. They're in Walnut Creek, Ca, of all places. The town is known around here for just being a giant shopping destination, essentially, but they've got this opera company that does interesting things.

I'm thinking of compiling a list of essential operas for you folks.

the thing is, though, I think that in the interest of feminism and such, I'll leave out a lot of Puccini and Verdi that focus on drippy, twerpy female characters that just mope and wail and all that.

Okay friendies, I'm off to tutor french all day......ugh....can I have another summer to rest up from this one??

Josiah said...

Kat asked an age ago,

What's the difference between an orchestra and a bull?

The answer, of course, is that on a bull the horns are in the front, and the asshole is in the back.

Sorry I've been absent — we've had lots of drama lately, which I'll tell you all about in my first post as Divo! (Notice that I've finally gotten a Blogger ID, so the first step in the journey of a thousand posts has been taken...)

Josiah said...

Actually, the recent drama (to do with Erin's quest for an agent for her novel) didn't quite fit in the first post; I'll work on it and tell you all about it later.

kat said...

yes, Josiah got the joke right!