Travel Thursday Encore: Watching Opera With a First Timer

The place: Savonlinna, Finland

Olavinlinna is an old spooky castle, which kinda makes it perfect for opera. Some more than others, of course; MacBeth, or something by Wagner, but it works for Tosca as well, which I was seeing for about the hundredth time, but I was going with an old friend who’d never been to an opera in her life. Here’s all you need to know about her, as described by a magazine editor: When Giina had been designed and made, they saved the mold for very special occasions.
So I didn’t tell her anything about the plot, and since she knew English, she could read the subtitles. Of course I enjoyed the work as always, but also took pleasure in watching her enjoy it, especially considering she had no idea what was going to happen. She oohed and aahed a little, but there really wasn’t that much action taking place in the first act, just exposition, so she had a lot more emotion to go through. I wondered if she’d cry some toward the end, though knew better than to ask; she was a self-proclaimed “tough chick.”
There was a big enough intermission after the first act for us to leave our seats. When she didn’t say she was going to the concession stand, I knew what option was left, and too bad she’d worn such a tight dress. So I asked if she wanted anything, and she demurely replied for me to remember her “sweetie tooth.” I figured that could mean anything but beer in this place, although considering the microbrews in this part of the world, anything really was possible.
Thinking she was easy to please, at least when it came to desserts, I got in line and reckoned I’d just get her whatever I was having, though in the end it turned out not to be the same flavor. As I turned from the counter with my hands full of ice cream cones, a woman in a fur coat dumb enough to be in the exit line blocked my way and got some droplets of ice cream on her.
As I inspected the ice cream to make sure there was no fur on it, and really, who wore that in this weather, the relatively young-looking bitch whined, “Do you know how many animals had to be killed to make this coat?”
“Do you know how many assholes like you I’d have to kill to come up with one brain?” Hey, sometimes you gotta shoot from the hip.
“Making friends wherever you go,” Giina laughed, her timing perfect as usual, as was her aim, relieving me of the chocolate ice cream. The “friend” in question checked out the blonde–who was smiling placidly–knew she was done before the fight started, and turned away.
As we went over to look at the lake and landscape, she told me how she was researching the possibility that Sibelius, and other Scandinavian composers, wrote somber pieces of the low register and slow tempo because of the severity of the winter landscape, while in places like Italy, Spain, and Greece, the music is mostly high register and much faster tempi. I told her she could start a whole new field, which I called Musical Geography. Then she laughed and said, “Imagine if my boss could hear me now!” Or even that magazine guy.
The lights blinked, making her wonder if the power was going out, but when I took her by the arm to lead her to their seats instead of acting like it was an emergency situation, she figured I knew something she didn’t and walked alongside.
The second act fired her up, which was not surprising, given all the action: she winced at the sounds of the hero being tortured, gave me a baleful look when the heroine agreed to sleep with the bad guy, even though everyone knew he had no intention of keeping his side of the bargain, and barely kept from shouting “Yes!” when the heroine killed said bad guy instead of letting him take her. I actually had to calm her down, do something to stop her nostrils from flaring as the second act came to a close. Too bad there wouldn’t be a long enough intermission to take her out for a walk or something else to make her burn off this excess energy. . . if indeed that’s what it was.
The very short third act was a roller coaster for her, from her tearful “He forgave her!” to a knowing snort at realizing the hero was really dead–with scorn at the heroine for not realizing it herself–to a heartfelt “Oh SHIT!”–such a cute accent–when Tosca threw herself into the river, so perfect I had to keep from laughing at the most dramatic moment of the entire opus.
“Wow, I’m sweating!” she remarked as we walked out. “That was gut wrenching! Now I know what you see in opera! What’s next?”

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: From the Drimeh Kundan

According to research, this is an ancient Indian opera translated into Tibetan. Nobody knows who the original author is, and considering it’s around seven hundred years old, doubt anyone will find out now.
Basically a sweet ode about a mother realizing she had to let her son grow up and conquer the world. Appropriate for upcoming graduation and onward to college.

 

The Queen wept but thought: It is not appropriate to show such grief; he must go on this long journey. So she wiped away her tears.

My dearest child, now let me speak not to you but for you.
To the beings in the boundless ocean of space surrounding us,
To the conquering Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the guardians
Of all directions, please listen to my words:
This son of mine is leaving; return him with his present virtue
And in his body. May he be spared acute fatigue as he crosses
Pass and plain; when he lives in the hill Hashang may it become
Palatial; when he eats what trees and plants can give
May he taste a royal nectar; in his thirst may his water become
Forever milk; when he dresses in leaves and sleeps on moss
May he walk in the god’s five-color cloth and lie on silk.
When the wild beasts roar may he hear the music of mantra;
When the rivers roar in their beds of rock, let the sound be
Om Mani Padme Hung; may the daughters of the gods spare him
From the narrow valleys’ heat; and on frightfulness mountain
May all the Buddhas be his companions; when his body burns
With fever, may doctors, like miracles, come with medicine.
Last,
Wherever he may live, may he live in delight, may his doings
And his thoughts spread like the wish-fulfilling leaves.
Last,
May the two of us soon meet.

;o)

Mozart non-opera and opera

Despite severe exhaustion from the volleyball day at Northridge, I valiantly headed out to A Noise Within for Figaro; it helped that all I had to do was cross the street to catch the bus. It also helped that I’d already paid for the ticket, otherwise I might not have tried it. Bus almost zoomed by me, maybe because it wasn’t expecting to pick anyone up, considering there was only one person aboard. Very rare. Driver told me I shoulda used my flashlight, but it wasn’t until walking back that I remembered I had a flashlight with me. Two actually, but why quibble? After that a couple got on, she Indian with a British accent, he hippie from South Philly, and on an almost-empty bus they sit right behind me and subject me to such inanities. . .
Okay. Off the bus, I walk down the length of the bus station, then cross the small road, and I’m at the back door of the venue, first one there. Unfortunately there’s a late rehearsal, so the audience is dark and they’re not letting anyone in just yet for fear of someone going splat. By the time they open there’s a dozen people and I don’t feel special anymore. Also didn’t feel special when I had the row all to myself and someone else came by, but oh well.
Tonight’s production of Figaro is the same plot as the famous Mozart opera, just no singing. And it’s in English. The only music we get is during scene changes, and it’s a rock version–heavy on electric guitar–of Mozart’s music. The main characters are on first, Figaro and Suzanne, but it isn’t till the Count comes out–dressed in what a stylish 70s rocker type might be sporting–that things really take off. Later there’s a scene where he takes off the long wig, and yeah, definitely changed not just the actor’s appearance but his whole mojo; we would not have believed all that bombastic entitlement from the meek accountant-like guy underneath.
Though the play is witty and sarcastic, what really sells the comedy is the body language, particularly by Suzanne. The character doesn’t have much grace, sitting with her legs spread and shoulders slumped, especially opposed to the mincing high-heeled steps of the Countess. But later in the play, when the roles are reversed, the maid has to fix the countess’s body language, slumping her shoulders and spreading her legs rather forcibly. All small touches, but add up to a lot of funny, the best being when Figaro has to describe what’s in a letter and Suzanne is behind the count giving him huge pantomime hints. . .
If you’re at all familiar with the plot, you know it’s about Figaro coming up with grandiose schemes and not realizing how clueless he is; Suzanne’s gonna be the one wearing the pants in that family. Everyone’s got their own ploys and scams, and for a while it’s hard to keep all the tangles clear in your head, but of course since it’s a comedy everything will work out fine in the end. . .
I had told myself that if I wasn’t having fun by halftime I would leave, thereby catching the last bus home. But it was so good I stayed, and then had to walk for an hour, as I said already exhausted from the previous day. Strangely enough, only one person passed me, and that was outside the Taco Bell. Two bikes overtook me, but other than that it was actually a pleasant solitary walk which left me with plenty of time to think. . . except with my senses attuned to the extra dangers darkness brings, I didn’t think of much anyway.

Sorry, UCLA gymnastics. Far too exhausted to trudge across town on Saturday. Gonna miss you and your amazing smile, Elette.

Still a bit tired–losing an hour made it worse–but more than game Sunday morning to head out to real opera, if you can call it that. As usual went early, and as it turned out the bus downtown had to take not just one but two detours, missing Union Station, heading off a block away from the house–probably no longer there–where I spent the first seven years of my life. Ended up at the central library after another detour, due to some gathering in front of City Hall, then had to wait some minutes for it to open so I could hit the restroom. Not only that, but the little old Asian lady sitting next to me on the bus stole my water bottle! What is the world coming to?
At least I catch the subway right in step, and even with the detours I’m pretty early when I step into the sun of North Hollywood. Earlier I’d googled–can’t believe that’s a real verb–restaurants but couldn’t find anything that my taste buds and allergies could take. There was some diner nearby, but it was closed. After catching a pure vanilla at Coffee Bean, I set off down Lankersheim toward Universal, walking and walking and kept walking till I finally found a burger place about a half hour later. Had thought about eating there in the air conditioning, but instead figured I’d eat while waiting for the bus. Nope, something ornery in my mind said go ahead and walk by while eating, which is difficult when you have a burger, fries, and a drink to deal with and only two hands. If they’re right about evolution, how come we don’t have an extra hand sticking out of the chest or something? (old joke)
Finished off the fries just in time to get in line for theater, where my ticket was found with no problem, once the guy realized my last name wasn’t Franklin. A cute Orion slave girl handed me a program, then I gave my ticket and was led–not just given directions–to a small hutch on the left side, where there were five seats in two rows–combined. Instantly the two ladies in the three-seat row, Portland and Ruth, pronounced me their new best friend, so there was a little bit of chatter as I tried not to listen to their conversation when they weren’t including me. At the last moment two guys, one in an original pilot command shirt, sat in the two-seat row in front of us, so no leg-stretching allowed after all.
Finally it gets going, with the Star Trek theme, including “these are the voyages,” played by the orchestra in the pit. . . but just when you think they’re gonna launch into the main song it instead turns to the Mozart, which got a chuckle.
Instantly we get Captain Belmonte, played with relish, ham AND cheese, by Brian Cheney. His credits show he is indeed an operatic tenor, but I doubt he’s ever done anything like this. Not that the singing is out of his wheelhouse, but the sheer. . . Shatner-ness cubed of his performance. . . it’s actually shocking that anyone could out-Shatner Shatner, but then his many aside glances to the audience proves this is well past anything that pretends not to be farce. . . and I mean that in a good way! Later on he plays a certain “Scottish mechanic,” and that accent is, again, something he’s never done in his opera career before. . . I hope. But the contenders for his biggest laugh are the barrel rolls and when he works in an “Oh my!”
Once the Klingons come out he hides in front of a rock to spy on them, which is good because the Klingons are singing in. . . well, Klingon! Even the supertitles say “Some Klingon. . . more Klingon.” At this point Belmonte calls for the Universal Translator, and order, such as it is, is restored. Nice touch.
The Spock is named, just like in Mozart’s version, Pedrillo, which makes it fun when the bimbo pronounces it wrong later. Constanza–a name as close to the original as you can get without actually using it–is the Uhura, whom Belmonte has fallen in love with; not something we ever saw in the show or the movies, though considering Kirk’s reputation, not out of the question. But easily my favorite character is the Orion slave girl; in the original the character was simply called Blonde, so it makes sense here she’s Blondie. Her Brooklyn bimbo accent is so perfect; she plays ditzy so well that when she sings operatically it’s almost shocking. She gets a great stealth joke where she complains that people are trying to get the “slave” part of the name out, but traditionalists back in Orion–most of them below the belt, in the South part–are resisting. I think the only reason they made the Orion Slave girl a major character was for the obvious–saw it coming a kilometer away–“It’s not easy being green” line.
Gotta say, these are some wimpy Klingons, though to be fair they were wimpy Ottomans in the original too. The chancellor is easily toyed with, and even the cruel Osmin gets played with by Pedrillo, Blondie, and even the captain. He does have a really funny chuckle, though. It didn’t occur to me that these are Next Generation Klingons interfacing with original series Federation until the end. But then, considering even the laser burn effects were cheesy–I’m hoping purposefully so–everything just fit together in an outrageous and hilarious way.
And nothing was more out there than the recreation of Kirk’s battle with the Gorn! Even the conductor in the orchestra put got into it, throwing Belmonte a rock as a weapon in the middle of battle. But since we didn’t have time for him to rediscover gunpowder, Belmonte pulls out his phaser and Indiana Jones’s the Gorn to oblivion. BeeTeeDubya, as I was walking out of the place I saw that the Gorn was actually a pretty brunette, without the Gorn head that is.
Can’t have the thing end without a redshirt showing up! And of course getting his head chopped off right away. No rescue there. Then we get the main four singing about how they should be escaping, not singing, and of course get captured. Those of you familiar with the Mozart, it ends the same way here; those who don’t, find out by going to see it somewhere.
The whole thing was so over-the-top they needed oxygen masks and Sherpas, but again, it was all in good fun with only a couple of eye rolls.
After all the bows we get a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, as it should be.
Well, that was simply awesome, though my own pleasure was somewhat mitigated by my eyes going watery throughout. Thought it was due to the darkness and my still-new glasses, but once outside on the way to the subway–just two blocks away, convenient–the nose went runny too, so I took an allergy pill with a Gatorade I had to buy off the street, since you might recall my water bottle was stolen earlier. Yeah, like Chekov’s gun. . . and not the Star Trek Chekov!
Three nights ago, after the Northridge day, I was thinking how dark it got coming back from North Hollywood; this time the sun is still high, thanks to daylight savings. Too bad, I like the dark. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday: Watching Opera With a First Timer

The place: Savonlinna, Finland

Olavinlinna is an old spooky castle, which kinda makes it perfect for opera. Some more than others, of course; MacBeth, or something by Wagner, but it works for Tosca as well, which I was seeing for about the hundredth time, but I was going with an old friend who’d never gone to any opera in her life. Here’s all you need to know about her, as described by a magazine editor: When Giina had been designed and made, they saved the mold for very special occasions.
So I didn’t tell her anything about the plot, and since she knew English, she could read the subtitles. Of course I enjoyed the work, but also took pleasure in watching her enjoy it, especially considering she had no idea what was going to happen. She oohed and aahed a little, but there really wasn’t that much action taking place in the first act, just exposition, so she had a lot more emotion to go through. I wondered if she’d cry some toward the end, though knew better than to ask; she was a self-proclaimed “tough chick.”
There was a big enough intermission after the first act for us to leave our seats. When she didn’t say she was going to the concession stand, I knew what option was left, and too bad she’d worn such a tight dress. So I asked if she wanted anything, and she demurely replied for me to remember her “sweetie tooth.” I figured that could mean anything but beer in this place, although considering the microbrews in this part of the world, anything really was possible.
Thinking she was easy to please, at least when it came to desserts, I got in line and reckoned I’d just get her whatever I was having, though in the end it turned out not to be the same flavor. As I turned from the counter with my hands full of ice cream cones, a woman in a fur coat dumb enough to be in the exit line blocked my way and got some droplets of ice cream on her.
As I inspected the ice cream to make sure there was no fur on it, and really, who wore that in this weather, the relatively young-looking bitch whined, “Do you know how many animals had to be killed to make this coat?”
“Do you know how many assholes like you I’d have to kill to come up with one brain?” Hey, sometimes you gotta shoot from the hip.
“Making friends wherever you go,” Giina laughed, her timing perfect as usual, as was her aim, relieving me of the chocolate ice cream. The “friend” in question checked out the blonde–who was smiling placidly–knew she was done before the fight started, and turned away.
As we went over to look at the lake and landscape, she told me how she was researching the possibility that Sibelius, and other Scandinavian composers, wrote somber pieces of the low register and slow tempo because of the severity of the winter landscape, while in places like Italy, Spain, and Greece, the music is mostly high register and much faster tempi. I told her she could start a whole new field, which I called Musical Geography. Then she laughed and said, “Imagine if my boss could hear me now!” Or even that magazine guy.
The lights blinked, making her wonder if the power was going out, but when I took her by the arm to lead her to their seats instead of acting like it was an emergency situation, she figured I knew something she didn’t and walked alongside.
The second act fired her up, which was not surprising, given all the action: she winced at the sounds of the hero being tortured, gave me a baleful look when the heroine agreed to sleep with the bad guy, even though everyone knew he had no intention of keeping his side of the bargain, and barely kept from shouting “Yes!” when the heroine killed said bad guy instead of letting him fuck her. I actually had to calm her down, do something to stop her nostrils from flaring as the second act came to a close. Too bad there wouldn’t be a long enough intermission to take her out for a walk or something else to make her burn off this excess energy. . . if indeed that’s what it was.
The very short third act was a roller coaster for her, from her tearful “He forgave her!” to a knowing snort at realizing the hero was really dead–with scorn at the heroine for not realizing it herself–to a heartfelt “Oh SHIT!”–such a cute accent–when Tosca threw herself into the river, so perfect I had to keep from laughing at the most dramatic moment of the entire opus.
“Wow, I’m sweating!” she remarked as we walked out. “That was gut wrenching! Now I know what you see in opera! What’s next?”

;o)

Travel Theme: Light

So this is what it’s like to relax on a weekend. . . oops, spoke too soon! Volleyball tomorrow, Egyptology conference and a burlesque show on Sunday. . . don’t worry, I’ll just be taking photos, not performing.

So back to the Ailsa’s Travel Blogging Network; this week she’s a little lightfooted with the theme. Too bad I already used my “floating” stuff in “UP,” so I have to go with regular ol’ lights. . . or not so regular. . .

Something to gawk at while you wait for the opera to begin. . .

Something to gawk at while you wait for the opera to begin. . .

Or the train. . .

Or the train. . .

Or another train. . .

Or another train. . .

Or if you're in the right place at the right time in Australia. . .

Or if you’re in the right place at the right time in Australia. . .

;o)