"Why, when safely seated and merely listening, should our hearts beat faster, our temperature rise, our toes start tapping, our minds start racing after the music, hoping it will go one way and watching it go the other, deceived and disgruntled when we are unconvinced, elated and grateful when we acquiesce?
On Saturday I went to see the Met at the Movies, a live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera projected in high-definition in an Upstate New York movie theater. It was my first time watching opera in my jeans and sneakers, and I was extremely curious to see Franco Zeffirelli’s famous production of Puccini’s La Boheme.
Earlier in the week, when I’d gotten two tickets, I couldn’t find a date. Everyone was busy, and the one dyed-in-the-wool opera fan in my family, my dad, had to work. I tried to convince one of my kids to go.
“You mean,” echoed my nine-year old son in faint disbelief, “they sing the WHOLE TIME?!”
Rachel Donadio’s essay in Sunday’s New York Times (“It’s Not You, It’s Your Books”) explores the touchy subject of reading habits in romantic relationships. Say you liked Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections” or “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand and you find out your date didn’t. Poof. Instant turn-off factor. The disclosure causes the same illogical deflation as the sight of someone clutching a fork like a shovel. Some habits aren’t sexy. With books, it’s a matter of taste, so it’s even more important.
Cary Ratcliff writes by leaps and bounds. The lines of his songs might jump a fifth, slide back down, and hover around a series of pitches before leaping up again. Difficult to perform but easy on the ear. Lyrical.
He’s also a working composer, far from the dreaded ivory tower. On a gleaming black Steinway in his light-filled living room, Ratcliff's written music that’s been sung by thousands of singers of all ages and abilities. His children’s opera "Mice and Beans" is being staged April 26-27 in San Diego. New York City Opera will read Ratcliff’s “Eleni” in May, and in July, the Rochester Oratorio Society will take a section of the “Ode to Common Things” to Beijing and Shanghai.
Another short and sweet post. I’m in my second week of getting up at 4:00 a.m. to host the local classical music morning show, and I’m a little tapped out. (I'll have some richer material for you, including a bizarre RPO-related story that landed in my e-mail this week. But I can’t get to it until later.) So I’ll stoop to cat-blogging with this message from Skitty and a picture taken this morning in our muddy garden.
My children found a dead blue heron in the yard last night, folded up and strangely exotic like one of Audubon's paintings. There was no sign of a struggle. It reminded me of something I read about Jean Sibelius. Around the time he was working on his Fifth Symphony, Jean Sibelius watched sixteen swans fly in formation over his home. In his diary, he wrote,
“One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, that beauty! They circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming, silver ribbon. . . . That this should have happened to me, who have so long been the outsider.”
I can’t hear the Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance without picturing guys in blue and white outfits zooming across the ice with sticks. In the 1970’s, the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey team ran local TV commercials using the classical warhorse at its rousing theme song. I saw that ad a lot.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the Eiffel Tower will be reshaped, altering the skyline of Paris. In time for the structure's 120th anniversary next year, builders will add a bigger viewing platform so more people at one time can go up and look around. The new platform will be attached with a design similar to the way that an aircraft's wings are attached to the fuselage.