June 20th, 2008

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Blog Friends

I met Joan here.  She saw my blog and asked to be friends.  One day she posted about Natalie Dessay.  We saw there was an opera in SF and I got the very last tickets for it.  This was months ago, and so the knowing that I will meet Joan and her sister in person has been simmering all this time.  I was excited about the opera but the point was to meet Joan in person.   Well, now, Jon Carroll posts this on the opera we will see July 29th.  Am I even more excited?   You bet!!

Jon Carroll in the SF Chronicle today  –

I went to the opening night of the San Francisco Opera production of "Lucia di Lammermoor," and naturally I thought about Tiger Woods. This was before Woods announced that he was shutting down his season and getting yet another knee operation, thereby ensuring a less glamorous PGA tour and setting the stage for yet another astonishing comeback in 2009. Because, as people are fond of saying, if anybody can do it, Tiger can.

"Lucia di Lammermoor" is a tale of Scottish lovers parted, Scottish revenge exacted, justice served and not served, and the alarming swinging of oversize tartans. It also features what I believe to be, and I say this with all due respect, some of the worst wigs ever seen on a San Francisco stage. Not on the women - the women are fine, and probably wearing their own hair. It's the guys.

Men, hearken to the words of Robert Burns: "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us."

I make fun. Of all the art forms, opera is the easiest to satirize because it wears its heart on its sleeve and seems to exist in a world without irony, except dramatic irony. It is excessive, and it is supposed to be excessive. It's also, when done right, some of most gorgeous noise you'll ever hear.

The star of the evening was Natalie Dessay, a coloratura soprano - "coloratura" is an opera word meaning "really, it's a just a human voice, but fasten your seat belts anyway." In the second scene of the first act, set on the heath where she - look, you don't care about the plot; I know that. She's on a heath, and she starts to sing about her dead mother and her current lover, and it's just astonishing.

It's like, "I can do this, and then I can do this, and now I'm going to lie on my back and do it again, and maybe I'll stand on my head - just keep watching." (I am informed by my wife, who knows this stuff, that she actually did sing upside down in the New York production of "La fille du regiment.") When she was flat on her back emoting, I was reminded of the ventriloquist who takes a drink of water while his dummy keeps speaking. It's just cheeky.

It's also heartbreaking, lovely in a way that makes you breathe shallowly. In a way, that's an even better trick - it gets to you even when you're thinking about ventriloquism. BTW, "Lucia di Lammermoor" will be simulcast at AT&T Park tonight, free admission, hot dogs available (not true at the Opera House, worse luck), no pyrotechnics afterward because you'll be pyrotechnicked out.

We ask Natalie Dessay to do things that human beings really shouldn't be able to do, and we reward her with acclaim and money and probably almost anything she wants. We ask Tiger Woods to do other impossible things; we keep upping the ante, and he keeps betting his whole stack. Win a major golf tournament when your father is dying - check. Win one after he's died, and collapse weeping uncontrollably into the arms of your caddy; why, it was almost operatic. Win another major 10 weeks after a knee operation, and let's make it with an 18-hole playoff, no, make that 19 holes.

He does it. We are in awe of his concentration, his pain threshold, his charisma. And if he blows out his knee completely, well, then he's that guy who used to be Tiger Woods, and the caravan moves on. If he doesn't, if he comes back, we ask for more. Can you win a major carrying only a putter and a 3 wood? Can you win a major carrying your wife on your shoulders? Can you win a major carrying the weight of all the world's sorrows on your shoulders? Because we'd appreciate it if you could. It would divert us.

There's a famous scene in "Lucia di Lammermoor" in which our heroine goes mad because of, well, everything. It's a famous showpiece for coloraturas, a scene in which the heroine goes mad and everyone else looks on saying, "That's some madness."

The night I saw the show, there was a moment when Dessay came down and sat at the edge of the stage, looking at the audience, and started singing.

It reminded me of the conclusion of a juggling act, when the juggler says, "OK. I've been clowning around all night, but this one with the six bowling balls and the chain saw is really hard, so I'll just concentrate, if it's OK with you." And so she did, and so we did, and then she died of an insanity-related illness, and we all went home very happy.

So there was this great opera, "Lucia di Torrey Pines," and really you should go see it. Watch for the famous "eagle aria" in Act 4.



He says go see the opera, but it has been sold out for months.   I feel blessed to have a ticket to this.

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Here is a beautiful poem by Anna Kamienska.  I love how she makes "homeless" something wonderful.

I am grateful for life!!


A tempest threw a rainbow in my face
so that I wanted to fall under the rain
to kiss the hands of an old woman to whom I gave my seat
to thank everyone for the fact that they exist
and at times even feel like smiling
I was grateful to young leaves that they were willing
to open up the sun
to babies that they still
felt like coming into this world
to the old that they heroically
endure until the end
I was full of thanks
like a Sunday alms-box
I would have embraced death
if she'd stopped nearby

Gratitude is a scattered
homeless love