Saturday, May 19, 2007

Musical weekend (It's all about Mimi)

I've just been notified by (God, I guess or whoever it is that does these things to this site) that I now have "Automatic Saving"
This latest improvement seems to make it impossible to save posts.
Let's hope that I can still post stuff.
O.K. apparently it still works good enough.
Friday we went to the composers salon. It was at a different place because it was an all percussion show and that little soundbridge place couldn't handle it.
Unfortunately, it's not a permanent change, so I'm still out of a place to go for that sort of thing.
Anyway, the music was fascinating, it always amazes me how much can be done with percussion. Commonly, percussion in popular music is just one pace keeping beat that holds the song together. At the University Street fair there were examples of this on every corner. The pieces played at the salon were all good and all different. The one I liked best was for two drumsets and lasted 45 min. and was never boring.
The salon was held at the Good Shepard center in Wallingford. It is a very nice space and would make a much better venue for the salon. Apart from the fact that I haven't been kicked out yet, it is large enough for a small chamber orchestra and the acoustics are good. All I'd need is my own chamber orchestra, something I could afford if had the courage. Or knew how to go about it.
Saturday we went to the aforementioned street fair, the usual stuff of all street fairs some decent bands, cajun, bar bands (see above, boring back beat section)
funky singers, naive politics, infra dig philosophies, and kooky religious activism.
It's been a while, but I still enjoy looking the place over and mingling with the crowd, at least untill it gets too crowded to move.
Saturday night meant the opera. La Boheme by Puccini. Nice tear-jerking music, but a stupid story. Most operae have stupid stories. The local free paper "The Stranger" had the following comment "Rich people just like to watch poor people die"
Which explains war, doesn't it?
The story is based on "Notre Dame aux Camilles" by Dumas (pere ou fils, I don't remember) about a girl who dies of "consumption" (pneumonia, I believe) before the evils of modern medicine.
Anyway, some dufus "falls in love" (whatever that means. Apparently it doesn't mean spending money on medicine rather than champagne untill it's conviently too late.) with her and it's all one heart wrenching tragedy after that.
The appeal is that this "love" fantasy is kept pure by nipping it in the bud or something.
I guess that having her die avoids the possibility of having to live with her forever.
More actually, it seems to me that entirely too many dramatic works , whether novels, movies, plays, oprae, etc, are dependant on killing some hapless woman.
Wouldn't it be better to find some way of firing our endorphens with a more kindly sort of story. It's just as unlikely and unrealistic a thing.
Actually, there are too many logical inconsistancies for me to be able to stay with the "plot" of LaB. Of course, there is some nasal congestion when she dies but that's largely because of the music. Can you imagine wht the world would sound like if every emotional event in the world was accompanied by the appropriate music?
One benefit would be that you would know beforehand how others were feeling before you took a wild guess as to how to approach.
On the other hand, however there would be soooo much bloody noise all the time that life would resemble a hell that neither Dante nor the pope could ever imagine.
although, I imagine Jerry Falwell should be getting an education in that regard right about now (and forever)
I'm thinking about an opera about the discovery of penicillin. The lonely scientist working away in his Parisian garret finally achieving success after many trials and much mockery only to be suppressed by the dramatists of the world and dieing, ironically by his accidental creation of AIDS or something like.
There seemed to be an awful lot of French flag waving in the performance. perhaps this is something that homeland security ought to look into.
At the first intermission, just as I was about to tell my wife how much I was impressed by the Tenor, she started listing all his faults, non of which I had noticed. Later after the show, when aforementioned singer got the loudest round of applause, I realised that audiences can be just as wrong about things as I.

Other than that, I'm feeling depressed by being reminded, by being allowed to attend a salon, of my status here as a second class citizen.
As I've said before, if all this nonsense is a message from God, let him put it in plain English.
If English is good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for God.

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Blogger butch said...

Scary stuff, all those messages from God. Does this imply that the comment sections will "lost", be assimilated into the windblown chaff of cyber garbage as well? Gosh, I guess you have sorted it out, but remember if doctors, lawyers, and Indian Chiefs can favor using their own "language", using words most of we laypersons cannot fathom, which shouldn't God?

Are you saying that most all of the Composer's Salons have to be done, or are done at Soundbridge? I still think like Anonomann says, you should get a lawyer, or a law student, and fry the SSO in their own stupidity. It just ain't right. Nice that you could combine the percussion performance with the University Street Fair,though, right? The Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford you say? Is that in one of those converted schools that have been turned into mini-shopping marts and malls?

The last time I attended one of the University Street Fairs was back in 1992. I was hanging out a lot with Sharon at the time, and she spent the weekend setting up her booth, and selling jewelry. Was she there this year by the way? I found myself volunteering to help set up the booth, and hang out with her, even selling some of her jewelry for her so that she could take a potty break, or get some BBQ, etc. It was in the 80's that year, and we all wore T-shirts and cut offs. I bought a frozen ice cream bar, and bit into it too soon, breaking off one of my front teeth. Not a good weekend for me, resulting in gluing the tooth several times, and then finally capping it, and having a root canal. So the street fair conjures up negative memories for me.

Do you have contacts for chamber orchestra musicians through your Composition Class at school? Maybe a group of amateur musicians would be a good place to start.

Your take on attending an Opera is grand, sir. I love that quote from the Stranger,"Rich people just like to watch poor people die." And yes it does help to explain the nature of war, the necessity for war, the inevitable inexorable need for man to winnow out some, to sacrifice some of our best and youngest to preserve the goodies for the wealthy and infirmed. Once again it brings to mind one of my older poems, from the 60's, when Viet Nam was on our minds, and on the tube every night.


You snake along
on your belly in the black soil
with fire ants chewing
the fungus on your feet,
the jungle flora jingling near your nose
mirage mammeries,
tipped with swollen pink nipples,
filling your mouth
with fern sweetness.

You ford the warm stream hoping
it won't be squirming
with savage fish,
or lousy with leeches.
You try to disregard the green-eyed
beasts of the night,
whose every movement
strokes the hard fear-lump
in your colon,
and dampens the steel wool
in your throat.

Your eyes are clear,
but they see nothing
in the tropical ink.
Your nostrils are flaring
full of the acrid midnight mist
hanging in the humid canopy
that hides the moon and the stars,
leaving every tree pregnant
with the possibility
of snipers.

This is recon,
and you know that you cannot afford
to fire your weapon.
No sweat,
just remember your indoctrinations;
hate the Asian today
and be his friend tomorrow,
when he thinks as you do,
or says he does.
But on this day
kill him
before he kills you,
as he has been ordered to do.

a man dies easily.
He is one of the easiest animals there is
to kill.
He has no claws, and his teeth are dull;
just a flash of steel
or a well-placed fist or thumb,
and he is dead

is in front of you,
also on patrol,
crouched in a steaming bush
with his back to you,
and the moonlight barely illuminating
his NVA uniform;
that fucking stupid pith helmet,
those deep red insignias,
and that awesome AK47.

You gently set your M16 aside,
and your assault knife
slides lethal
out of its khaki scabbord.
When you are close enough to smell his armpits
the gook hears you;
but his lethargic response will cost him
You leap upon the smaller man
and he manages to say
before your hand covers his mouth.

You are a heartbeat slower
than you should have been,
and your advesary will not submit
without a struggle.

So you roll in the elephant grass
arms and legs wrapped around each other
like lovers;
his muffled cries becoming frenzied
as your naked blade
rips his flesh
and tears his bones.
Then both of you are on your knees,
facing each other,
and for the briefest of moments
you are able to look deep
into the painful bulging eyes
of the country
you have come to conquor.

Sweet death finally comes
for your yellow opponent;
and his desperate grip relaxes
on the thick muscles of your forearms,
and his bare head rests
against your swelling chest
like a tired child.

You let go of him,
and his limp body collapses
beneath you,
lying like something broken.

He is dead,
and so is a tiny part of you
for killing him.
Your strong heart pounds as you blow
spit-bubbles in the blood
that covers your hot sweaty face.

You pick up a scrap of paper
that must of been in his dead fist.
It was the lyrics to
"California Dreamin'"
in English.
Stuffing the paper into your pocket
you crawl off like a snake.

It's all fucking crazy.

Glenn Buttkus 1968

That was then, and this is now. I recommend a book of poetry by a former Ft. Lewis soldier who served in the Stryker Brigade. His name is Brian Turner, and his book of poetry is entitled HERE,BULLET.

Hwy 1

It began with the Highway of Death,
with an untold number of ghosts
wandering the road at night,searching
For the way home, to Najaf,
Kirkuk, Mosul and Kanni at Saad.
It begins here,
with a shuffling of feet
on the long road north.

This is the spice road of old,
the caravan trail
of camel dust and heat,
where Egyptian limes
and syltani lemons swayed in crates
strapped down my leather,
where merchants traded
privet flowers, and musk, aloes,
honeycombsf and silk,
brought from the Orient.

Past Marsh Arabs and the Euphrates wheel, past wild camels
and waving children
who marvel at the painted guns,
the convoy pushes on, past
the ruins of Babylon and Sumer,
through the land of Gilgamesh
where the minarets
sound the muezzin's prayer,
resonant and deep.

Cranes roost atop power lines
in enormous bowl-shaped nests
of sticks and twigs,
and when a sergeant shoots one
from the highway it pauses,
as if amazed that death
has found it here,
at 7am, on such
a beautiful morning,
before pushing over the side
and falling
in a slow unraveling
of feathers and wings.

The Hurt Locker

Nothing but hurt left here.
Nothing but bullets and pain
and the bled-out slumping
and all the "fucks"
and "goddamns" and "Jesus Christs"
of the wounded.
Nothing is left here but the hurt.

Believe it when you see it.
Believe it when a 12 year old
rolls a grenade into the room,
or when a sniper punches a hole
deep into someone's skull.
Believe it when four men
step from a taxicab in Moskul
to shower the street in brass
and fire.

Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth.
Open the hurt locker
and learn how rough men
come hunting for souls.

Here, Bullet

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle
and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's open valves,
the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush
you crave,
that inexorable flight,
that insane puncture
into heart and blood.
And I dare you to finish
what you've started.
Because, here, Bullet,
Here is where I complete
the word you bring
hissing through the air,
here is where I moan
the barrel's cold esophagus,
triggering my tongue's explosives
for the rifling I have
inside of me,
each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends,
every time.

Someone once said," Someday they will send a poet to war, and we'll find out what it's really like."
No shit.

La bohème[1] is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de Bohème by Henri Murger. The world première of La bohème was performed in Turin on February 1, 1896 at the Teatro Regio (now the Teatro Regio Torino) and conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. In 1946, fifty years after the opera's premiere, Toscanini conducted a performance of it on U.S. radio, and this performance was eventually released on records and on compact disc. It is the only recording of a Puccini opera led by its original conductor.

Leoncavallo composed an opera of the same name and based on the same story, but with his own libretto. His La bohème, which was premiered in 1897, focuses more on the Musetta and Marcello relationship, rather than that of Mimì and Rodolfo as in Puccini's. Leoncavallo's La bohème is almost never played anymore, while Puccini's is, according to Opera America, the second most performed opera in North America, second only to Madama Butterfly, also a masterpiece by Puccini.


Place: Paris.
Time: 1830-1831.

Act I.
In the four bohemians' garret. Marcello is painting while Rodolfo gazes out of the window. As they have no fire, they use the manuscript of Rodolfo's drama for fuel. Colline, the philosopher, enters shivering and disgruntled at not having been able to pawn some books. Schaunard, the musician of the group, arrives with food, wood, wine, and money, and he explains the source of his riches — a job with an English gentleman. Nobody listens, but they fall ravenously upon the food, which is removed by Schaunard, leaving only the wine.

While they drink, Benoit, the landlord, arrives to collect the rent. They flatter him and give him wine. In his drunkenness, he recites his amorous adventures, but when he also declares he is married, they thrust him from the room in comic moral indignation. The rent money is divided for a carousal in the Quartier Latin.

The other Bohemians go out, but Rodolfo remains alone in order to work. Someone knocks, and Mimì, whose candle has been snuffed out, asks Rodolfo to light it. She departs, but returns in a few minutes, saying she has forgotten her key. Both candles are extinguished; they stumble in the dark, and Rodolfo finds the key, which he pockets. They relate the story of their varied experiences in the two arias. ("Che gelida manina — What a cold little hand"; and "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì — Yes, they call me Mimì.")

The waiting friends call Rodolfo impatiently. He wishes to remain at home with Mimì, but she decides to accompany him. Departing, they sing of their love. (Duet, Rodolfo and Mimì: "O soave fanciulla — Oh gentle maiden")

Act II.
Quartier Latin. A great crowd on the street, sellers praise their wares. (Chorus: "Aranci, datteri! Caldi i marroni — Oranges, dates! Hot chestnuts."). The friends repair to Café Momus.

While they eat, Musetta, formerly beloved of Marcello, arrives with her rich government minister admirer Alcindoro. She tries to attract Marcello's attention with a risque song (Song, Musetta: "Quando me'n vo — When I go along"), and succeeds after many efforts. To get rid of Alcindoro, she feigns suffering from a tight shoe and sends him to the shoemaker. During the ensemble, Musetta and Marcello fall into each other's arms and reconcile.

The friends wish to pay the bill, but to their consternation find Schaunard's riches gone; the sly Musetta has the entire bill charged to Alcindoro. The police appear, and they rush in all directions. Marcello and Colline carry Musetta out on their arms amid the applause of the spectators. When all have gone, Alcindoro arrives with the shoe seeking Musetta. The waiter hands him the bill, and horror-stricken at the amount he sinks upon a chair.

Act III.
At the toll gate. Clothing peddlers come to the city. Mimì, coughing violently, wishes to speak to Marcello, who resides in a little tavern near the barrier where he paints signs for the innkeeper. She tells him of her hard life with Rodolfo, who has abandoned her that night. (Mimì: "O buon Marcello, aiuto! – Oh, good Marcello, help me!") Marcello tells her that Rodolfo is sleeping at the inn. He has just awakened and is seeking Marcello, and Mimì conceals herself. Rodolfo first claims he left Mimi because of her coquettishness, but finally lets on that he fears she is consumed with a deadly illness (consumption/tuberculosis) and should be comforted by a wealthier suitor. Marcello, out of charity for Mimì, endeavours to silence him, but she has already heard all; she is discovered by her coughing. Marcello joins Musetta, Rodolfo and Mimì are about to separate (Mimì: "Donde lieta uscì – From here she happily left"), but are finally reconciled. Musetta approaches with Marcello, who is jealous. They depart after a fierce quarrel. (Quartet: Mimì, Rodolfo, Musetta, Marcello: "Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina! – Goodbye, sweet awakening in the morning!")

Act IV.
Back in the garret. Marcello and Rodolfo are seemingly at work, though they are primarily bemoaning the loss of their respective beloveds. (Duet: "O Mimì, tu più non torni" – O Mimì, will you not return?) Schaunard and Colline arrive with a very frugal dinner. They parody a plentiful banquet, dance and sing. Musetta appears and says that Mimì is back, but she's very weakened by her illness, and all assist the dying girl. Musetta and Marcello depart to sell Musetta's earrings to get money for medicine; while Colline and Schaunard leave to pawn Colline's coat (Colline: "Vecchia zimarra – Old coat") Mimì and Rodolfo, left alone, recall their past happiness. (Duet, Mimì and Rodolfo: "Sono andati? – Have they gone?") The others return, and while Musetta prays aloud, Mimi dies. Schaunard checks on Mimì and sadly says that she's dead, Rodolfo is horrified, cries out Mimì's name and starts sobbing.

La bohème is scored for:

2 Flutes
2 Oboes
Cor Anglais
2 Clarinets
Bass clarinet
2 Bassoons
4 Horns
3 Trumpets
3 Trombones
Bass trombone
Bass drum
Campanelle ("little bell")
Violins I, II

In 2003, the opera was given a Tony Award-winning Broadway production by Baz Luhrmann, with modernized supertitle translations. This version was set in 1957, rather than the original time period of 1830. The reason for updating La bohème to this period, according to Baz Luhrmann, was that "... [they] discovered that 1957 was a very, very accurate match for the social and economic realities of Paris in the 1840s."

To play the eight performances per week, three casts of Mimìs and Rudolfos, and two Musettas and Marcellos, were used in rotation. This production was based on Luhrmann's previous production for Opera Australia in 1993 with a budget of only AU$60,000.

Other famous adaptaions of the opera include:

A 1926 silent film (actually quite different from the opera) from MGM, starring Lilian Gish as Mimi.
A 1935 British sound film entitled Mimi, starring Gertrude Lawrence and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.. This film used the Puccini score only as background music.
The film Thriller by Sally Potter.
The film Boheemielämää (La vie de bohème), by Aki Kaurismäki.
Some aspects of the film Moulin Rouge! by Baz Luhrmann
RENT, the 1996 rock opera,and 2005 motion picture. Music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson.

References in popular culture

An episode of "Animaniacs" is entitled "La Bohemeth" and has references to this and other operas.
In the film Trading Places, when Dan Aykroyd’s character, a stereotypically snobbish Harvard graduate, is arrested and booked, the officer logs the contents of his pockets: “One pair of tickets: ‘La Bo Heem’” to which Aykroyd corrects the pronunciation.
In the film "Heavenly Creatures", "Sono andati" is featured and performed by Kate Winslet.
The music of La bohème is featured prominently in the film Moonstruck.
The music of La bohème can be found in the film "A Woman Under the Influence" by John Cassavetes.
In the film Awakenings, Robin Williams' character attempts (unsuccessfully) to get a response from his catatonic patients by playing a recording of "O soave fanciulla".
The plot of the musical Rent was based on that of La bohème, with the variation being that HIV/AIDS replaces consumption as the character's illness. The illness also strikes four of the show's characters instead of just Mimi, whose character concept is changed from a coquettish seamstress to a drug-addicted S&M dancer.
In the film The Boondock Saints, FBI detective Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is listening to "Mi chiamano Mimì" during his first investigation on the Boondock Saints.
In the film Kate and Leopold, Kate's boss is discussing La bohème at dinner with Leopold, and Leopold corrects him on his misconceptions.
"O soave fanciulla" is being played on Giles' stereo during the critical moment when he discovers the murder of Jenny Calendar, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Passion" (season 2).
In the book "The A-List" by Zoey Dean, the character Cynthia is said to have spent the entire second act of La bohème making out with a middle-aged man.
The Doctor Who spin-off novel Lungbarrow has the Doctor's ex-companion Ace as a customer at Café Momus in the 19th century; it is mentioned that a group of people at the next table are rowdy and keep singing loudly; in the author's notes, it is stated that this group of people could possibly have been Mimi, Rudolfo and friends.

^ The title, which is French (although the opera is sung in Italian) and is pronounced /labɔɛm/ refers to the bohemian life the characters lead (not to the historical region in the present-day Czech Republic, Bohemia

You have me confused Sir Lane, with your biographical reference to Dumas "Notre Dame aux Camilles" as the basis for the story of LA BOHEME. All I could find on that source seems to be contradictory to you premise, sir:

La Dame aux camélias', known as Camille in the English speaking world, began life in 1848 as a novel. Four years later, in 1852, Dumas, fils adapted his work for the French stage. In 1853 it becomes the source of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata

So probably in my ignorance I misunderstood the words from the master. Could you clarify please?

I think you will find with some scrutiny that there are just as many novels, poems, operas, plays, and films that deal with the misfortune, downfall, and death of some hapless man. But it is right, and fitting to have you, Sir Savant, speak out for womankind, who although we are told to believe "I am Woman, hear me roar" is a fitting athem for the weaker sex, and Woman's Lib is still staggering about trying to breathe life into a half-dead being, and men are being sued left and right by women who notice they are staring at their erect nipples through their sports bras --still your point is well taken, sir. We need to travel further on this war between the sexes, on this quest to understand and respect, as men, our better halves; even yes, the feminine sides to our own nature; cherish our creativity and sensitivity; lol.

As to "whatever love is", gosh sir, that could open up a can of whoopass that would never run dry.

Perhaps you could title your new Opera, ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME ANTIBODY:

Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 1881 – 11 March 1955) was a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist. Fleming published many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. His best-known achievements are the discovery of the enzyme lysozyme in 1922 and isolation of the antibiotic substance penicillin from the fungus Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared a Nobel Prize with Florey and Chain.[1]

Fleming was the first to notice the antibiotic properties of moulds and fungi.

By 1928, he was investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well-known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but quite careless lab technician; cultures that he worked on he often forgot, and his lab in general was usually in chaos. After returning from a long holiday, Fleming noticed that many of his culture dishes were contaminated with a fungus and he threw the dishes in disinfectant. But on one occasion, he had to show a visitor what he had been researching, and so he retrieved some of the unsubmerged dishes that he would have otherwise discarded, when he then noticed a zone around an invading fungus where the bacteria could not seem to grow. Fleming proceeded to isolate an extract from the mould, correctly identified it as being from the penicillium family, and therefore named the agent penicillin.

He investigated its positive anti-bacterial effect on many organisms, and noticed that it affected bacteria such as staphylococci, and indeed all Gram-positive pathogens (scarlet fever, pneumonia, gonorrhea, meningitis, diphtheria ) but unfortunately not typhoid or paratyphoid, for which he was seeking a cure at the time.

Fleming published his discovery in 1929 in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, but little attention was paid to his article. Fleming continued his investigations, but found that cultivating penicillium was quite difficult, and that after having grown the mould, it was even more difficult to isolate the antibiotic agent. Fleming's impression was that because of the problem of producing it in quantity, and because its action appeared to be rather slow, penicillin would not be important in treating infection. Fleming also became convinced that penicillin would not last long enough in the human body (in vivo) to kill bacteria effectively. Many clinical tests were inconclusive, probably because it had been used as a surface antiseptic. In the 1930s, Fleming’s trials occasionally showed more promise,[3] and he continued, until 1940, to try and interest a chemist skilled enough to further refine usable penicillin

And so for Ms. Mimi, and myself, and all your loyal readership out here waiting patiently for the droppings of one of the finest minds in Christiandom --we thank you, sir for including us in your life, in your day, and in your mind.


3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you wrote, many operas have stupid stories. Many people go to opera for the music -- singing and orchestral, and "Boheme" provides much of both. Only, in my opinion, you did not hear the better Mimi, Gun-Brit Barkmin or the "silver cast" Rodolfo, both of whom were better than their "gold cast" counterparts. I am glad Speight has now engaged Frau Barkmin, whom I discovered in Schwerin for 2010 and 2011.

5:01 PM  

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