Thursday, May 17, 2012

"What's opera, Doc?"

This must be my earliest acquaintance with Wagner....

Really I have no commentary in particular on the Ring at the Met - I did enjoy it, and I'm very glad to have seen the whole thing in one bash, but it confirmed my sense that it's not really suited to my sensibilities.  The music is very easy and compelling to listen to, and the purest and most intense pleasure for me in the whole thing was probably just the lavish beauty of the writing for woodwinds, my favorite family of orchestral instruments.  The clarinets were especially lovely, but of course also English horn, and at various moments my mind drifted to an alternate universe where I am perhaps a professional bassoonist with a sideline in oboe and English horn - really it wouldn't have come to pass, but one has time in that context to sit and ponder such things! 

The 'machine' came into its own in Siegfried, as a surface on which light is projected; in other respects, it seemed cumbersome though not unduly so.  There is a sense in which the lighter moments, especially in Siegfried, are actually familiar anachronistically by way of this vintage of Disney film; in fact, the whole thing was much more Disney than I had possibly imagined, as I had some vague and largely misleading association of the cycle with the most avant-garde wing of twentieth-century Bayreuth productions (why did I somehow imagine that more of this music would sound more like Webern?!?), and of course this is not at all the style in which a house like the Met is going to approach the thing.  It is not an original observation if I say that really the Disney theme park is the most fully realized twentieth-century sequel to Wagner's fantasy of the total work of art.  The music must have sounded electrifyingly strange and original when it was first heard, but has been largely naturalized by way of a century plus of over-the-top movie music; in fact, that was probably my other most startling realization, that the idiom for a certain kind of movie music continues to be borrowed almost literally from Wagner's orchestration, how strange that this should be so!

It was not an electrifying production, in short, but I am very glad to have heard the music all the way through and gain a much clearer sense of what it is really like and how it works.  My one regret is that Eric Owens wasn't singing Alberich in any of the performances I saw; I will have to make sure to go and hear him in something else before too long.

I have no substantive complaints for this week, and in fact I have been busy with some very pleasant things: a party at the NYPL in bestowal of the Young Lions Fiction Award; congratulating our graduating senior English majors and handing out awards in the humanities to other CC students, including one or two of my own, on a day so rainy that it made even me, a die-hard umbrella-despiser, contemplate the utility of such things; a beautiful long run this morning and a very good subsequent meeting on a student's dissertation prospectus.  However I cannot shake my end-of-year malaise: I suppose it is the usual consequence of overwork. 

I have an overdue essay that I should be writing, but I really can't face any work for another day or so; all I want to do is exercise, which puts me in a good mood while I am doing it and for a few hours thereafter, then results in a total mood crash so persistent that even the unexpected arrival in the mail this afternoon of a thousand-dollar check that I wasn't at all expecting didn't cause any appreciable lift!  I think I just have to be patient and wait for the cloud to go away (only I really do need to write that essay!).

Closing tabs:

Nico has a good long post that touches on many matters of interest, but especially wombat gait!

Also: body language....

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