Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Astonishingly, there are survivors who remember the chaos and terror of this event that destroyed 28,000 buildings and rendered most of the city homeless. I have seen TV interviews with survivors from 103 to 108 years old, remarkable men and women who have memories of the event seared into their minds. In 1906, some 3,400 people died. Modern seismologists estimate that when--not if, but when--a similar size quake hits the city, ten times that number will be killed.
The end of last week and the weekend were a wonderful jumble of performances and friends and food stretching over four states. It was expensive, particularly given the current level of gas prices, but it was worth every minute of it.
On Friday, I spent the afternoon at Symphony Hall for the Berlioz REQUIEM, a relatively early work but already monumental in both intent and achievement. Berlioz seems never in his career to have aimed low or to have thought he should approach a form gently until he got the hang of it. He just waded in with confidence and daring. The results which were bold and new, even revolutionary at times, put off the French public and critics of his day more often than not. Sadly, he didn't live long enough to see the turn-around in opinion.
In its original form, the REQUIEM calls for a full symphony orchestra supplemented by six extra sets of tympani, four bass drums, four big Chinese tam tams, a reinforced brass section, and no fewer than four brass bands stationed at each corner of the concert hall. The score indicates that if more than one or two choruses can be found (and afforded!) then the more the merrier. There's also a tenor soloist whose part is, startingly, extremely quiet and intimate in the midst of the walls of brazen sound.
Friday night the Boston University Opera Institute perfomed Lee Hoiby's "A Month in the Country" from Turgenev's story and play, the tale of interlocking loves among some appropriate and many inappropriate people at a nineteenth century country house outside of Moscow. By turns funny and poignant, this opera is melodic and lyrical, the characters beautifully drawn and the parts extremely grateful to perform. Hoiby's an American composer who should be performed much more often. I designed his one act "The Scarf" in January, was anxious to see this full-length work that grew directly out of the success of "The Scarf"'s world premiere, and was not disappointed.
Saturday I got in the Jeep and headed to New York City for Bizet's hardy perennial "Carmen" at New York City Opera. I had been looking forward to Beth Clayton in the title role. A boldy out lesbian in a profession that is taking slowly to out performers, Clayton is a smoulderingly beautiful mezzo-soprano and a dynamic actress; I thought she'd be a dynamite Carmen. BUT, she disappeared from the run of performances without explanation to be replaced by an emerging lead singer, Kate Aldrich.
Aldrich was "correct" in act one, doing everything well but not catching fire. Carmen's a free spirit, she chooses her lovers and runs her life herself in a work the nineteenth century naturally found quite shocking. But in the second act Aldrich found the character and proceeded to become more interesting and fatalistic--a major quality of this gypsy heroine--throught he rest of the afternoon, going to her death outside the bull ring of Seville with an almost ritualistic sense of doom instead of the usual cheap theatrics.
On the way up to Fritz's after the final curtain I stopped off to have dinner with an old friend in Connecticut. We were opera-going buddies for years but he's moved to Florida to be with a man he met a year and a half ago who's turned out to be the love of his life. He was back briefly to deal with legal and financial affairs and it was really good to see him again.
Easter with Fritz was lovely. Just the two of us, a serene Quaker Meeting on Sunday Morning and a lovely dinner in the evening. In between we reviewed plans for the new house and began to make lists of what pieces of furniture from each of us would go into the new rooms so we can begin the process of shedding pieces we will no longer need, and haing others refinished, reupholstered etc.
Yesterday we drove to the bus station in Manchester, NH and picked up M, our guest director for the spring at MIT, and his American internet boyfriend T who flew in from Denver to spend a week with him in Cambridge. For lunch Fritz had made a superb smoked salmon chowder, laced with a variety of aromatic herbs, sparked with a pinch of hot paprika, and smoothed with just a hint of half and half.
I then took them around the 36 acres, out to the beaver pond that shows real signs after at least three years that the beavers may be back, and up and over the big hill to where the new house will be built. The hill is volcanic in origin (Fritz has a copy of a geologist's doctoral thesis on the immediate area) and features some dramatic rock outcroppings as well as big boulders standing like druidic monoliths here and there. We ended the day with a trip to the rocky coast, scrambling over rocks and then breaking for a drink at one of our favorite shoreline restaurant bars. M went for a Blue Martini made with Bacardi rum and a variety of liqueurs, T had a major Bloody Mary while Fritz and I opted for our usual dry white Pinot Grigio. After dinner, T, M and I drove back to Cambridge/Boston for what is blessedly going to be a short week. And Fritz will be down on Thursday for the long awaited performance of Matthew Bourne's celebrated homoerotic version of the great ballet "Swan Lake."