Thursday, August 16, 2007
Tuesday was a great day—lots of fun and I got a tremendous amount done. The first cement truck arrived at 7:40, the second at 8:15 and the leveling/smoothing operation went on all morning. At least two thirds of the slab is now in place, fully set and beautifully polished.
By Wednesday morning we were able to walk on our actual floor, the first part of the house to be completed. Later, once everything else is finished, we'll have the surface acid dye washed, which will penetrate to bond with the concrete's surface.
We're still not certain when the remaining part of the slab will be poured, but it really doesn't matter. It will be the floor only for the great room and the entrance vestibule, two open spaces. The vast majority of the framing can now go ahead, eliminating any further delays.
I got cruised at Hannaford’s, our local supermarket. Actually, I’m relatively certain it was the embroidered design on my T-shirt that the good looking young man was ogling but the attention was extremely enjoyable anyway.
We left just before 3pm, heading north to Lebanon for a dinner meeting with A, the director of the opera I’m designing for its September premiere. Afterwards, Fritz and I stayed for the evening’s performance of Puccini’s Turandot, for which A had been assistant director. The company was Opera North, whose standards turned out to be quite good and who presented a fully convincing performance of a troubled, demanding work.
Turandot is Puccini’s last opera and he didn’t live to finish the last, crucial section. The plot comes from ancient Persian and Chinese sources about a woman bent on avenging past atrocities to a female ancestor; she offers herself in marriage to any man who can answer three riddles. If he fails, he’s beheaded. There’s been a considerable amount of slaughter by the time the curtain goes up. The man who will finally solve the riddles arrives on the scene about four minutes after the beginning of act one.
Of course there are complications. Turandot panics when she’s faced with actually having to give herself to the victorious man and he, out of gallantry, offers her an “out.” His name is known only to two people left on earth, his ancient blind father (the deposed King of the Tatars) and the slave girl who leads the old man around and is hopelessly in love with the son. He gives Turandot until the following morning to learn his name to save her from the marriage and send him to the headsman.
Of course, the old man and the girl are found and put to torture. She will not reveal the name;Turandot and she have an interesting conversation about the power of love, a notion totally foreign to Turandot. The girl then kills herself rather than risk revealing the name, sacrificing herself so that the man she loves can be united to the object of his obsession. In the final duet scene, the prince is supposed to convert Turandot from heartless cruelty to loving femininity and the challenge of writing the scene was too much for Puccini’s failing health. He attempted several versions and died leaving a pile of notes and alternative takes on the subject.
Puccini’s family had the task of finding another Italian composer to complete the opera and, out of jealous protectionism of the great man, actually rejected all the really talented ones for fear their work would have too high a profile. They chose a competent musician and he did the best he could in a version that was hacked to shreds by the iconic conductor Arturo Toscanini, crippling the opera’s conclusion even further.
Opera North was very fortunate to have Claudia Waite, a tall, statuesque dramatic soprano from the Metropolitan Opera who is a highly skilled singing actress. She made it very clear in her performance that the moment of conversion is NOT when the prince tears off her veil and kisses her, but back further during the conversation with the slave girl who has the courage to confront her with the empty core of her life. Waite’s reaction to the suicide indicated that she was shaken to the core and when the prince did kiss her, the conversion wasn’t precipitous, as it usually seems, but the end of a convincing process. Friends sometimes ask why I go to a lot of performances “in the provinces.” In my experience, you can often find more interesting and challenging work in regional opera and theater on any given night if the conditions are right than in the big urban theaters that often run on automatic pilot.
The framing crew arrived this morning with a huge flatbed truck stacked high with a combination of lumber, plywood, roof truss material, the prefabricated second floor wall frames, and the cubic construction that’s the “solar chimney”; it will sit on the apex of the high roof and manage the house’s ventilation. The electrical contractor was also on the scene early to finish off the conduits that bring outlets into concrete walls surrounding the rear half of the first floor. It’s going to be very busy on the site from now on; there are going to be big changes on a daily basis.
Friday morning--I'll be seeing five operas over the next three days at Glimmerglass in Cooperstown, NY (and yes, I HAVE visited the Baseball Hall of Fame and had a really good time there. You have to love a place that memorializes something to the point of reverence at times and that still had room for a full color blow up of Jim Rice's famous underwear ads).
It's a theme season this year with a new general direcrtor at the helm of the festival. It's ALL Orpheus ALL the time! Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, Monteverdi's Orfeo, Offenbach's riotous Orfee aux Enfers, and Philip Glass's Orfee, based on the famous surrealist film by Jean Cocteau. There's also a showing of that film and a concert version of Haydn's L'Anima del Filosofo ossia Orfeo ed Euridice. (Next summer's offerings are all based on Shakespeare, including Wagner's Das Liebesverbot--based on the play Measure for Measure--and Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate).
I'll "see" you all again on Monday--have a happy mid-August weekend!
Note to you and Fritz: Two of the horses are gone (I hope temporarily). They are doing construction right now....and I'm sure it's just temporary. So, we've got just one on the opposite side of the road right now......and that's no horsing around!