Monday, April 28, 2008
I had tickets for Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera and an appointment to visit a very old, very dear lady in an assisted living facility in central New Jersey on Saturday morning.
The trip through southern Connecticut showed spring at its height. Flowering ornamentals were in full bloom everywhere. Trees of all kinds were just opening their buds, with soft pastel oranges and deeper Chinese reds highlighted against the mass of fresh yellow-green.
The Friday night performance was Philip Glass’s Satyagraha, one part of an epic three-opera look at influential thinkers who have changed the world (the other two panels are Einstein on the Beach (which lasts all day and which I haven’t seen performed—yet) and Akhenaten, a lovely work dealing with the monotheistic heretic Egyptian pharaoh.
Glass’s take on Gandhi’s development of non-violent protest as a powerful weapon for social change is set to a text in Sanskrit taken from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Mahatma’s favorite religious epic. Instead of having the translation on the back of the seat in front of us as usual, this production projected the text on the set. Giant caricatures of the forces of oppression (political, social and economic) appeared at intervals, made of newspaper, which also carpeted the stage.
The production was witty and inventive, and excellently performed, particularly by American tenor Richard Croft as Gandhi. His serene and magnificently sung final scene was alone worth the price of admission. Conductor Dante Anzolini got a big ovation for his work. He had conducted our symphony orchestra at MIT for five years, so I left a note congratulating him on this, his Metropolitan debut, at the stage door before the performance began.
I stayed at a motel by the Garden State Parkway Friday night and drove to Whiting Saturday morning. You have to want to go to Whiting for some specific purpose—there’s not very much that would draw you to the town otherwise, and it’s location is a bit remote out in the scrub pine barrens. I was visiting a 96-year old lady who, along with her late husband, had given me my first-ever job. It was an afternoon after high school position at their gift shop on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens, New York that funded my early theater, opera and concert-going.
I had done this trip last spring and was anxious to see her again. She’s in superb condition, bright, active and in great health. Her only problem is a slurring of speech due to a mild stroke a couple of years ago, but she was easier to understand this year. I brought her a Chinese red Gerber Daisy plant, spent a pleasant hour or so with her and then got on the road back to New York.
My Saturday matinee was Donizetti’s pastoral comic romance, The Daughter of the Regiment with the enchanting French soprano Natalie Dessay and handsome Peruvian superstar tenor Juan Diego Florez.
Both were in top form. The production took full use of Dessay’s now legendary acting and physical comedy skills (she can sing a two octave run while doing a pratt fall), and the supporting cast was top notch. A delight. I drove home Saturday night right after final curtain.
A friend of ours from way up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont sent us a copy of the 2007 Darwin Awards (thanks, Paul!). I didn’t think they were all up to some howlers from previous years, but here are my favorites:
Yes, it's that magical time of year again when the almost Darwin Awards are bestowed, honoring the least evolved among us.
Here is the glorious winner:
1. When his 38-caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again.
This time it worked.
And now, the honorable mentions:
2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat-cutting machine and submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out
one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef's claim was approved.
3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.
(This could easily have happened in Boston, except the woman would have had to remove the kitchen chair used as a space keeper and then parked in the space. Mayor Mennino tried to ban the use of the “parking chair” a couple of years ago but found that butting heads with one of the most deeply ingrained icons of Boston culture was a losing battle).
5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.
6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer... $15. [If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?]
8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the
snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes, officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."
9. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast. The man,
frustrated, walked away. [*A 5-STAR STUPIDITY AWARD WINNER]
A certificate has been issued? Oh my god. Mountains can, indeed, be moved!
i would give a lot to hear Mr. Glass' latest; i play Akhanaten often. I like his works.