Saturday, November 08, 2008
If only I could be sure that we'd never have to see her and Todd--and Trick and Truck or whatever their names are--ever again, I'd gladly give her a pass on the clothes; but the possibility has been raised that once Ted Stevens is kicked out of the Senate, there's nothing to prevent her from appointing herself as Senator in his place for the next six years and attaching herself like a leach onto the body politic. Oy!
Strange things happen in this country, particularly now that so many of our educational systems have been dumbed down. CBS Radio reported that there are now something like three "Impeach Obama" sites on the internet, pissed off that he was elected last Tuesday and has failed to do anything yet to solve the financial crisis. The concept that he may have been elected but doesn't take office until late January obviously hasn't quite penetrated the consciousness of these people. Perhaps that's why Obama was careful to mention that he won't be President of the United States for another two and a half months several times yesterday during his news conference.
Oh, and the New York Post has come up with a shiny bright nickname for the President-Elect: Bam. I think it works nicely on at least two and probably on three or four levels.
I'm in the middle of a performance-rich weekend. It began early on Thursday with a Boston Symphony performance I called "ALL Carmina Burana, ALL the time." The first half featured the well respected locally-based early music ensemble Sequentia singing excerpts from the original manuscripts of the Carmina Burana material that dates back to 1230. Much of it, written by scholars, monks, and the hip insiders of the day, deals with the blatant corruption and bribe-soliciting of the pope, cardinals and bishops, the misery of those under their yoke, and the era's valuing a person only for his or her material wealth. Others of the texts are pornographic, comic, or celebratory of nature and wine.
The audience got into it--just six men and a medieval harp on the huge Symphony Hall stage--but their dynamic delivery AND the startlingly modern sentiments of the 800 year old material were engrossing, and not just as a set-up for what was to come.
After intermission, Spanish conductor Rafael Freubeck de Bourgos led a dazzling performance of the big, technicolor, wonderfully vulgar dramatic cantata that Carl Orff made out of excerpts from the Carmina Burana material. The maestro, in his mid-70s now and always a much-beloved guest at the Boston Symphony, drove the score's repetitive rhythms crisply and clearly, giving them tremendous bounce and energy. Carmina Burana is like eating too much Death-by-Chocolate dessert; it probably isn't good for you but it surely is fun.
Last night I saw the opening of a new production of The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The director was Robert Lepage, assisted in putting together the single most media technology-intensive production ever seen at the Met by Holger Förterer (Cirque du Soleil), interactive video designer, and Boris Firquet, an image designer who creates all his own software and makes experimental video art for festivals and performances worldwide.
The production was astonishing, the more so for the fact that the massive technical installation worked without a single glitch all night. Many of the projected images were motion- or sound-sensitive, capable of reacting to what a performer (there were singers, dancers and acrobats) was doing at any given moment, as in drapes that were hanging still beginning to billow as a dancer did a pirouette.
Susan Graham, Marcello Giordani (an Italian who has always made complete sense as French tenor) and Canadian bass John Relyea--clearly the audience's favorite among the superb singers--were greeted with ovations during the curtain calls. But it was heartening to see Mr. Lepage and the entire crew of image and projection designer/technicians get cheered to the rafters. The MET audience tends to be very conservative but last night they took to the new technology enthusiastically--which is very good news when looking ahead to the launch of Lepage and Company's production of Wagner's massive Ring of the Nibleung in two years.
Today I see the matinee of John Adams' Dr. Atomic at the MET, and then drive home to New Hampshire. Tomorrow I have a ticket to the matinee of La Traviata by the Granite State Opera at the Capitol Theater in Concord.
Our second excursion into the countryside outside of Chalons-sur-Saône was to the remains of the medieval monastic center at Cluny, and particularly the massive abbey church that was at its heart. For a couple of hundred years, the Cluny community was one of the wealthiest and most influential sacred and secular political entities in the world, its abbot spending most of his time traveling internationally to supervise Cluniac monasteries throughout Europe and advise their efforts to reform Catholic practice in the face of the festering corruption of the Vatican in Rome.
The abbey church was begun in 910, the largest ecclesiastical building in Europe until the construction of the current St. Peter's in Rome during the Renaissance. The anti-clerical French Revolution and Napoleon's First Empire saw the destruction of most of the great church--only the south transept arm was spared because pulling it down would have endangered a beloved and valuable school building of the Louis XIV era. Archaeological exploration and reconstruction are ongoing in the modern age.
Model of the complex and its enormous abbey church as the center of large administrative and residential operation (about 800 monks) surrounded by an armed curtain wall (part of it seen in the upper right corner). The south transept, topped by the octagonal conical roof in the left center of the picture, is the only complete part of the huge church that remains, as seen below:
The abbey community's granary. It now serves as an archaeological and architectural museum,
giving visitors some idea of the scale and artisanship of the original complex.
The superb, original oak structure of the granary hall's roof. At the far end, a recreation of the layout of the apse at the back of the church with the original capitals and parts of the original columns.
Models (and these are very big, the bases are a good five to six feet wide) of the reconstructed facade on the abbey church.
A cross section of the front, looking out the central portal (seen above in the first model picture).
The apsidal east end of the church.
One of the original column capitals.
A grand portal from one of the subsidiary buildings added to the complex during the Baroque era being re-assembled on the granary floor.
The visit to Cluny took place on the last afternoon of the boat trip. After breakfast the next morning we were driven to Lyon's Antoine de Saint-Exupery Airport (aptly named, as the author of The Little Prince was also a pilot) for our flight to Copenhagen via London.
What joy it is to see singers 'up front' too - usually I am in the top balcony and can only hear things.
I did not see you in the audience scans, alas.