Monday, January 19, 2009
Wynton Marsalis: "At the root of our current national dilemmas is an accepted lack of integrity. We are assaulted on all sides by corruption of such magnitude that it's hard to fathom. Almost everything and everyone seems to be for sale. Value is assessed solely in terms of dollars. Quality is sacrificed to commerce and truthful communication is supplanted by marketing. The type of gamesmanship that separates races, genders and ages by 'preferences' is a most cynical brand. The integrity and dedication shown by American artists throughout our history provides a most needed and unequivocal counterstatement. On the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, let's recognize the pernicious effects of separating people by generic categories."
So, did you look at the various telecasts (HBO, CNN) of the ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial and wonder what had happened to Gene Robinson? Me,too. I did several searches of YouTube, typing in all variations Gene Robinson Lincoln Memorial Inauguration Obama and a couple of others with no success. Lots about Gene, but no clip of his prayer on Sunday. Joe (Joe.My.God) posted that HBO had purposely begun their transmission AFTER Gene’s appearance
Today, between Joe and Andy Towle (Towleroad), a fuller and perhaps more disturbing story has emerged. The powers that are at HBO were flooded with protests and inquiries and have firmly maintained that the word to not transmit Gene Robinson came not from any level of HBO administration--but from the Obama Transition Office. Whether they or the president-elect himself will ever explain that one remains to be seen. A clip on YouTube apparently lasted a short while before being yanked.
It was also revealed that the hundreds of thousands attending the celebration on the mall got to hear only a fraction of the gay bishop's four minute or so talk because a “technical failure” had shut down the speakers to anyone not immediately in front of the lectern.
Knowing the ways of bloggers and other techies, I was sure that somebody somewhere had taken down the speech for posterity. Andy Towle and a [very cute] assistant were close to the action with a video camera and made a clean recording, both sight and sound that they posted on YouTube and then on Towleroad. You can go to Towleroad, or to YouTube and type “Gene Robinson Invocation” into the search window. When the list of videos comes up, look for the one with the thumbnail of a lone figure up at a lectern with a crowd in front.
Update: Everybody, the Obama team and HBO, is backpedaling like crazy on the Robinson exclusion, calling it all a huge misunderstanding. It's being bandied about that Gene's opening prayer may be shown on the big screens at the actual Inauguration today, opening the ceremony before Rick Warren's Invocation.
It's no secret that I loathe the ground George W. Bush walks on. As I write this, it's just a little over 18 hours before Obama takes the oath and Bozo'z out of an office he dishonered, governing a country and people he bankrupted and betrayed. I wrote this reply to a contemptuous “farewell” to George W. Bush that Scott Smith (Bill in Exile) posted today:
As you know, I share your hate. My concern is that he really does think he's done a great job and is going out with his head high. On the other hand, the lengths he's gone to in making White House records easily available to Obama (yes, I know he's shredded tons, but apparently the computers are habitually wiped clean when a president leaves, and they aren't being wiped this time) indicates that he just MIGHT be aware of the depth of the shit pile he's created and feel some some obligation to make it easier for Obama to get the American people out of it.
I read somewhere that the Obama inner circle has ruled out prosecution of Bozo and his gang, feeling that energies are best directed at solving and correcting things rather than revenge or even just retribution. Somewhere, sometime there has to be a day of reckoning. My hope is that the books that can now be written on the completed Bozo presidency will place before him the enormity of the calamity he's visited on us. I don't want that bastard going to his grave feeling like he did anything admirable.
There's no particular reason for this little reminiscence other that the fact that this lady (who actually was NO lady!) was a larger than life character both on-stage and off-, whose star burned not long but exceedingly brightly, and who made compelling everything she touched.
Ljuba Welitsch was a Bulgarian dramatic soprano whose career began during the 1930s and advanced somewhat during WWII when she began singing music of Richard Strauss under his direction. But she burst like a cyclone on the greater operatic world just after the war ended and she appeared in London and New York as Strauss's Salome, a role that she made totally her own.
Ljuba sported a head of flaming red hair, a voluptuous figure, an uninhibited personality and a powerful, cutting voice that nevertheless had a clear, almost girlish tone--perfect for Strauss's fifteen year old nymphomaniac who develops a murderous sexual obsession on John the Baptist. She sang a wide repertory--Verdi, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Janacek, Leoncavallo, Strauss (both Richard and Johann), you name it.
Like Janis Joplin, Ljuba needed to have sex immediately before appearing on stage, going through a large number of men among the chorus, orchestra and backstage crews at the MET in the process, and cruising 7th Avenue behind the opera house for willing gentlemen when nobody inside was available, able or straight.
Her most infamous performance was as Musetta in La Boheme at the MET. Another soprano, a usual Musetta, demanded of the autocratic general manager Rudolf Bing that she be cast in the leading role as Mimi or she would create all kinds of mayhem. Bing let her sing Mimi but cast Ljuba as Musetta. During act 2, as she was raised on the shoulders of two other cast members--which was what the director wanted--she pulled up her skirt and waved her legs at the audience, revealing that she wasn't wearing panties--which very definitely WASN'T! She created a sensation and a scandal (it was the early 1950s). One New York critic later estimated that at least 10,000 New York opera fans swore they had been in the 3,800 seat opera house for that performance. As for the other soprano, she was a very good girl thereafter, and Bing had his revenge.
It all ended early. Ljuba never gave less than 110% on stage and that meant taking her voice to the outer edges of its capabilities in some very demanding roles. By age 40 in 1953, her voice was a shambles, a situation worsened by a throat operation gone wrong. After several years doing character roles, she began acting in Austrian and Bulgarian films, delighted by the number of strapping young men on the technical crews.
Many years after her singing career ended, she returned to the MET for an acting role in a comic opera by Donizetti. The audience gave her an ovation just for making her first entrance and she was elated. At the opening night party, an old but still very handsome man approached her and introduced himself as having worked with her many years earlier. She looked at him uncertainly, so he explained. "I am, Madame, the only member of the backstage crew with whom you didn't have sex." Without missing a beat she shot back, "Ah--but there's still time!"