Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fritz and I did a complete read-through of the first draft of the libretto for the new opera about Isabella Stewart Gardner yesterday morning, did a lot of small but significant tweaking, then submitted it to the rest of the creative team. We are now awaiting comments, suggestions, total rejection -- whatever comes back. A lot of our work now will be in adjusting things to serve the composer's style and compositional process, the time-honored role of librettists throughout opera history right back to 1597, the official date of the first opera (which I don't accept, believing the art form to be much older, but that's another story entirely). The famous portrait of Isabella by John Singer Sargent, above, plays a part in our libretto.

In her early 80s, long a widow who had spent years and a tremendous amount of her own physical effort in the creation of Fenway Court, aka popularly "The Palace", the Museum /home of her final years, Mrs. Gardner suffered a series of small strokes and then a catastrophic one. Partially paralyzed, this most physically active and dynamic of women was painted again by Sargent, seated on a couch, supported by pillows and draped in a lengthy piece of white, gauzy fabric. Sargent painted this one in water color very quickly and with immence skill, capturing the frail but still indomitable Isabella, as one commentator characterized the image, like a Roman priestess.

As far as I know, this is the first opera about Isabella Gardner, which is surprising because her life was lived with art, music, theater, public spectacle, literature, the highest in fashion, and fascinating characters surrounding her at all times. If that isn't operatic, I don't know what is!


Here's the latest on the little family growing before our eyes above our front door.

Mother bird on the chain of the whirligig that hangs in front of the house about seven feet away from the nest, from which she keeps a sharp eye on anyone who approaches for any reason from any direction.

Four little Eastern Phoebies now more than filling the nest. The next step will be for Mamma to kick them out for their own good and get them flying. (The step after that will be for us to clean up our front door transom ledge.)

But we will not remove the nest because Phoebies generally raise two broods of chicks a summer, using the same nest over again as a general rule, and we don't want to miss that if it happens.

The parents on the father bird's perch about 20 feet away from the nest, from which he keeps watch on things. She joins him on occasion, particularly when they go out together to gather food to feed the chicks.

Down below, our resident chipmunk likes to sit on the table on the little deck outside the front door. I built the deck, under which he lives, so we could have a place to sit out, particularly at the end of the day and look at our plantings in the late afternoon sun as it's beginning to set. Whenever I pass by, he warns me away loudly and I usually stop to inform him that it's really MY territory, thank you very much -- but of course I get absolutely nowhere on that subject.

Day lilies growing up through a bank of crown vetch. Fritz and I jokingly call it kvetch -- Yiddish for "complain"-- because so many people regard it as an invasive pest plant. The photo captures the orange of the lilies well but, unfortunately, not the lovely, delicate lavender of the kvetch.

A giant Wooly Mullein outside the front entrance of Fritz's Center. As it was beginning we agreed to leave it there, particularly as it developed into a marvelous sculptural piece. One of the teachers who does the art classes in the Masters Degree program loves it; she's having her students sketch it and otherwise use it as the subject in various projects.

I'm anxious to hear more of your Isabella piece. I love her Palace and an opera about her would be exquisite.

I love Day Lilies. And your giant Wooly Mullein is quite a sculpture.
You two have such as lovely place.

I am intrigued to hear more about your libretto.
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