Thursday, May 19, 2011

I was going to lead off with something else, but This came to me from my daughter in Salem, Oregon and I just can't stop looking at it.  My granddaughter Sasha Julia, now just over 20 months old, looking radiant, with her hair done exactly the way I used to do her mother's hair at that age and looking just as delightfully happy as her mother used to.

We're going out to visit later in the summer, combining a visit to them with a little vacation for ourselves, a boat trip through the southern Alaska archipelago, and a visit with some friends in Seattle and Portland.  It would be lovely if there weren't a full continent between us but there is and we deal with it as best we can.


The opera whose libretto we wrote opened last Saturday night.  That's the reason I haven't blogged in so long.  The technical and dress rehearsal period the week before went very well but was full of long days.  We had a super director, a chic and very bright British lady who had directed for the company last January which is when we discovered that we worked together really well, and so it was this time.

The opera was called A Place of Beauty, a title Fritz chose as it was how Isabella Stewart Gardner referred to the Venetian Palazzo-inspired building she built in the Back bay fens area of Boston to house the spectacular collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, furniture, tapestries, manuscripts, and architectural element, etc. she and he late husband had collected, and in which she lived.

The two performances were preceded by a 40 minute talk we gave along with composer Robert Edward Smith and our aforementioned director, Kirsten Cairns.  The opening was officially sold out although some few people who had bought tickets didn't show up.  The rehearsals the week before had improved steadily in both ensemble and individual performance.  The opening went superbly; the audience was enthusiastic.

For the reception afterward David Feltner, our conductor who was responsible for running it, chose to serve exactly what Isabella had served to her guests the night she opened the palazzo, which she had named Fenway Court -- champagne and doughnuts.  Isabella liked doughnuts and thought everybody should, too.  Novelist Edith Wharton was NOT amused and there was apparently a delicious little set-to between the two women as Wharton rather ostentatiously stalked out of the place.

We had thought that the cast couldn't get any better but the Sunday matinee was even more emotionally focused and the singers' diction was just one notch clearer and more precise.  Again, Barbara Kilduff nailed the long final scene we had constructed for her beginning with her elegy at Jack's death, going through her crisis wondering if she could succeed building the place herself, pulling herself together and taking charge like a Greek Fury to get it exactly right, her reconciling with Boston society in the person of our archetypal character The Boston Matron, and her deciding to remain forever in the building to await the return of the many paintings stolen in the infamous 1990 massive art heist.   Again, there was a very demonstrative audience.

When the calls were over and the curtain came down, we grouped for a couple of pictures, did all the standard hugging and wished it wasn't over.  Then we took the scenic units apart, packed them up and came home.  Tired but very happy, Fritz and I stopped for Chinese in Derry and talked about what an amazing part of our lives it had been for the last thirteen months.

Some pictures:

Barbara Kilduff (Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Bavarian and Hamburg State Operas, etc.) as Isabella reliving the opening reception of Fenway Court, memories of her late husband triggered by a bouquet of violets.  Behind her is an"empty frame," representative of the seven empty frames left behind by the art thieves whose burglary opens the opera and brings Isabella back through the ether to defend her creation.  The face of the scenic muslin in the frame is painted with a neutral color, but the back of the muslin is painted with the brocade pattern John Singer Sargent used as a background for his famous portrait of Isabella.  In the very last moments of the opera, Barbara assumed the pose, and a light shone on the rear of the flat, causing the back-painting to show through: 

There was a little gasp from some in the audience as Barbara/Isabella became the famous portrait, standing serenely forever to guard her unique creation; then the lights slowly faded and the opera ended.


We have a great friend named Al Jaeger.  Al is a well known and highly respected potter/ceramic artist here in New Hampshire whose work has been exhibited frequently and is now on exhibit at several museums.  These two works of his (all of his pieces are inspired by the landscapes through which he travels and the buildings he finds wherever he goes) hang outside our front door.  This week, I took a plunge and bought this one of his . . .

. . .  inspired by a trip to Switzerland.  Al's slab-built sculptures are glazed and fired to be exhibited outdoors or indoors.  This one now occupies a corner of the planter that's outside our bedroom windows and directly under the two shown in the upper picture.


Starr, sacked out on the stone counter that's always warm because of the Aga stove below it.  Starr is 15 now and she likes her warm places.


The big English Country Garden in front of the house, everything flourishing in this extra cool and rainy spring.


Broadway Legend Arthur Laurents Dies

Openly gay Broadway legend Arthur Laurents has died at the age of 93.
Theater Mania reports:
Laurents was best known for his collaborations with Stephen Sondheim, including writing the books for West Side Story and Gypsy (earning Tony nominations for both), Anyone Can Whistle, and Do I Hear a Waltz. Early in his career, Laurents wrote such plays as Home of the Brave and The Time of the Cuckoo. In later years, he wrote and directed the musicals The Madwoman of Central Park West and Nick & Nora. Laurents directed the 1975, 1989, and 2008 revivals of Gypsy, each of which earned Tony Awards for its respective leading ladies, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and Patti LuPone. He also directed the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story.
Laurents was temporarily blacklisted during the McCarthy era after a review of one of his plays was published in the Communist Party USA newspaper.

NOTE: Laurents asked that his obituaries include this line: "He was predeceased by his partner, Tom Hatcher, with whom he had lived in happiness for more than 50 years."

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