Saturday, August 13, 2011

 Our cat has always liked sitting on the window sill of the laundry/freezer/cat room, but she's never spent lengthy amounts of time there.  The ground level of the swale is less than a foot below the sill as the house is placed into the hillside on three sides.  So, we were both surprised several days ago when she began to spend much of the day and night up on the sill looking out.

Usually, nothing of any interest goes on in the swale.  I did begin an art installation back there a month or so ago (that will be revealed in due time) but all of its elements are stationary and wouldn't hold her attention beyond a passing glance.  But I began to understand her interest when I walked into the swale this afternoon and saw a largish snake on the ground more or less right outside"her" window.  But the snake was not alone.  The following picture may be disturbing to some; it is, however a legitimate part of nature.
The snake, is jaw unhinged, was in the last stages of slowly ingesting a decent-sized toad.  We have lots of them on the property, particularly with all the dry-set stone walls we have.  Most of them are no bigger than the last segment of a pinkie finger but one or two are many times bigger and this one was in the wrong place at snake feeding time.

I suspect the snake has recently taken up residence somewhere in the perimeter of the swale, with a nice little hole amid the rock, and that it's forays out to see what it can find to eat are what have captured Starr's interest.  I didn't stick around to see how things ended (I knew very well and didn't need to be there for it).  Five or so minutes later when I went back with some more material for the project, there was no sign of the snake.  Nature was taking its course elsewhere. 

Starr has spent the entire evening on the sill, looking out.

In times of economic hardship, performing arts organizations have a couple of stock responses.  One is to pull in their horns and reduce the amount of work they present to the public.  While this reduces their production expenses there is a collateral loss of income.  More damaging, when companies start cutting back and are less visible to the public, the public very quickly begins to drift away.  Donors lose interest in giving if they sense a company beginning to fail.  A downward spiral begins and is frequently fatal -- the New York City Opera is currently in just such a spiral and its future is currently very doubtful.  The Opera Orchestra of New York may well be going in the same direction.

But there have been companies that pulled themselves out of crisis via the counter-intuitive strategy of spending more, taking artistic risks, branching out.  The Santa Fe Opera would seem to have chosen this path"   

August 10, 2011, 3:58 pm

The Santa Fe Opera will present three new works

SANTA FE, N.M. — Charles MacKay, the general director of the Santa Fe Opera, announced on Wednesday that at a time of economic hardship and cutbacks among many arts institutions, his company would present a new opera in three consecutive seasons, starting in the summer of 2013. These include the first commissioned works of Mr. MacKay’s tenure, which began in 2008.

The first will be “Oscar,” based on the life of Oscar Wilde, composed by Theodore Morrison, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, with a libretto by the director John Cox, who has staged six productions for Santa Fe. Drawing heavily on Wilde’s descriptions of his ordeals during two years of imprisonment, as well as his letters and documents from his contemporaries, “Oscar” will star the countertenor David Daniels in the title role.

The other commissioned work is “Cold Mountain,” based on the best-selling novel by Charles Frazier, with music by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon set to a libretto by Gene Scheer. Scheduled for the 2015 summer season, it will feature the baritone Nathan Gunn in the role of W. P. Inman, the Confederate soldier (played by Jude Law in the 2003 film version of the novel), who deserts the army as the Civil War is coming to an end.  Both “Oscar” and “Cold Mountain” are co-commissions with Opera Company of Philadelphia through its American Repertoire Program.

The third new work will be the 2014 American premiere of “Miss Fortune,” by the British composer Judith Weir, which was commissioned for and given its world premiere this summer at the Bregenz Festival in Austria. It will also be presented next year at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in London, which co-commissioned the work. With a libretto by Ms. Weir, “Miss Fortune” is based on “Sfortuna,” a Sicilian folktale. Two of Ms. Weir’s earlier operas had their American premieres at Santa Fe: “A Night at the Chinese Opera” in 1989, and “Blonde Eckbert” in 1994.

In a statement Mr. MacKay noted the Santa Fe Opera’s “enviable record of presenting new works to the public,” including 9 commissions, 3 world premieres and 44 American premieres, starting with the premiere of Marvin David Levy’s opera “The Tower” in the company’s inaugural 1957 season.


A blue shark found in the woods of New Hampshire
August 7, 2011
MILTON, N.H.—New Hampshire police are investigating the discovery of a blue shark that was found in the woods in the small town of Milton.  Police say they found the 6- to 8-foot shark in a wooded area Thursday night after a resident reported smelling something decomposing.  Police tell WMUR-TV they believe someone caught the shark and later decided to get rid of it by dragging it into the woods.  Milton is about a 45-mile drive from the ocean.

I think it's a wonder the coyotes didn't get it before it began to rot.

I have a laundry/freezer/cat room, too! Every house should have one. Mine also includes boiler and water heater. Added feature.
Of course, we all know it's really the cat room, don't we? I mean, since the entire house is really the cat's house, after all.
Ingesting a decent size load can take a lot of a snake! Sometimes nature is savage & sometimes nature is sweet.
Poor toad. Poor NY Opera. Poor shark. :(
Do you know what kind of snake it is, Will? Poisonous? Dangerous? Would Starr win a fight?

Having grown up in snake-free Ireland, I have a fear of the things. I'd hate to know that one was living in a wall right outside my window.
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