Sunday, February 24, 2013

A few complaints were lodged on a friend's Facebook page just after the end of Downton Abbey's Season 4, because he had revealed that Matthew Crawley, played by Dan Stevens, had been killed in an automobile accident.  Apparently in some areas there was a slightly different schedule, and some people complained that a "Spoiler Alert" label should have been put on top of my friend's item because now that they knew the ending, there was no reason to watch the last episode.  

Actually, the scheduling of this series is rather strange.  The DVDs of Season 4 were being hawked on PBS before PBS showed a single one of the Season 4 episodes.  And reports were coming from England, where it is seen many months ahead of here, discussing some of the main plot points.

I have always wondered about the attitude that if you know the ending to a play or movie it's "ruined" for you.  I have encountered it a lot, and it makes it seem as if every play, movie or opera is a "who done it."  Perhaps, because I am in the theater/opera profession, I know that there is so much more going on in a production than just the outcome, the final scene.  So, after all the complaints that my friend had ruined the latest series of Downton,  I added this comment:

"Am I to take it that there is no value to seeing a dramatic presentation if one knows the ending in advance?   The characterizations by the cast; the beauty, appropriateness and skill of the designs; the quality of the writing; the social relevance or political comment in the theme -- none of these is worth seeing and enjoying if you know that "he or she dies in the end?"

"OMG, I guess I just ruined a lot of Shakespeare, most of the Greeks, and the entirety of 19th century opera for you all!"


Fritz is trying an experiment this winter, seeing if he can grow tomatoes indoors in our south-facing windows that build up quite a bit of heat on sunny days.  The heat obviously isn't anything like a really hot summer day nor is there an equivalent amount of humidity, conditions tomatoes like in order to set fruit.  This plant is the tallest at six feet; the flower cluster pictured is at about the four and a half foot level with other flower clusters coming higher up.  He also has two shorter plants, a four and a three foot, and both have flower clusters.  He's fertilized the flowers with a small water color brush I gave him and we'll see if we get anything.

Another weekend, another snow storm.  Two weeks ago we had an extremely serious storm that prevented me from going down to New York for an opera to which I had a ticket at the Metropolitan.  The storm was so devastating for audience travel that the MET, which has a lot of annoying fees involved with ticket purchase and exchange, offered out of towners a totally free even exchange that could be negotiated over the phone.  I wasn't able to get a ticket to the same opera (Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore) but to another (Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini) that I've never seen on stage and always wanted to.

Today I have a ticket in Boston to another rather obscure opera by a very major composer, Benjamin Britten's Owen Wingrave.  The storm isn't in a league with the big one two weeks ago and it is only an hour away.  New Hampshire has a very good track record on keeping the major roads open, so I should be able to make this one.  

Planning ticket purchases nine months to a year ahead, which you have to do with the Metropolitan, makes the buyer subject to unwelcome weather conditions and I do try to plan things with as few trips to New York as possible in heavy weather months (last winter, "The Winter That Never Was" was an incredibly helpful, but extremely rare event).  Some MET productions only play in January and February so sometimes I just have to take a chance.


Dear Will,

I am applauding the first part of your post in true theatrical style - with shouts of bravo! bravo!
I couldn't agree more and I find this whole carry-on about such things to be somewhat petulant. Mind you I think that often such people belong to the group who speak about characters in such shows as if they are truly alive.

It would be like saying that you can't read a history of say, World War II because you know who won.

Bye for now


I am impressed with Fritz'z tomato growing skills and I hope they come to 'fruition'.
I thought of you as I switched on the TV either friday or yesterday to one of the US networks - and lo and behold they announced another snowstorm. This one would miss Boston but hit Southern New Hampshire.

Hope you made it to "Owen Wingrave"
We've had a big debate about 'spoilers' and alerts thereof on The Arts Desk. Started with vehement objections (which I share) to divulging, quite casually, the killer of Series 2 in that Danish masterpiece The Killing. That ruled out watching that particular series for me, since I DO think that in thrillers everything is geared towards guessing whodunnit, and how.

In much else - Shakespeare, tragedy, drama - it does seem that the journey is still worth taking (and the Downton car crash was spilled all over the British tabloids the next morning). In that case, since I saw one episode and was pretty appalled, you're granted fine acting and attention to period detail, but not fine writing...Can't quite understand what all the fuss is about.
That season of DA hasn't even begun yet in France, so we are screwed. It's a good thing I share your perspective. I rather like knowing what happens in the end. It frees me up to get into and understand all the little details leading up to it. I'll often read the last page of a book before starting the second chapter. I have never really liked mysteries; I feel that I'm being manipulated and therefore can't enjoy them. It's more fun to know what's coming so you can watch the characters squirm!
Ken read somewhere that they are starting to shoot DA4 this month - so I believe it's not in the can yet.

What disturbed me about the ending of season 3 was the gratuitous violence. My theory is the Fellows (who has said he's tired to the series) it killing off his most sympathetic characters to kill off his audience so he'll be free.
knowing the ending is not an issue for opera goers; i think it is more important for TV people than it is for theatre/opera fans who see the journey not the end as the point.
I used to start my toms in February, and get them out in the ground by early april, using water cones. It was always a 'race' to see how could get the first toms - sometimes as early as mid-June!
You said Fritz "fertilized the flowers with a small water color brush I gave him and we'll see if we get anything."

Sounds to me like Fritz played with their sexual organs, instead of fertilizing them! LOL

Semantics! LOL
Thought at the very beginning of this post that it was going to be more cross fans going on about the fact of Sybil's and Mathew's deaths — departures which turn out not to be Julian Fellowes being cruel, but actors just wanting out at the end of their three-year contracts! So far, friends have found me insensitive by opining that Dan Stevens seemed to be the least talented in the ensemble, and on that count will be less missed by me than he might have been. My shame is great...
There are some things I simply want to discover for myself, like movie and TV endings when they aren't based on classics.

I love those cartoons! Oh, and the gorgeous snow. It's truly beautiful when I'm not there and don't have to travel in it!
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