I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
October 15, 2016 - 1:09 p.m.
I didn't write yesterday then I slept late and then procrastinated this morning. I don't want to eat my brunch too late as I have to eat my dinner early but My Gentle Readers come first so I'm going to write. I'm multitasking now to get this published faster. There's going to be a photo and I have to get it on my computer from my phone and then online. Of course writing that took more time than I save multi-tasking. Efficient blogging is difficult for someone fond of stream of consciousness.
Wednesday night I got a message from Kathryn asking me if I wanted to go to a dress rehearsal of William Tell Friday morning. Yes, that's right, morning, it started at 10:30 AM. I of course said, "yes." Do I call my benefactor Kathryn here or Kay? In therapy it's Kay to distinguish her from Katherine and Catherine. But here you see it in print. I'm going to go with Kathryn.
I was not able to find someone to go with me, the timing is tough for people who are have regular jobs. I reached out to a few people but none could make it. That's OK, it's more fun seeing it with a friend but seeing live Opera is always one of the best things there is even alone.
Kathryn works at the opera so the plan was for her to come out and give me the ticket. I wanted to get there at 10:15 to make things go smoothly. Google Maps which is usually very reliable said I had to leave here at 8:38 so I woke up at 8:08. It wasn't till I was going down the stairs that I saw the temperature 47°, I needed another layer. I went back upstairs and had to look for my jacket to wear over my hoodie. I always plan on things going wrong so I left here at 8:38. The Bus Time website said the bus was still at the terminal. That meant I still had time to get to the stop. I got to the stop and the bus at the Terminal disappeared from the website. I'm not sure if something happened or I just missed it. I shouldn't have. Whatever the cause I had to wait 15 minutes for the next bus and that meant time was now short. I had planned on stopping at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Now I didn't have time. I got to the subway and saw the train was about to leave so my last chance for breakfast there was gone. Then the train ran local between Hunts Point Ave and 125th Street. That took me even more time I texted Kathryn saying I might get there just in time. Curtain time is 7 minutes later than posted so I was sure I'd be let in.
I had to take a crosstown bus once in the City and of course hit traffic. But that should be figured into the time. That Google predicted. Then a miracle happened. I actually got there at 10:15. All I lost was the eating time. I told that to Kathryn who was glad I made it on time and went to my seat, an excellent one, dress circle center.
I have never seen or heard William Tell. All I knew was the overture. Are William Tell and Fidelio the only operas best known for their overtures? I thought of dressing as the Lone Ranger but didn't. See I am allowed out in public. Of course I have heard the overture a million times but never live. I was instantly excited. I couldn't help myself form conducting along. That got me in trouble during the actual opera, the person behind me tapped me on the shoulder. My hand must have been in her way. I conducted lower down after that.
Have I ever not known the story of William Tell? I had a record that told the story as a kid. I had a series of records of classic stories and they were accompanied by classic music. The Three Musketeers had Mendelsohn's violin concerto and King Arthur Swan Lake. Did William Tell have music from the opera? I don't remember. I knew the story even before I had the record, at least the part of shooting the apple off his son's head. I didn't know it was about the Austrian occupation of Switzerland till I heard the record. In Robin Hood the Austrians held King Richard hostage. Austria did not come out well in those records.
As I hadn't eaten or more importantly had coffee during the first intermission I ran to Starbucks. When I came back I found Kathryn waiting for me. She brought me lunch! She's an amazing friend. Too bad I couldn't eat it then as the second act was about to begin. I ate it during the second intermission. I went out to the little park in Lincoln Center and ate it under the trees. I thought it would just be a bagel but it was a feast. Yeah there was a buttered bagel but there was also ham and cheese sandwich, chocolate milk, and chocolate pudding for dessert. She knows what I like. That's tough as I'm hard to please, there are so many foods that I can't eat or don't like.
The intermissions were long, the first was 30 minutes and the second 40 minutes. I'm sure that's because it was a dress rehearsal and they were still working on things. The opera is not that long but with the intermissions it is.
I'll finally talk about the Opera, it was magnificent. It might have the best story of any opera I've been to. It's a tale of national liberation from foreign oppressors. William Tell was a revolutionary leader. It premiered in 1829 in the aftermath of Napoleon when a story like that would resonate in Europe. Rossini, everyone knows that Gioachino Rossini is the composer, right? Rossini was Italian but her wrote it to a French libretto so the proper title is Guillaume Tell and that's what the Met calls it.
What I didn't learn from the record was that that there is a subplot of the Swiss Arnold falling in love with the Austrian woman Matilde. That is given almost equal weight to Tell's tale. The one part of the story that everyone knows is that William Tell shot an apple off his son's head. I remember being surprised when I learned it was with a crossbow and not a bow and arrow. I don't know if the problem is in the libretto or the translation but the translation referred to Tell as an archer and him shooting an arrow. Those are archery tools, crossbows shoot bolts. The thing that really shocked me is that the apple scene is not the climax of the story, it's the end of the second act. The third act tells of Tells escape and the successful rebellion
How can they call this an opera? All the principles live! There's a happy ending. Only the bad guys die. I like that. I want the good guys to win. I don't know why that's the exception in opera, it's the most common thing in movies and novels.
It just hit me, Star Wars has such a similar story. Look shot at the Death Star is Tell's shot killing the evil Gessler. Hans is Arnold, the ambivalent warrior who fell in love with a princess.
I didn't know a single piece of music from the opera. There were fewer arias than usual and more choruses. So much of the music is the ensemble singing together. The duets are mainly between Arnold and Matilda. It's because it's primarily an adventure story. It's about the Swiss fighting the Austrians. Wagner also tells adventure tales but there's always so much more philosophy and deeper levels to it. This is the opera version of a summer blockbuster; Wagner is Apocalypse Now. I never thought I'd be explaining opera through films but it works.
I didn't know the songs but as I said I found myself uncontrollably conducting, or tapping my feet or moving my head to it. Despite the gorgeous sets there were times I closed my eyes and just listened.
This was the most useful I've found the translation. The story was central to the opera so I had to know what was going on. My one problem is that because of my poor vision I had trouble distinguishing the characters as so many dressed alike. I would have loved it more if I could see well. I loved the sets. They did live what you so often see in films, the set marched seamlessly into the backdrop. There were times where I thought that something was painted but discovered were real when a character touched them.
This was my first dress rehearsal. It was not that different from seeing a full production. The program said that the singers might not sing with their full voice but I did not notice that. What was different was things around the performance. It was not a full program but a single printed sheet. The announcements of the intermissions were done by someone just walking on stage and telling us when to get back. It shows how great the acoustics are that he could speak unamplified and be heard throughout the huge auditorium. It's not like an opera singer who studies for years to project his or her voice to fill the space. This guy just spoke.
After the show I planned on going to Trader Joe's but realized there was nothing that I really needed. So I walked to my PO box which is only a few blocks away and then to the subway. I stopped at my favorite pretzel guy in front of Carnegie Hall.
As I never head breakfast but had a big lunch I made breakfast for dinner when I got home, a sausage and cheese omelet. I used a different pan than usual so it stuck to the bottom but it tasted great. I put MSG in it of course. It makes everything better.
So yesterday was a great day and tonight should be great too. I'm seeing Girsa (ger-sha), an Irish band, at Mercury Lounge with Dan. Bernadette who was a student at WFUV plays bodhrán in the band. I haven't seen Girsa or Bernadette in ages so I'm looking forward to that.
Now to make today's breakfast. Feels like a bacon and eggs day.
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