31 July 2012

William Wordsworth analyzes the smart phone phenomenon

Here's something else to file under "the more things change":

On Seeing Some Tourists of the Lakes Pass by Reading; a Practice Very Common

What waste in the labour of Chariot and Steed!
For this came ye hither? is this your delight?
There are twenty-four letters, and those ye can read;
But Nature's ten thousand are Blanks in your sight.
Then throw by your Books, and the study begin;
Or sleep, and be blameless, and wake at Your Inn!

-- William Wordsworth

Very elegant and witty, and pointed, but I'll probably just continue snarling "Watch where you're going" to those clueless idiots who walk down the sidewalk staring at their stupid toys, assuming everyone else will leap out of their way. If it's so awful to be where you are, maybe you should think about why it's so awful, and what you're doing there.

The poem is on page 432 of the Penguin Classics edition of The Poems of William Wordsworth, Volume 1.

Haiku 2012/213

reflective sea-birds
gaze on the glassy waters
sometimes they see fish

30 July 2012

Haiku 2012/212

waking up at night
means sleepwalking during day
all balances out

29 July 2012

Haiku 2012/211

having much to do
I spend time contemplating
the clouds passing by

28 July 2012

fun stuff I may or may not get to: August 2012

San Francisco Opera's summer Merola program presents its second opera, Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera, 2 (evening) and 4 (matinee) August at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason. The Merola Grand Finale concert takes place 18 August at 7:30 in the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets and more information here.

Lorenzo Pisoni returns to ACT on 3 August for a two-week engagement of Humor Abuse, his autobiographical one-man show about growing up in the circus. I liked it quite a lot when I saw it last January and recommend it strongly.

The Lamplighters present The Mikado; check here for dates and venues, because they're all over.

West Edge Opera presents a double-bill of the Brecht/Weill Mahagonny Songspiel and the Daron Hagen/Paul Muldoon Vera of Las Vegas at the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater (just a short walk from the El Cerrito BART station); matinees 29 July and 5 August and an evening performance on 3 August.

Shotgun Players present Madeleine George's Precious Little, starting 18 August and running through 16 September.

Aurora Theater kicks off its 21st season with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, starting 24 August and running through 30 September.

Haiku 2012/210

up working for hours
fogs burn off and a cock crows
lazy-ass rooster

27 July 2012

Haiku 2012/209

down in the station
Peruvian pan-pipes play
we wait to go home

26 July 2012

Haiku 2012/208

looking straight ahead
I've been on this trip before
you don't want to know

25 July 2012

Haiku 2012/207

exhausted daylight
disappears into darkness
with a final blush

24 July 2012

Haiku 2012/206

birds fly by perhaps
their grandparents flew by me
when I was a child

23 July 2012

Haiku 2012/205

while we point and gape
sophisticated seagulls
swoop, ignoring us

22 July 2012

wish you were here

Yesterday afternoon I was at the second performance of this summer's first Merola Opera production, Dominick Argento's skewed and lively Postcard from Morocco, with a libretto by John Donahue. It's a very entertaining work, and I found it worth the trek out to the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, which has a beautiful oceanside location that is fairly difficult to get to for non-drivers. (I assume the rent on the theater is very low.) I can't complain too much because it was a beautiful day and I enjoyed my long walk. In the opera we have seven travelers who are stuck somewhere, possibly even Morocco, waiting for a train, most likely, that will take them out of there - it may not even matter much to them where they're going.

Each of them carries some sort of box or case; each describes what he or she is carrying, but even items that sound normal - hats, shoes, a hand mirror - grow more fantastical and improbable in the description, often evoking an atmosphere of threat or paranoia (the woman with the hand mirror uses it to keep constant watch on the nooks and crannies around her; the shoe salesman leans in with insinuating and vaguely threatening suggestions). I was actually a bit surprised to read later that the opera is from 1971 because it seems so redolent of a post-war atmosphere, dipped in surrealism and existentialism, of dislocation, menace, masked identity, and absurdist comedy, though indeed the early 1970s were also a time of paranoia and absurdity (and if it comes to that, so is 2012. . . ) . The influences go back even further, though, since I kept feeling that 4 Saints in 3 Acts was an influence or at least an example, not just in the way the libretto was organized but particularly in Argento's music, which, like Thomson's, is clear, bright, and witty, with surprising emotional resonance. And both works incorporate elements of popular styles: marches, dance bands, circus tunes, as well as higher-toned references, though they are often treated in a playful manner.

The opera is one of those works that gains its unity not from plot line but from echoing metaphors and atmosphere. As the seven travelers gradually announce who they are, they self-consciously create themselves as characters, and there are many explicitly theatrical and performance references, including an interlude called Souvenirs de Bayreuth, in which circus acts such as juggling and the twisting of a vaguely obscene-looking pink balloon dog as well as dancing take place to dance-band versions of Wagner tunes such as the Valhalla theme, or the Lohengrin wedding march (for a brief, surreal marriage ceremony that ends with the popping of the pink balloon dog), or the sailors' chorus from The Flying Dutchman (the tale of another doomed traveler, who had earlier been mentioned in passing). One of the women sings into a 1940s style radio microphone, but her lovely voice is singing nonsense syllables. One of the men plays the cornet for weddings and dance bands. Two of the men perform a Punch-and-Judy show, with bright puppets on their head. It turns out the man with the cornet is also a puppeteer, and there are suggestions that the other characters are his puppets. But another man is an artist, and he's set apart a bit, and there are suggestions that it is actually he who is creating the action. The title (it's a postcard, not postcards, from Morocco) hints that there is ultimately only one person sending us greetings here.

We learn a bit more about the artist's past than we do about the others: he's the only one who refers to a childhood memory. He tells us about a vast magical ship that appeared in the sky, moored in the clouds, and he longed to be taken up from the waves of grass onto the ship, but the iceman came by and laughed at him and the ship disappeared, never to return. He has the closest thing to a love duet in the work. A lady with a cake box confesses that her box contains her lover; the artist remembers seeing the two of them outside a church, with the sort of memorable details - her head turning, showing her beautiful smile; her handsome lover dancing in the sun - that might actually be invented, just because they are so perfectly memorable. While the artist describes all this the lady with the cake box denies it all. This love duet between two people who aren't lovers, about a picture-perfect memory that possibly never really happened, is the most rapturously beautiful moment in the opera.

The usual problem with nonlinear, poetic/absurdist/oneiric works like this is of course how and when to end them, since there is no obvious plot climax. Here's where I felt the work fell down at the very end. The artist, in a moment of despair, opens his case (he's the only one to do so) and reveals its emptiness; there's nothing in the artist's little bag of tricks. We hear the same screeching, scream-like steam whistle that we heard at the very beginning coming out of his mouth. It should have ended there. Instead Argento and Donahue went for a sentimental finale, with first a hint that the artist and the woman with the cake box will have a true emotional connection (which I, under the circumstances, found a bit cheeseball) and then the artist sings of rediscovering the magical air ship of his childhood. It's all beautifully sung but dull in a feel-good way that seems false to the world we've entered. The opera is ninety minutes with no intermission, and it's too bad they can't lop off the final ten minutes, which would leave a more satisfying work.

The set is just a few simple benches, with some blown-up photos of sections of a train station hanging behind. The staging was fluid and inventive; director Peter Kazaras has a keen eye for stage pictures, and rearranges his seven singers and a few props in ways that provide constant movement that is psychologically revealing rather than forced. There are striking dance sequences as well as what you might call organized movement (the choreography is by Melecio Estrella).  Here I have to single out baritone Joseph Lattanzi, the shoe salesman as well as the second puppeteer in the Punch-and-Judy show, who was not only the best dancer but the most effective overall at moving on stage; I suspect the director realized this, since he was given more dramatic movements than the others - he even juggles, which is especially amusing since he looks a bit like F Scott Fitzgerald, so imagine Fitzgerald juggling some brightly colored balls - and he was always placed in the front in the dance sequences. There is very effective use of light and shadow (Justin Partier is the lighting designer, Nicholas Muni the scenic designer, and Kristi Johnson the costume designer).

In addition to the aforementioned Joseph Lattanzi, the very strong cast also included Aviva Fortunata as the Lady with the Cake Box, Suzanne Rigden as the Lady with the Hand Mirror, Matthew Scollin as the Man with the Cornet Case/the Puppet Maker, Carolyn Sproule as the Lady with a Hat Box, and Andrew Stenson as a Man with Old Luggage (as well as Punch in the puppet show). AJ Glueckert was the artist, and though he had a couple of minor line fluffs he really provided an emotional anchor for the action with an anguished yet warm presence. Mark Morash conducted the orchestra, with Tatiana Freedland on violin, Patricia Heller on viola, Andrew Butler on bass, Mike Corner on clarinet and saxophone, Donald Kennelly on trombone, Paul Psarros on guitar, Sun Ha Yoon on keyboards, and Scott Bleaken on percussion. Not a big band, to produce such a big bright sound.

I was glad Merola chose to do a rarity this year. These young singers will have plenty of Bohemes and Barbieres in their future. The second opera this year is also a bit of a rarity, Mozart's La finta giardiniera. You can catch it August 2 at 8:00 and August 4 at 2:00, also at the Cowell Theater. You can find a link to buy tickets here, though it's a bit buried.

Haiku 2012/204

sunny Sunday parks:
dogs running, children playing,
couples quarreling

21 July 2012

Haiku 2012/203

winds pluck the taut ropes
mast-stretched on blue-moored sailboats
twangling air-music

20 July 2012

Haiku 2012/202

the water's bright edge
a boy dips his finger in
the surface ripples

19 July 2012

Haiku 2012/201

it's beautiful out
they say, but I'm trapped inside
I dream of outside

18 July 2012

Haiku 2012/200

soft fog drifting in
leaves float on the swimming pool
where has summer gone

17 July 2012

Beethoven waves us off

Running in place trying to keep up though always falling behind as usual, I might as well start with the final concert I heard in the San Francisco Symphony's centennial season and work backwards through some symphonic nights. . . .

My ticket for the big season finale was for the Thursday performance, so my original plan was to spend the time after work and before the concert at the Asian Art Museum taking a closer look at the Phantoms of Asia show. Unfortunately for me, that Thursday turned out to be one of the museum's silly and annoying monthly party nights, though I guess it was fortunate I found out beforehand so I could give the museum a very wide berth, since this particular party featured (1) "litquake," (2) Trannyshack, (3) some tattoo thing, and (4) a DJ. Any one of those four elements would have sent me screaming into the dark night, but the combination of all four promised to fill the museum with enough smug self-regard and general hipster-douchebag-asshattery to reach suffocatingly toxic levels. In fact the slightest event - a carelessly dropped name, the fizz when some inked hackjob popped open his ironic Pabst Blue Ribbon - could easily react with some dragonish drag queen's acid "Oh honey" or the shrill relentless thumping of trendoid world music to trigger an implosion in the building that would bring it crashing down (as Samson brought the temple crashing down on the heads of the Philistines), with nothing surviving in the wreck except perhaps some fragment of an unobserved impassive Buddha, his hand raised in ambiguous blessing, his lips curved in an enigmatic smile.

So anyway the need to avoid the Asian Art Museum meant I had to rearrange my plans for the hours before the start of the concert. I did go to the SF Museum of Modern Art for a while, even though I had already been there earlier that day during my lunch hour. I don't like the cafeteria there, so I left after about an hour and walked up Market Street to Pearl's Deluxe Burgers, which I had never been to before and which is in the area of Market Street that the city has been desperately trying to gentrify for years. They're not quite there yet. My food was perfectly acceptable but the tables were surprisingly grimy and the generic loud music was irritating though not unexpected. A couple of street people talked loudly in the back, their possession-stuffed handcarts leaning against their table. Glassy-eyed and angry-looking folks, some street people, some office workers, floated by right outside the window. My dinner started to sit heavily in my stomach. I thought despondently of the healthier, tastier, and less expensive dinner I would have had at the Asian. I glumly wondered if I should bother renewing my museum membership. The best time for working people to visit there is Thursday evening, but they don't even have the late hours during the winter months (prime concert-attending season) and the rest of the year they frequently sabotage Thursday nights with their attempts to turn themselves into a ghastly third-rate nightclub, something I can easily get elsewhere were I so minded, unlike the chance to look at Asian art, which I can only get there. It's part of a sad trend among cultural institutions to throw away what they're actually good for in favor of interchangeable, irritating parties aimed at people who aren't really much interested in art. I'm not sure I'm really getting value from my membership.

Eventually I headed out into the drifting crowds, back down Market Street to Davies Hall, with hamburger, onion rings, and milkshake heavy in my stomach, still with well over an hour before the concert was to start, and nothing much to do. The big item on the program was the Beethoven 9, one of those pieces whose very greatness has led to a sort of cynical ennui among concert-goers who roll their eyes at riding such a familiar warhorse. But for me at least it's not something I've heard live that often (recordings are something else). In fact the only other time I remember hearing it live was for the centennial of the Boston Symphony, in a big free public concert on Boston Common. The park was mobbed, of course, and I ended up stuck next to a woman who talked loudly during the entire performance. She could not restrain her laughter and gleeful horror at the terrible gaucherie of those who applauded between movements. "Talk about the pot calling the kettle black," muttered a man next to me, so I was not the only victim of her presence who noted the irony in her mocking disapproval of bad concert behavior.

I was quite excited to hear this symphony live, perched as it is on the summit of several traditions, like some fantastical composite beast, lashing its strange choral tail toward heaven. The first part of the program was two short pieces by Ligeti and Schoenberg, both of whom I love, and both performed by the Symphony's superb chorus. I thought the pieces were very well chosen to complement the Beethoven: Ligeti's Lux aeterna, using the ancient words from the requiem mass, and Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw, mixing an eyewitness account from the Holocaust with the ancient prayer Shema Yisroel, look both backward and forward, combining daring musical invention with humanity's oldest and most basic questions about justice and meaning in the universe; they memorialize yet also move us forward: perfect accompaniments to Beethoven's final symphony.

There I was in my front row center seat, excited about the program, and pleased to see that the program-rustlers who usually sit next to me for this subscription series were nowhere in sight, and then, right before the lights dimmed, an incredibly enormous man sinks slowly into the seat on my left, and even though there is a double armrest on my right I am pinned to the far side of my seat by this meat-mountain and his swollen fleshbag limbs. Since I am very careful about not imposing on the space of others I felt equally constricted on my right side, since I'm pushed all the way over there, though the little old woman sitting on my right seemed cheerfully oblivious, humming a bit and tapping along to the more sombre moments in the Schoenberg and the Beethoven. Now instead of being a bit peeved that the first half is so short I am deeply grateful, since I cannot move. The Ligeti is dense yet ethereal. I think that Shuler Hensley's narration in the Schoenberg is not the way I would have done it - it's maybe a bit too obviously dramatic - but that's how Schoenberg wrote it, and the ultimate effect is very powerful, and I'm having trouble breathing since I don't even have room to cross my arms over my chest, my usual space-saving expedient, because I am so crammed into this seat by the vast implacable imperturbable wall of flesh beside me.

During intermission I look around and there are no empty seats, so I have no choice if I want to hear the Beethoven but to sit back down in what is available of the seat I paid for. Again, I can't move; I can't even put both arms by my sides because there's no room. I have to let my right arm hang down onto my lap, with my left hand holding on somewhere near my bicep to keep my left arm out of my neighbor's way, and I can't move from that position. I realize at one point that my eyeglasses have become smeared (most likely by my eyelashes) but I can't move my arms well enough to wipe them off. I really hate it when my glasses aren't clean. I'm feeling very claustrophobic, pinned in by a solid wall of inert flesh, seeing the orchestra through a misty smudge on my lenses. I hear the music as in a dream. I have an impression of a very fine performance of the familiar strains. The soloists (Erin Wall, Kendall Gladen, William Burden, and Nathan Berg), are all very fine, but long before Joy, the daughter of Elysium, spread her soft wings I could feel my entire left side slowly but surely going completely numb.

I have sat through more physically excruciating concerts at Davies Hall than anywhere else I've ever been. And it's not like Bayreuth, where you suffer on those hard seats but the sound is incomparable. You will not be compensated for your steerage-quality seating by beauty of either sound or surroundings. I just don't know what it is about that place (besides poor design). Maybe I just have bad luck there? Sometimes you'll read someone (usually someone associated with the Symphony) talking about what a wonderful hall it is, and I am befuddled and bemused and touched and saddened.

I had the feeling that the symphony was flashing before me the way a vast golden sun might finally flash setting on a sparkling green sea in a drowning man's last vision, only I was being drowned in enclosing suffocating waves of encroaching human flesh. The last note of the music had barely sounded when the man behind me immediately leaned forward and loudly screamed bravi! right in my ear. (I'll give him credit, though: he only kicked the back of my seat a couple of times. At least the kicks indicated I hadn't lost all feeling back there.) I leaned forward in my turn and suddenly realized I could take advantage of the tumultuous applause to jump to my feet, which I promptly did, joining the sincere ovation with special gratitude for my release. But I still felt so clamped in and claustrophobic that I couldn't even stand there applauding; usually I'm one of the last to leave the hall but I was so anxious for movement that as soon as Michael Tilson Thomas and the soloists left the stage I bolted to the side aisle and practically ran to the back of the house before the aisles were crammed with the lumbering herds and I was trapped again. I think only once before in my whole concert-going life have I left before the house-lights were turned up, and that was after a very long opera when I would otherwise have missed the last train. So I felt troubled by fleeing but also compelled to escape.

The Symphony was recording the performances for a future CD release, so perhaps I'll get to hear the performance under less grueling conditions, though given the several loud coughs during the quietest sections I'm not sure they'll use the performance I heard. And the Symphony continues its inexplicable policy of not using surtitles for the vocal parts, so of course during the Ode to Joy there was much rustling of programs among those who could actually use their arms.

And here's my little O Henry ending: the train home was a long time coming, but at least it was a full-length train. I took my seat in the first car, grateful to have no one beside me, but after two stops the entire train filled up with people returning from the Giants game, so there was no place to move to, and another, even fatter, man plopped down next to me, pinning me into my seat. Once I managed to get off the train even the empty nighttime sidewalks seemed barely enough restorative space, and I longed to be alone on an endless silent prairie under the canopy of stars that Schiller and Beethoven had been trying to point out to us.

Haiku 2012/199

you left town today
birds sang as you left, they will
sing as you return

16 July 2012

Haiku 2012/198

Nectarine, why blush?
you were born to your sweetness
it is we who lust

15 July 2012

Flute finale

Last Sunday afternoon I was at the final performance of The Magic Flute, which was also the final performance of San Francisco Opera's 2011-1012 season. I had hesitated before buying a ticket to yet another Magic Flute. On the plus side, I do enjoy the opera, and I was curious about the new production design by Jun Kaneko, and I had never seen Nathan Gunn's Papageno in a live performance. On the minus side, I was dubious about the plan of performing it in English (in a new version by SF Opera General Director David Gockley), and I was generally feeling pretty Fluted out.

I found Kaneko's designs delightful. There are lots of projections, starting as soon as the music starts, usually of shifting abstract patterns involving stripes or polka dots or triangles or some combination thereof, done in glowing blues and greens and crayon-bright reds and yellows and pinks. It all has the purposeful naivete that only great sophistication can produce. The total effect is vivid and even hallucinatory and puts you suitably in another world. I was reminded of the controlled profusion of color and pattern found in kabuki theater. Some of the costumes also looked Japanese-influenced, particularly that of Sarastro (Kristinn Sigmundsson), which in that case was a bit unfortunate since his look reminded me of the Mikado and I kept expecting him to burst into "My Object All Sublime."

If the setting moved me to a different world, the translation kept pulling me back to this one. I suspect one reason for performing The Magic Flute in English is that it is now considered the gateway opera par excellence and performing it in translation seems more family-friendly (though parents please note: when people talk about The Magic Flute as a great opera for children, they aren't talking about your average five-year-old; seriously, what is wrong with you people?). This version wasn't bad; a lot of it fit the music quite well and during the intermission I heard many audience members assuring each other that though of course they would prefer the original German, they found it worked surprisingly well in English. The dialogue scenes are always awkward in German, so doing them in English makes some sense, though (for me at least) making these scenes more comprehensible doesn't make them more entertaining, and I would prune them ruthlessly, instead of adding jokes about drag queens, carb intake, and other obligatory local and topical references. Lots of people did seem to find the jokes more amusing than I did, but for me they were more along the lines of jokiness, and that's the difference between creating a fairy-tale and a vaudeville. My major criticism of the production was that it was a bit too cheerful; there could have been more darkness and danger, more of the threatening undercurrent found in most fairy tales.

Most of the demotic tomfoolery fell on the broad shoulders of our Papageno, and Nathan Gunn, who has performed the role many times, was in warm and fluid voice and as an actor of considerable skill and charm managed to pull off the jokes, even though I would have been happier without them. Even though, like everyone else, I love Papageno, there is a point in every other performance I've seen where I get deeply irritated with him: that would be when he finally manages to stop talking at exactly the wrong time, when his chattiness might be useful in reassuring Pamina, who's been left in the dark. This time I not only wasn't irritated with him, I was actually touched by the abashed and awkward manner in which he reassured Tamino afterward that he could actually keep quiet once in a while. So that is my tribute to Nathan Gunn's performance: he kept me for once consistently on Papageno's side. As usual with Gunn his diction was excellent, rendering the surtitles unnecessary. In fact most of the cast, even those who were not native speakers of English, could be understood without reference to the surtitles, which is not always the case. And like everyone else I love the scene with Papagena at the end, and Nadine Sierra was a delightful Papagena. Instead of the usual "old woman" costume for her first appearance she was disguised as a large vulture, which was amusing.

Sigmundsson as Sarastro was the weakest of the leads; his low notes got very croaky and raspy; he behaved but did not sing with the requisite warmth and nobility. Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night spun off her two flashy arias with considerable style, though I would have preferred a crueler edge to her performance, because most of the characterization in this opera is simply asserted so every little bit helps. (Indeed, she does command her daughter to kill Sarastro, but given that he's kidnapped that daughter, taken the sevenfold disk of the sun or whatever the hell it is, and been badmouthing her all over town, I can't really blame her for holding a grudge.) The usual racial awkwardness with the villainous Moor Monostatos (Greg Fedderly) was avoided by dressing him like a kabuki warlord or demon, but he was for me a bit too straightforwardly comic, and as with the Queen there should have been more of a sense of real menace from him. (The translation also should have just jettisoned the occasional unnecessary reference to him as a Moor, especially since he really wasn't. If you're going to translate, you might as well take advantage of it.) Lovely Heidi Stober was a lovely Pamina.  She's been consistently fine the other times I've heard her and she stood out this time as well. Her suicide aria was particularly impassioned and heart-rending. With her shoulder-length blonde hair and her angular blue and white dresses she looked like Alice in a Mod World Wonderland.

I've started hearing a lot about Alek Shrader, the Tamino for most of the run, but he was not scheduled for the last two performances, which were the ones that fit my schedule, so I guess I won't hear him until his San Francisco Performances recital next season. Nathaniel Peake, originally scheduled for the Shraderless shows, withdrew and Norman Reinhardt was the last-minute replacement. He has sung the role elsewhere (though obviously not in this new translation) but I understand he didn't even have a rehearsal of this staging. Under the circumstances, it would have been impressive if he had merely kept from tripping over the other singers, but he also managed to give a convincing and lovely-toned performance. I wouldn't have been surprised to hear he had been Tamino through the whole run. He perhaps tired just a shade towards the end, but then so did I, and I was just sitting down watching instead of singing to thousands in a production I hadn't rehearsed, which sounds like an anxiety dream.

It helped that Reinhardt is tall, attractive, and stalwart, because you need qualities like that to counteract Tamino's actual behavior, since he is probably the most hilariously unmanly of all operatic heroes: he enters crying for help, running from a really big snake, and promptly faints center stage. The big snake is handily dispatched by three ladies, who then take turns singing about how pretty Tamino is. He immediately falls in love with Pamina after seeing her portrait (this is not the last example we'll see of his very suggestible nature), but she is actually rescued not by him but by his goofball companion the bird-catcher while he is wandering elsewhere tootling on his flute. He does manage to keep the vow of silence imposed on him by some people he's just met, though he has no real reason to believe what they tell him, as opposed to what the Queen of the Night has told him. A vow of silence is a fairly perverse vow to give the hero of an opera, and I sometimes wonder if this was Mozart and Schikaneder getting in a little jab at chatty audiences. By keeping the vow he comes close to pushing the woman he loves towards suicide, but luckily once again he is saved from the consequences of his actions. Given all this it's understandable that there's some masculine anxiety underlying the injunctions from Sarastro and Co. against the deceitful wiles of women. The translation should probably have removed said injunctions entirely, since they just make a contemporary audience laugh at rather than with the material, but honestly "beware the deceitful wiles of women" is the only specific step we are ever given towards a somewhat vague and sketchy enlightenment. (And when is Pamina ever deceitful? Does she not insist to Papageno that if Sarastro questions them they must speak only the truth? And is she not a woman? I've always found her the most consistently admirable and sympathetic character in the opera.) Despite my gentle mockery here this really is a beautiful and strange opera with a profound message, but it's perhaps best not to examine the specifics too closely and just to let the music move you toward the embrace of charitable justice and benevolent enlightenment.

So I ended up glad that I had bought a ticket. When the final curtain fell the audience roared its appreciation and behind the curtain I could hear the performers give themselves a justified cheer. I found myself lingering in the aisles and the lobby afterward, reluctant to leave. It's always poignant and a bit difficult leaving the house after the last show of the season, even though I know the new season is gearing up in just a few weeks.

Haiku 2012/197

blue-reflecting pool
why ripple the clear surface?
watch the fish below

14 July 2012

Haiku 2012/196

winds parted the clouds
so sunlight danced in the streets
though just for an hour

13 July 2012

Haiku 2012/195

soft blank emptiness
what do you see in the fog
I notice Nothing

12 July 2012

Haiku 2012/194

rows of summer fruits
piled in glowing pyramids
caskets of jewels

11 July 2012

Haiku 2012/193

narcotic poppies
nodding earthward, drawing in
drowsy humming bees

10 July 2012

Haiku 2012/192

clouds cover the moon
yet you stare out the window:
what do you wait for

09 July 2012

08 July 2012

Haiku 2012/190

those far lilting hills
looked steeper at a distance
still, I pause for breath

07 July 2012

Haiku 2012/189

scattered images
of the day crystallize on
that white butterfly

06 July 2012

Haiku 2012/188

splashing through the pool
to the last corner still lit
by the setting sun

05 July 2012

Haiku 2012/187

far away fireworks
sparkling burst falling golden
fading back to dark

04 July 2012

Haiku 2012/186

(for America on the 4th of July)

our bombs will destroy
you many times over but
we can't run buses

03 July 2012

Haiku 2012/185

water can reflect
dam your stream-of-consciousness
jump in, Narcissus!

02 July 2012

Haiku 2012/184

beneath the fragrance
of your just-bitten apple:
a ghostly blossom. . . .

01 July 2012

Haiku 2012/183

so much left to do
sitting there it's all undone:
contemplate the wind