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February 5, 2021:

OPERA FOR DUMMIES

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, it occurs to me that all this writing about operas recently (you’ll understand why very soon), which is basically me reacquainting myself with operas I know and discovering many that I don’t know at all, is rather like opera for dummies, because when one is new to stuff one pontificates from a place of not much knowledge. Of course, that can be interesting, just a guy listening and giving his uneducated thoughts for whatever they’re worth. And I’ve been enjoying doing it, I must say. I’m still trying to get with certain composers and I still don’t much respond to anything written prior to the mid-1800s but that’s just my musical taste. From the very start, I always loved Puccini. And the American operas I discovered in my early teens. But I never went much beyond that until the early CD era, when I bought the Puccini operas on CD. I liked them so much that I began buying up other things to sample, like Street Scene, like Cavalleria Rusticana and Walton’s Troilus and Cressida and William Alwyn’s Miss Julie, the latter two which I’ll be revisiting soon. Of course, I knew various arias from various things, and I knew some of the interludes and overtures, but that was about it. I know I had a few other operas back in the late 1980s and I’m sure they’re all in boxes out in the garage and maybe someday I’ll get someone to haul down those since they’re on a high shelf in a corner. Luckily for me, I did find a good many of them in a box that was convenient. Now, recently I listened to Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and loved it. Which led me to L’Amico Fritz, which I loved, and tonight it was Iris. The funny thing about Iris is that the minute I saw the cover and the booklet I realized I’d bought that when it came out, mostly because I liked the cover, but I know I was fond of it and that proved to be the case after all these years. Mascagni is usually thought of as a one-opera wonder, but I’m beginning to think he’s one of the most underrated of them all. His music is beautiful and a pleasure to hear. There isn’t much more available, but I’d like to hear what there is. I also listened to the first of the three CDs of Prince Igor, which I’m enjoying very much – Borodin was a wonderful composer. These Russian operas tend to sound very declamatory with lots of bass singers, but they are well composed and in the case of Borodin, filled with recognizable tunes. And right now, I’m listening to my beloved Street Scene, a radio broadcast from the Hollywood Bowl. It’s not complete, which is a shame and it’s missing a few of my favorite numbers. I don’t know if they did them and they were left off this or someone’s tape wasn’t complete – this was a concert performance featuring a few from the original cast. I also wish it sounded better because if it did, I’d think about putting it out. I didn’t realize this show opened in the year of my birth and that it won the very first Tony Award for best score. Anyway, I have more operas coming and I’m looking forward to all of ‘em.

Yesterday was an okay day. Once again, I got seven-and-a-half hours of sleep, answered e-mails, did a few things that needed doing, posted about project one aka Tonight’s the Night – I think only one dear reader shared the post. I’d really appreciate it if you’d all share it, if possible. Then I went and picked up some packages, after which I went to Gelson’s and bought hamburger patties, buns, and lettuce, along with some fresh ham off the bone as they call it and some Swiss cheese. I came home and made two cheeseburgers and I must say they were really good and kind of calorie friendly. The ham and Swiss are for today or tomorrow. After that, I did some work on the computer, and prepared some guidelines for casting project two. That casting stuff will start at the end of next week. And I continue to plan the March Kritzerland. Then I made the last of the patties for my evening snack and it was very good, too. After all that, I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I finished watching the second half of Carmen, starring Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna. I really loved the two leads – a couple of the male co-leads weren’t all that, but the production itself worked really well, I thought, but the closest I’ve come to seeing Carmen is Otto Preminger’s film of Carmen Jones. Richard Eyre is a fine director and Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography worked well, I thought, and Miss Garanca is totally game and up for it. What I love about Garanca is not only her gorgeous voice but the fact that she doesn’t shmact and posture – she inhabits the character and she’s just wonderful, and I felt the same about Alagna. I was also impressed with the young conductor – he did a great job. And all you need to know just how good this production is is to look at the other production these two leads did overseas, directed by some moron who set it in modern times and, of course, made it all about him rather than the score and text – and neither Garanca nor Alagna are nearly as good in that one.

After that, it was more listening and the rest you know.

Today, I’ll be up by eleven at the latest, I’ll do whatever needs doing, and then at one the Darling Daughter will come for a brief visit, so that will be fun. If she’s hungry, maybe we’ll order in or go find somewhere with outdoor dining like Jinky’s nearby. I wish Casa Vega would reopen for outdoor dining or even takeout – hopefully soon. After that, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, if we don’t eat then I’ll have ham and Swiss sandwiches, and then at some point I’ll watch, listen, and relax.

Tomorrow, I may be getting back proofer one’s notes and if I do then I’ll be entering those and then I can get the book to proofer two – it may only be two for this book – we’ll see. Sunday will probably be a ME day, and then next week is all about debuting project one aka Tonight’s the Night, premiering on Wednesday along with a cast partay after, then repeat showings on Friday and Sunday. Here’s a little flyer for it with all the pertinent information.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up by eleven, do whatever needs doing, have a visit with the Darling Daughter, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and then watch, listen, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Friday – what is currently in your CD player and your DVD/Blu and Ray player? I’ll start – CD, the rest of Prince Igor and whatever shows up. DVD, I’m thinking I’ll watch the Previn opera of A Streetcar Named Desire and then the Blu-ray of Carmen Jones. Your turn. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to be continuing on this opera for dummies journey.

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