Today I made the trek to the Marcus South Shore multiplex to see Rusalka, the Met Live in HD simulcast of the performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. $24 for a four-hour experience, including two ample intermissions. It was, for me, a powerful experience. This is only the second Met Live in HD production I've seen, and, not coincidentally, the second time I've understood the fuss about opera. Renee Fleming's voice was luscious and buttery, all the other singers were very good, and the production, though old-fashioned, made consistent dramatic sense--though I must admit the wood nymphs put me to sleep whenever they appeared. Maybe their musical theme has a powerful effect on the sleep centers of my brain, or maybe the lack of dramatic momentum during their frolics just gave me an opportunity to doze. 

The message of Dvořák's opera appears to be: 

1. If you are a magical immortal creature, especially a water-based one, avoid those treacherous humans, with all their incomprehensible socially-motivated passions. No good will come of miscegenation with one of them. You'll find yourself in cut-for-music-video version of Les Liaisons dangereuses, with no opportunity to learn their evil human games.

2. However, if you do fall in love with a human, dooming both of you forever, it is possible that beauty will come of it--ravishing, heart-rending beauty--but only if your love is pure and strong.
Continue reading

Reading Saramago, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis

Marcenda leaned back on the sofa, slowly stroking her left hand, her back to the window, her face scarcely visible. Normally Salvador would appear now to turn on the chandelier, the pride and joy of Hotel Baraganca, but on this occasion he does not, as if to show his displeasure at being excluded from a conversation which he, after all, made possible. This is how they repay him, sitting there rapt in conversation, whispering almost in darkness. No sooner did he think this than the chandelier went on, Ricardo Reis had taken the initiative, because anyone walking into the lounge would have been suspicious to find a man and a woman together in the shadows, even if the man was the doctor and the woman a cripple.

Emerging from the page, he says to himself: yes, that’s it, I will devote myself to the pursuit of pure beauty, beauty in its pure form, no, that’s not the right word, beauty doesn’t do justice to what Saramago achieves, for one thing there is a simplicity, an ordinariness to his language, what elevation it has come from something other than the urge to write beautiful prose...

...maybe that’s the problem, a definition of beauty derived from poetry, for there is certainly an imaginative intoxication in Saramago’s description of the conversation between Ricardo Reis and the girl with the paralyzed hand at dusk in parlor of the hotel, but the beauty that Saramago achieves is an inherently fictional beauty, an inherently narrative beauty, an inherently dramatic beauty...

Continue reading