Another one of those cyclical things: ce soir, nous allons a l'opera. That is to say, tonight we are going to the opera, joining what is usually a surprisingly large crowd of mostly gray-haired people and some younger artistic types, a multi-cultural horde of Hawaii folks eager for one of the world's original multi-media events. Puccini's Manon Lescaut kicks off the three-part season, the only theatrical thing that the Wizard will consent to sit through in an darkened auditorium with strangers. Our season tickets have us well seated every other Friday through the end of February. Live opera is enjoyable partly because it 's unpredictable: odd things can happen like during The Mikado when the Japanese Consul of Hawaii played that role and opened the second act with an unscripted aside to the audience: "I want you to know that this [the crazy opera] has absolutely nothing to do with Japan." Then there was the Barber of Seville in which a bulldog wandered around the stage aimlessly, stealing the show. And last season, another Barber who performed entirely on a Segway. Seeing the same opera again is always a new experience. (Although I think I could probably do without revisiting 2005's "Susannah." The Wizard's comment: "McCarthy has a lot to account for." It includes characters named Blitch and Little Bat.)
Speaking of dogs, somewhere in the middle of this season will also occur the Westminster Kennel Club Show, as scripted and yet unpredictable as an opera, with prancing and posing and critiques of performances. I'm really a cat person in that I prefer to live with felines and envy their lifestyle; though I like dogs, from a distance, especially other people's dogs. I always associate this TV evening with February in Hawaii. I cuddle up under a blanket with a cat on my feet and we watch the dogs. Scripted like the opera, with that same cultured-sounding guy who describes the breeds, there are still memorable surprises: the time a junior handler had to cope with her charge pooping in the middle of her promenade, on TV no less; the inspiring tribute to the 9/11 rescue dogs (stalwart retrievers and shepherds who must have regarded the poodles and shitzus the way construction workers or sailors look at models or TV news anchors); the best-of-show German shepherd of 15 years ago who had such poise, I thought he was going to make an acceptance speech: "I'd like to thank my handler, my groomer, and all the good folks at Ken-L-Ration."
The opera and the dog show are all about propriety and grace under pressure, similar to values that I'm seeing in the Jane Austen video fest I've been indulging in recently. Everyone in the 18th century knows their place, has impeccable manners and clear expectations (although sometimes people do lose it like the dog on promenade and other folks are just plain mean and stupid). Passion is balanced by modesty.
Maybe this 18th century mood is why I was a little startled by a news clip on Obama's nod to a Beyonce video. Beyonce is a beautiful woman, and clearly talented, but do Barack and Michelle let the girls watch "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"? Is this soft porn or burlesque? Would Jane Austen do the single ladies dance? Would it fly in an opera? I guess I'm just behind the times.
6 years ago