This is a video a friend sent me recently. The format – illustrated lecture – is neat. Some of the points he makes, particularly similarities between schools and factories, and the idea of divergent thinking, are quite interesting. It’s well worth 11 minutes of time.
The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas April 20, 22, 25, 28, May 4, 6, 2012
Review by Dean M. Cassella, Ph.D.
The Dallas Opera closes this season with a real gem. Mozart’s last foray into musical theater, which premiered barely two months before he died, is always a crowd pleaser, and this production delivers on all fronts.
In some respects, the playbill could be billed as “home-grown,” singing wise. The prima donna, Ava Pine, hails from Galveston, and has been a regular singer for TDO and FW Opera for several years running. Lead tenor Shawn Mathey is from Bowling Green, OH. In the role of Pamina, the kidnapped daughter of the Queen of the Night (in this production strangely called the “Starblazing Queen”), Pine has really come into her own as one of the leading voices on the stages of North Texas and, no doubt, wherever else she sings. Her voice is a commanding presence, and she is perfectly cast here. Mathey as Tamino, the love-struck prince who is enjoined by the Queen to rescue her daughter from the allegedly evil new-age high priest, Sarastro, combines a dashing stage persona with a sweet, resonant voice that is the hallmark of a lyric tenor.
The role of Papageno, the buffoonish, down-to-earth bird catcher of the Queen, requires its performer to ham it up, big time. New Jersey Baritone Patrick Carfizzi proves fully capable of acting the role, while simultaneously giving an excellent vocal performance throughout.
The two arias for the Queen of the Night are among the most difficult of the coloratura soprano repertoire. Beautiful Slovene soprano L’ubica Vargicova is clearly quite adept in the role, although she does take that split-second pause before hitting the highest note in the Queen’s trademark vocal runs. No matter: both arias will bring delight to your ears and heart!
Basso Raymond Aceto appears regularly in TDO productions. Here, he does an outstanding job as Sarastro, a priest of the Enlightenment, who sets Tamino and Papageno off on an initiation ritual that ultimately leads to marriage for both.
One of the most beloved scenes in The Magic Flute is the duet between Papageno and his bride, Papagena. In the latter role, soprano Angela Mannino sings decently enough. But she, in this production at least, does not really inject much life into the character. Cast up against Carfizzi, this is modestly disappointing.
The sets, designed by the late Jörg Zimmerman, are among the most beautiful I have seen. They have an almost Disneyesque feel, and remind me of the Metropolitan Opera’s recently retired first set of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, designed by Günther Schneider-Siemssen. As with many productions, the sets pay homage to the surviving drawings of the originals.
Overall, you cannot do wrong in going to see this production. The music is delightful, the performers are top-notch, and the stage production is exquisite. You will walk out of the theater with a smile on your face!
My religion professor, Dr. Andy Fort, inspired this post with some thoughts he brought forward in class.
There is a temptation among us to feel our lives are monotonous: we do the same thing with little variation and few chances for self-expression. Our lives are mundane! Routinized! And yet…each day we wear many hats, and without realizing it fulfill role after disparate role, and on each can leave our mark and express our mood, feelings, views…
For example, I am driving to school. It is my job to stay within the lines, to stop when the lights say to, and to not drive much faster or slower than the other cars on the road. Theoretically, I am paying attention. If I am in a bad mood, I might cut people off. If I’m on a power trip, I might drive really fast. If I am feeling a sense of comradery with my fellow humans, I may send a friendly wave to the car that lets me by.
A little later, I am a student. It is my job to sit down. Even if I am not listening, I should not distract my peers. I should at least give nominal attention to the person at the front of the room. If I have better things to do, I might sleep, or doodle, or text. If I am irritated by the professor, I might roll my eyes, ask leading questions – or not show up at all. If I really want to show what a big shot I am, I might prop my feet up on the desk next to me, eat food loudly, or always show up late with a smirk on my face.
Now, I am a pedestrian. It is my job to make way for others, and to not walk in front of cars. If I am feeling cheery, I might make eye contact and smile at others. If I am down, I stare at the ground. I have the option of focusing on not walking on the cracks, looking at the scenery, or even walking with my eyes mostly closed. If I am feeling surly, I may scowl, or cut in front of people. I am feeling full of myself, or see an enemy, I might fail to make way for them. This subtly aggressive move certainly gets my point across.
Ah, my phone is ringing. I can pick it up. I can let it go to voicemail. I can press the “ignore” button and give a little “up yours” to whomever is calling. I can answer with a smile on my face. I can answer with a “Hi!’ a “hey,” or even a “what?”
I need groceries. Well here the choices are endless. I can vote with my dollars and recieve what I want! If I am feeling like taking care of myself, I might buy fruits and vegetables. If I am feeling sullen, I might choose Oreos.
I am at work. I can do my job, faithfully taking care of the task at hand. Maybe I can talk with co-workers, or take some…not entirely necessary bathroom breaks. I can suck up to my boss. I can play Angry Birds on my phone. I can be pro-active and focus. I can take someone else’s work so they have more time. I can take a late lunch. I can take a long lunch. I can skip work, or show up tipsy, or stay late into the night, working overtime to do everything perfectly.
It is dark. I am getting ready for bed. Ah, goodnight world. What a busy day. Choose your own adventure, eat your heart out!
As given by my mother’s good friend (and wedding photographer), the late Ollie Oleson
1. Get the money up front.
2. He’s the one who’s going to have to live with her.
3. Get the money up front.
Try as I ever do to deny it, begrudge it, or rail against it, I am a hopeless romantic. Almost all of my favorite movies that indulge this are foreign.
As a kid, I thought foreign films were lame. Dean Cassella set me to rights when he showed me Amelie in 2004. Here is what today constitutes my short-list.
The one that looks, sounds, and feels like an impressionist painting: Amelie
My original favorite movie. This is the one I only watch rarely, because I want to save it for when I really need it. Amelie is a different, reclusive young woman living in Paris, feeling like she’ll never not be lonely. One day, when dedicating herself to doing nice things for people without them knowing about it, she sees someone in the subway…and becomes determined to meet him. Lacking the courage, she devotes herself to various stratagems. The Glass Man is a great supporting character.
Best theme: Comptine D’Un Autre Ete. Sounds like rain falling.
The one that gave me hope when I had given up: Dilwale Dulhania la Jayenge
I don’t even know how to describe this. It’s an epic, it made my laugh and want to cry. It made both the leads superstars of Indian cinema; it is the longest-running movie in India, it is one of the best loved Hindi films. Shah Ruhk Khan is an obnoxious, wealthy, young NRI, and Kajol is a spirited girl about to marry someone she has never met. They both miss their train, and things are never the same. Do note: it is over three hours long, and the first and second half are like two different (though both wonderful) movies.
Favorite song: depicts exactly what it feels like to be missing somebody and see them everywhere: “Ho Gaya Hai…”
The one that transports you: Howl’s Moving Castle
I actually watch this in English; Disney came out with a version that has, among other things, Christian Bale voicing Howl. I have seen it in the original Japanese, though. Sophie is a quiet girl, feeling left behind by life. After being squired along one day by the wizard Howl, a jealous witch turns her into an old woman. She goes in search of something to break the curse, and ends up in Howl’s castle. But throw away everything you have thought about witches, wizards and magic: this masterpiece by Hiyao Miyazaki is something totally different. The soundtrack is almost as captivating as the artwork. I think I could look at those landscapes all day…just like Sophie!
La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi
Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas April 13, 15, 18, 21, 27, 29, 2012
Review by Dean M. Cassella, Ph.D.
The Dallas Opera’s latest production, a rendition of Verdi’s La traviata (“The Fallen One”), one of the most popular works in the repertoire, is performed so regularly that it is difficult to come up with surprises (apart from going post-modern and setting it on a leper colony on a deserted island, or some such thing). But the national premiere of a fabulous new prima donna, well, that’s something worth writing home about.
This is the first time that Greek soprano Myrtò Papatanasiu graces an American stage. Judging from her fantastic performance at the Winspear, as Violetta, the irresistible but doomed courtesan, one can hope that she becomes a prominent feature in American houses. One is almost inclined to imagine her to be some treasured secret in Europe. However, she is not exactly a neophyte in the International Opera world, with no less than two Naxos DVD’s to her credit (Così Fan Tutte, and Il turco in Italia).
Her lush, rosy-colored voice absolutely commands attention and, at times, borders on the hypnotic. She also seems occasionally to bring back (slightly) the old practice of taking liberties with the text at climactic moments. This is all to the good, as it hearkens back to the actual practice of bel canto opera as it was performed in its heyday. One could arguably say that this makes for a more authentic performance than a slavish fidelity to the score, an approach sometimes associated with conductor Ricardo Muti.
With tenor James Valenti’s third starring role at TDO (as Alfredo, Violetta’s devoted star-crossed lover), it’s safe to say that he is now a regular feature in Dallas, and that’s a good thing. He delivered some excellent singing and was reasonably well-matched with Papatanasiu.
French baritone Laurent Naouri sings a wonderful Giorgio Germont, the stern father of Alfredo, who compels Violetta to abandon her beloved for the sake of his (Alfredo’s) sister’s impending wedding. Naouri has particularly notable articulation. If he has any fault, it is that he is too slender and handsome to be a completely convincing Giorgio (ha!).
Mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider, who hails from Pennsylvania, performs a delightfully feisty Flora, Violetta’s friend and quintessential Parisian party girl.
Genoese conductor Marco Guidarini held things together reasonably, although his conducting at times seemed a bit understated.
The stage direction of veteran Bliss Hebert really left something to be desired. Simply speaking, not much happens on stage in this Traviata. One of the best known duets in the opera, Libiamo! (“Let’s Toast!”) is a virtual paean to sensuality. Yet the chorus of partygoers, libertines to the core, merely sit at table, like sexagenarians at a canasta match. Even Valenti, normally dashing, comes across a little flat. This is all very surprising, as Hebert’s previous work for TDO (notably his Tales of Hofmann in 2005/2006) was inspired.
Charles Allen Klein’s sets are absolutely fabulous, and convey a sense of grandeur and richness that can be described as “Met-like.” Firmly rooted in the libretto, they vividly depict lush, palatial residences in nineteenth-century Paris. Flora’s home in Act II, literally glowing in red, is particularly notable.
On the whole, the show makes for an enjoyable evening. Papatanasiu alone is worth the price of admission.
Next up: Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
1. That I need some personal finance lessons (when I admitted to my grandmother that, despite (almost) being a college graduate who is on the cusp of taking out loans of unholy magnitude for medical school, “I don’t actually understand how interest is calculated.”)
2 .And that if the prospect of six-figure loans doesn’t spur me to financial literacy and new-and-improved austerity measures, then I don’t know what (after getting my financial aid for medical school next year and multipling some numbers by 4).
3. That, despite years of practice denying that there is anything less than wonderful about my appearance, my mother can be honest (“Well, you could get better at putting together outfits” – said as I wore a black dress with a waist below my bust, a cover-up that went to my real waist, and tan flip-flops. This reminds me of an old friend who used to yell at me for wearing a blue shirt with jeans…and yes, this was a guy friend)
4. You spell it recommend, with only one C, because it is like re-commend…get it? Finally, one of my many mis-spelling habits bites the dust.
5. I am a (terribly out-of-balance) vata.
6. Someone actually found a way to improve even more on the song Serets by One Republic:
6. It is in fact impossible to get out of PetSmart (or Petco or such) without dropping a pile of money (after somehow spending almost $20 on a bag of hay and some little plastic grass for the bottom of a fish tank)
7. Pettiness knows no ends (after someone, almost certainly another student at my college filled with affluent upper-middle class denizens, stole my Coach wallet -the only such fancy item that was in my ownership – and cash, leaving behind my driver’s license, credit card, etc. wrapped in a red hair tie).
8. That an astounding 5,888 children were victims of domestic violence in Tarrant County (Fort Worth) last year (thanks to large pinwheel display and awareness week hosted by the Alliance for Children at TCU this week).
9. Pass-failing was a good idea (after I missed my 5th class in Ceramics, probably a record in my entire college career – and representing 15 hours of class time. In my defense, I do go in and pratice on the weekends and in the evenings).
10. That…you know that person you want to kick in the shins because they just can’t seem to sit down and, say, not over-achieve for ten minutes? Umm…yeah. (after talking to almost all the other students at TCU going to med school this fall and finding that, so far, I am the only one not filling my summer with pool-lounging, bobbing about the country/world traveling, or catching up on TV, as I will be doing a research internship at UT Southwestern. Someone mentioned the possiblity of me being a “workaholic” who “doesn’t know when to quit.” Ummm…touche.)
Until next time…keep your eyes open…your pocketbook closed…and your ego and ability to laugh at self in close proximity.
This is a rant. I don’t want to sound like some cheerless whiner, moaning about how society is just on the downward slope to nowhere…but seriously, people. Is this what we are?
I really don’t like Facebook. I find it a celebration of some of the worst aspects of humanity – self-centeredness, prejudice, hypocrisy, tribalism, greed, and the ability to shut down all but the back of your mind as you go on auto-pilot, meandering through a thought-devoid activity that gives you just enough – satisfaction? enjoyment? – to keep clicking.
Upon logging in to Facebook, I am most often confronted with things I don’t want to see – pictures of a distant relative posing for professional, pin-up girl style photographs; memes and jokes that I find distasteful, but which show up in my feed because a “friend” shared them, requests to be added by people I don’t actually really like that much…not to mention the vacant fluff – the pointless updates “I just had waffles” “My team is up by one!” “OMG im SO HUNGOVER but it wuz WORTHIT!!!” and the general atmosphere of sickening self-affirmations, the collective “it’s all about me”-ness of the whole thing. You share where you are, what you are doing, what you think, what you feel, who you are with, where you are going…You tag others, but let’s be honest, half the time you do it hoping they will tag you back sometime.
The majority of what happens on Facebook is not just pointless, but degenerate. I see very little that encourages any kind of moral behavior, personal development, learning or training of any kind…just the opposite. It’s an orgy of pettiness…and we pay for it! We literally give of ourselves to partake in this. We give space to targeted advertisements, we allow others to database our data and activity…and our time…I don’t even want to fathom the collective hours we spend there.
And yet! And yet – this stupid activity is almost ubiquitous. I can count on one hand the family members over the age of ten who don’t have a page, and I can’t think of a single peer who doesn’t have their photo and workplace and political views/religion/place of birth/favorite quotes up for all to see. Now, not everyone spends so much time there – but many do. It’s as though somehow we signed some collective societal contract: We the Online People of Planet Earth, Being of Sound Mind and Able Finger, will Emblazon Our Personal Stamp, and Share Our Unique Greatness, and Join Together in this Great Society. And anyone who doesn’t cooperate or contribute..well, they are an aberration. What are they going to do next, decide to start treating green lights as the “stop” signal?
I hate to say, it looks like this is here to stay…well, Facebook probably isn’t. Given a few years, we will move on to a better and improved medium for sharing our obsession with ourselves to all the world. We will keep clicking and scrolling and Liking and trying to be creative and different and unique…about as effectively as people try to be unique by putting together outfits by shopping at several stores at the mall, or having “their” drink at Starbucks.
All I have to say is: attention all. There is a world out there, and you are not it.
The best way out is always through.
~ Robert Frost
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
~ Lao Tzu
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
A large bush in our yard burst into bloom yesterday. A and I spent some time with the butterflies who had come to check out the offerings.
- Playing Catch Up – TDO Reviews | The Dallas Opera Blog on TDO’s New Magic Flute Bound to be a Crowd Pleaser
- Pia on (If) I detest Facebook (Why Do I Still Have A Profile?)
- The Critics Weigh-In on LA TRAVIATA | The Dallas Opera Blog on Soprano Myrtò Papatanasiu Scores a Victory with TDO’s Traviata
- Dean Cassella on (If) I detest Facebook (Why Do I Still Have A Profile?)
- The Doobie Brothers – What a fool believes | TrendSurfer on Reflection on What a Fool Believes, 1979