Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: theatre to ponder

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Debussy / Nijinsky / Nureyev

397px-Faun_merse

      Faun and Nymph (1867)

 

              Pál Szinyei Merse               

 

                      ________

 

 

to take a break, for a moment, from the

travails of Io, a heifer still, though her

father, Inachus, is aware of the situation,

and Hermes, messenger of the gods, is 

out, on the orders of Jove/ Jupiter / Zeus

to save her, and, at the same time, 

inspired by the music Hermes tells Argus

her many-eyed keeper, Pan, god of the

wilds, has been playing, with reeds he’s 

been left with of Syrinx, the nymph he  

would’ve loved had she not been 

transformed into rushes, as imagined by 

Debussy in his evocative Syrinx for solo 

flute, as highlighted in my last instalment

I could not not remember Debussy‘s 

other similarly mythological, and intimately

related, work, his Prelude to the Afternoon 

of a Faun, as modified itself by Vaslav

Nijinsky, legendary dancer and 

choreographer, into an event that verily 

shook the early 20th Century 

 

retitled, L’après-midi d’un faune, The

Afternoon of a Faun in English, the 

performance captures everything one

would gather from Ovid’s myths of its 

primitive, primal, sensibilities

 

the faun, needless to say, is representative 

of Pan, god of the wild, woodlands, a satyr, 

part instinct, part man, see above 

 

watch Rudolf Nureyev, then, his equally 

celebrated successor, take on the role

Nijinsky made famous, without any 

alterations made to the original 1912 

production, however improbably, 

though entirely successfully, we’re in 

Paris, May 29, though transposed,

faithfully and superbly, to New York,

Broadway, 1979 

 

proceed, however, at your own discretion, 

The Afternoon of a Faun is steaming, it’s 

about what happens when a young buck’s 

fancies, implacable and irrepressible, turn 

to love, not for the scrupulous, where does 

love begin, it asks, and lust retire, or is it 

the other way around, where does yin, in 

other words, meet, become, yang

 

these are questions that more and more 

begin to come up, you’ll find, in Greek 

and Roman, and most other ancient, 

for that matter, mythologies, something 

that isn’t at all touched upon in the 

Abrahamic traditions, Christanity, Islam, 

Judaism, monotheistic, though they’re 

at least as old, where nature, the place 

of animals, vegetation, land, water, our

intimate interconnection with them, 

don’t much, for better or for worse, 

come up

 

I miss the wonder of the more 

pantheistic, the pagan, perspective 

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“Orfeo ed Euridice” – Christoph Willibald Gluck

6-orpheus-leading-eurydice-from-the-underworld-plein-air-romanticism-jean-baptiste-camille-corot.jpg!Large

   Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861) 

 

           Camille Corot

 

              _________

 

the question of the afterlife comes up

in several places in art history, from

very Homer to the present, my very

favourite is Gluck‘s opera Orfeo ed 

Euridice“, 1762

 

Orpheus, because of the sweetness 

of his music, his ability on the lyre, 

is granted, by the rulers of the 

Underworld, the return, among the 

mortals, of his recently deceased 

beloved, Eurydice 

 

the condition is that he not turn back

to look at her as he leads her back 

to the world of the living, our 

sensate world

 

it’s a journey I’ve taken often for its

utter enchantment and inspiration,

you’ll find it irresistible

 

watch, listen 

 

you won’t want to not go back,

I didn’t


 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 1, opus 15 – Beethoven

Jolson_black

      Al Jolson, in “The Jazz Singer” (1927)


              _________________

 


in order to abate my discomfort, my

consternation, after meeting up with

one of the candidates I considered

favouring in the upcoming election,

I put on Beethoven’s Firstwhich,

incontrovertibly, from the first few 

notes, did the trick, took me out of 

politics and the uncomfortable 

present, into metaphysical 

pertinence, and magic

 

I’d referred to the issue of blackface,

a searing issue at present in the 

media, I said, what about Laurence 

Olivier doing Othello, Placido 

Domingo doing the very same Moor,

not to mention Al Jolson doing,

unforgettably, My Mammy 

 

but picked up that neither the

candidate, nor his mentor, standing 

by his side, had any idea what I was 

talking about 

 

Placido Domingo, I said, one of The

Three Tenors, remember them

 

the aspiring representative indicated 

a dim recollection, his accompanist 

admitted to having nebulously heard

of him, them, somewhere

 

OMGess, I reared, I’m talking to the 

next generation, maybe even the 

generation after that, who have no

recollection, no understanding of

where I come from, it was, to say

the least,  unsettling, discomfitting, 

sobering 

 

there was no one at home with whom 

to commiserate when I arrived, 

answering machines only at the end 

of every line, I resorted, therefore, 

not unwisely as it turned out, to the

said Beethoven, who was, as usual, 

lifesaver

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

“Années de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year – Liszt

petrarch.jpg!Large

     “Petrarch (c.1450) 

 

           Andrea del Castagno


                     ___________

 

 

                                    for John, who would’ve 

                                                       been 60 today

 


though the suite might’ve started with

Bach’s string of dance pieces in the 

early 18th Centuryit becomes evident 

during the 19th Century, after a lapse 

of nearly 100 years, while it fell into 

disfavour, that its resurrection as a 

valid musical form might’ve kept the 

original structure, which is to say its 

several separate parts to make up a 

whole, its movements, but that it 

now was serving different purpose 

 

where music had, through to the early

Romantic Period, followed dance 

rhythms, or variations of tempo,

adagio, andante, allegro, and the like,

it now presented itself as a background

for settings, be it ballets, as in

Tchaikovsky’s, plays, as in Edvard

Grieg’s celebrated , Peer Gynt Suite“,

after Ibsen‘s eponymous play,

specific locations, as in Debussy’s

Children’s Corner“, or more  

expansively, both geographically

and in its compositional length,

these very “Années de pèlerinage” 

of Liszt

 

this is in keeping with the exploration

of consciousness of that era, which 

would lead to not only Impressionism, 

but to Freud, and the others, and the 

development of psychoanalysis

 

you’ll note that music seems much 

more improvisational in Liszt than in

Chopin, or Beethoven, prefiguring

already even jazz, more evocative,

less emotional, more personal, not

generalized, idiosyncratic, a direct

development of the newly acquired

concept of democracy, one man, at

the time, one vote, one, indeed, 

voice, however individual, however 

even controversial 

 

listen, for instance, to Liszt’s “Années

de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year, Italy 

 

   1. Sposalizio

   2. Il penseroso

   3. Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa 

   4. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca 

   5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca 

   6. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca 

   7. Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata 

 

 

today you can listen to suites 

from famous films, for instance 

Blade Runner“, the beat, in 

other words, goes on

 

but note the renovations, find them, 

dare you, you’ll be surprised at 

your unsuspected perspicacity

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard  

from act 4, scene 3 – Othello

jealousy-from-the-series-the-green-room-1907.jpg!Large

 

when Desdemona learns that Othello

suspects her of adultery, she asks 

her maidservant

 

      Dost thou in conscience think,–tell me, Emilia,–
      That there be women do abuse their husbands
      In such gross kind?

 

Emilia, older, wiser, replies

 

      There be some such, no question.

 

 

       But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
       If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,
       And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
       Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
       Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
       Or scant our former having in despite;
       Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
       Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
       Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell
       And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
       As husbands have. What is it that they do
       When they change us for others? Is it sport?
       I think it is: and doth affection breed it?
       I think it doth: is’t frailty that thus errs?
       It is so too: and have not we affections,
       Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
       Then let them use us well: else let them know,
       The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

 

 

fall” in the second verse, for this is 

indeed a poem, in iambic pentameter, 

could easily be replaced by “fail

nearly even calls out for it, 

homophones but for the timbre of 

their vowels 

 

say that their husbands slack, she says,

then lists the several manners in which 

husbands might betray their marital 

duties, by “foreign, she means “other“, 

foreign to the family circle  

 

laps“, incidentally, is a wonderful 

metaphor to accompany “treasures,

suggesting intimate physical contact,

much more so, say, than hands

would’ve, for instance, been

 

restraint” means conditions, stress,

impositions  

 

scant our former having“, to diminish

that which formerly had been given,

of either material or psychological 

goods – “having” is a noun here, not

a participle

 

in despite, which is to say, “out of 

spite

 

galls“, a synecdoche for internal

organs, a synecdoche, the word

that means a part which signifies

the whole  

 

affection” is “lust

 

 

we’re equal partners, Shakespeare 

says, men and women, in a shared 

humanity, indeed Shakespeare is

one of the first Humanists after  

centuries of religious subjugation,

centuries of the suppression of

independent thought, a defining

notion, not incidentally, of the

Renaissance

 

 

R ! chard

 

“A Delicate Balance” – Edward Albee

in-the-hospital-1901.jpg!Large

      “Theatre Drama 

 

             Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin

 
                           ___________

  

there are only a very few 20th-Century

American playwrights who’ve weathered

the rigours of time, two with several 

successes, Eugene O’Neill, and 

Tennessee Williams, but only one to 

tower above those two with only one 

work to outmatch them, Edward Albee,

his Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

is every inch a king

 

this is not an impossible feat, Margaret

Mitchell wrote her only book, Gone 

with the Wind“, a contemporary Iliad“,

which will find its rightful place again 

in world literature, note, when our own 

too reverberant still times cede to the 

concerns of another, less pertinently 

fraught era, like reading “War and

Peace“, for instance, now that 

Napoleon is long gone

 

Gone with the Wind, quick, name 

another 20th-Century novel to top it, 

seconds are too long, Gone with 

the Windis in our bloodstream, 

like Walt Disney or Marilyn Monroe

even if you’ve never read it, which 

you should

 

but Edward Albee wrote another play

which deserves some attention, and 

with redoubtable performances from 

both the consummate ever Katharine 

Hepburn, and from our own Canadian 

tower of unutterable talent, Kate Reid

abetted by masterful presentations 

from no less than the revered Paul 

Scofield and the iconic Joseph Cotten 

when their supporting numbers come 

up, here is a show to watch for, if 

nothing else, those individual stellar

contributions

 

but A Delicate Balance“, also an 

incontestable masterpiece, is about 

friendship, and tells a lesson you’ll

not soon forget, friendship is more 

than, for better or for worse, just 

knowing each other, it says, an 

idiosyncratic, indeed recurrent,

Albee theme

 

 

cinematography, note, is, here

dreadful, though actually in that 

manner conceived, however 

improbably, by an otherwise 

noteworthy director, you’ll even 

think they’ve shrunk his frame

 

but visual style shouldn’t let you 

forego the play’s profound substance, 

nor the triumphant work of its illustrious 

cast, at the very top, mostly, of their 

considerable, even defining, powers

 

watch

 

 

R ! chard

“The Kingdom of Scotland vs the Weird Sisters”

macbeth-act-i-scene-3-the-weird-sisters-1783(1).jpg!Large

    “‘Macbeth’, Act I, Scene 3, the Weird Sisters (1783) 

           Henry Fuseli

               _______

if you thought The Kingdom of Denmark 
vs Hamlet was fun, you’ll love The 
Kingdom of Scotland vs the Weird 
Sisters“, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg presides, with
the assistance of four other eminent
American judges, over the case in 
which the defendants, the witches 
who encounter Macbeth, are accused 
of concocting the murder of Duncan, 
King of Scotland, by that unsuspecting 
Thane of Glamis, soon to be Thane of 
Cawdor, not only predicting itbut 
verily perpetrating it

double, double, toil, indeed, and 
trouble, topical allusions flypithy, 
witty, pungent, delightful late night 
comedy fare, but of a more esoteric,
effete order 

watch, utterly enjoy


R ! chard

the Kingdom of Denmark vs Hamlet

ideal-portrait-of-shakespeare.jpg!Large

  Ideal portrait of Shakespeare (c.1775) 

         Angelica Kauffman

____________

since I’m on the subject of Hamlet
here‘s the most fun production 
I’ve seen since I can remember, 
the trial of said Hamlet before 
the High Court of the Kingdom 
of Denmark vs Himself, for the 
murder of Poloniuschief 
counsellor of the new King, 
Claudius, after the death of 
Hamlet, père, brother to Claudius, 
Greek, nearly, already, tragedy

Anthony M. KennedyAssociate 
Justice of the Supreme Court of 
the United States, presides, 
Abbe Lowell, counsel for both 
Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump
recently in the matter of Russian
interference, argues for the 
defense, while Jessie K. LiuU.S. 
Attorney for the District of 
Columbia, is the prosecution

the stakes are high, not only for
Hamlet

the participants put on quite 
show, however erudite, they 
all deliver in utter spades

you’ll relish the surprisingly 
multifarious quotations you 
might not, you thought, ‘ve 
got, of Shakespeare, you’ll be 
amazed to find that you’re not 
that much out of touch with 
these not so daunting, after 
all, considerations

much art, in other words, is only 
as far away as one’s curiosity, 
one’s acknowledgement, much 
of it is already in our system, in  
our cultural DNA, all that’s   
needed to take it in is our 
attention

watch


R ! chard

at the movies – “Phaedra”

phaedra-and-hippolytus-1802.jpg

     “Phaedra and Hippolytus (1802) 

            Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

                   _____________

Phaedra, according to Greek myth, fell
in love with her stepson, and, of course,
ruined, for everyone, everything 

she’s been represented in music by
composers from, at least, Rameau,
1733, to, here, now, Benjamin Britten,  
1976by way of even Tangerine
Dream, 1973, however peripherally, 
and the hits just keep on coming

in literature, the story goes back to 
Euripides, 480 – 406 BCE, through
Jean Racine, 1639 – 1699, poet at 
the court of Louis XlV, the version 
that I studied in French Literature,
along with, in English, Shakespeare,
who was doing courtiers, rather, 
and royalty there, then, incidentally, 
instead of the Continent’s iconic 
Mediterranean figures – it remains 
my favourite play in my mother 
tongue, next to, for me, its only 
other equal, Cyrano de Bergerac

but I’d never seen a production of 
Phaedra until this searing, 
modern, rendition, set in, relatively 
contemporary, Greece, London, 
and Paris, with the irrepressible, 
the irresistible, Melina Mercouri
torrid temptress, the very goddess 
Herahereand Anthony Perkins
perfect as her suitor, a youth still, 
pulsing with a young man’s 
unbridled intentions

sparks fly, from moment to 
incendiary moment – I had often 
to pause to catch my breath – 
portents of an inescapable, and 
eventually epic, indeed mythic, 
apocalypse

watch, if you dare


R ! chard

“Medea” – Euripides

medea-1898-jpglarge

       Medea (1898) 

       Alphonse Mucha

          ____________

catching up on my Greek tragedies 
for a course I’m following online, I
happened upon this marvel

Medea, by Euripides, was written 
in 431 BCE, the next significant 
playwright in world history was
Shakespeare, the Dark Ages had
been “Dark” indeed, it took a 
Renaissance, in fact a new 
flowering of Greek and Roman
arts and institutions to get us 
moving forward again, you’ll 
notice how much of Euripides 
there is in Shakespearenot to 
mention in the French Classicists, 
Racine and Corneille

none of these, incidentally, have 
yet been equalled, never mind 
surpassed, except by maybe 
Anton Checkov, the superb 
Russian playwright

Zoe Caldwell won the 1982 Tony 
Award for best actress for her
incarnation of Medea, she was 
up against Katharine Hepburn 
and Geraldine Pageno less, 
among other distinguished 
luminaries, this is, in other 
words, no ordinary performance, 
watch her turn a mere script, 
however incandescent, into 
set of spoken arias worthy of 
the most celebrated divas

everyone else in the play is also
strong, excellent, impeccable

note the application of the three 
unities, of time, place, and action,
there is no set change, everything 
takes place within 24 hours,
according to the dictates of the 
very plot, the action surrounds 
the expulsion from Corinth of 
Medea and her two, and Jason’s, 
sons, the restrictions of the form 
put the tension, the drama, utterly 
in the hands of the poet, the 
success of the work depends not
on stunts, special effects, but on
words, poetry

Aristotle says in his Poetics“, 
section I, part VI, “The Spectacle has, indeed, an
emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts,
it is the least artistic, and connected least with the
art of poetry. … Besides, the production of
spectacular effects depends more on the art
of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.”  

the three unities have no room,
therefore, for Spectacle“, their 
product must be reflections of 
the poet’s humanity, heart, 
straight through, if s/he can, 
to ours

Richard