Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you…
the many moods…of WENDY:
It’s so much fun to have a dog in the house again, seeing how she’s different from and the same as the last one. Having an excuse to get up and take a walk at noon, instead of reading something you’ve been putting off. Someone to talk to. Taking her to the dog park at the end of the day, where she can amuse herself for 20 minutes by throwing a crabapple in the air and catching it. She must have learned to play by herself when she was in the shelter; it’s like working out in a 4-by-8 cell, using only your own body weight.
Of all the artistic regrets in my life, one of the biggest is that I never learned to appreciate opera. I don’t think the ship has sailed, but a window has closed; I’m just never going to get the art form like a lifelong fan. My sister dated a boy in high school whose family was sort of aggressively Italian, and I remember her playing “Pagliacci” in her room for a few weeks. But other than pop-culture moments here and there, the whole thing mostly escapes me.
Joe Queenan wrote one of his famously misanthropic columns a few years ago, about liking opera because it’s one place where the fans do not put up with bullshit. Ever. Think of all the times you’ve seen cowlike American audiences give standing ovations to mediocre performances, and contrast that to opera where, so Queenan said, getting booed offstage is a fairly common occurrence, especially in Europe, where they know their opera. He cited a famous case where a male lead was handed off to an understudy between acts, because the star just wasn’t making it, and the audience was in open revolt.
That’s a crowd I can identify with.
So imagine my delight and vexation to read this New York Times story — oh, how I hope you haven’t used up your 20-article quota this months yet, but what am I saying? It’s Aug. 2 — about a spectacular debacle in Bayreuth, Germany, where a radical reimagining of Wagner’s Ring cycle didn’t go over well:
When Frank Castorf, the avant-garde German director responsible for this confounding concept , took the stage with his production team, almost the entire audience, it seemed, erupted with loud, prolonged boos. It went on for nearly 10 minutes, by my watch, because Mr. Castorf, 62, who has been running the Volksbühne (People’s Theater) of Berlin since 1992, stood steadfast on stage, his arms folded stiffly, he sometimes jabbed a finger at the audience,essentially defying the crowd to keep it coming.
This “Ring” was presented as “a metaphorical story of the global quest for oil,” and the accompanying photo shows a giant Mt. Rushmore featuring Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. I’ve never seen the Ring cycle, or even a little bit of it, so I’m not sure where he’s going with that, but I loved the detail that “for no clear reasons singers smear one another with crude oil.”
And you’ve heard about the fat lady singing? Holy shit:
My earnest attempt to be open-minded about this baffling “Ring” almost foundered for good near the end of “Siegfried” when (you can’t make this up) a monster crocodile swallowed the poor Forest Bird in one big gulp.
This last scene, of course, is the ecstatic love duet between Siegfried, our rambunctious hero (who, by the way, instead of forging a sword assembles a semi-automatic rifle), and the smitten Brünnhilde. In this production, at the most climactic moment in the music the stage rotated to reveal two of those monster crocodiles busily copulating.
Looking hungry after sex, the squiggling reptiles, their jaws flapping, headed toward Siegfried and Brünnhilde, who were singing away.
That would be so awesome, I don’t think I could handle it. I’d be the one screaming BRAVO among all those boos.
Another week gone by, another Friday looms. Oh, let me kiss Friday’s sweet lips.