A night at the opera.

How do you start your week? Even in my semi-retired state, I tend to spend a few moments on Sunday or Monday thinking about my obligations for the week ahead — pay this bill, meet this deadline, call that person, etc. All of it leads up to “The Week That Was,” the web show for Deadline Detroit that for some reason none of us can stop doing, and then, when it wraps at roughly 12:30 p.m. Friday, the weekend begins. I feel like Fred Flintstone sliding down the dinosaur’s tail.

We almost always go out, if only for a burger somewhere, on Friday. We only occasionally go out on Saturday. Go figure.

But this Friday the Derringers are going to…the opera. Allow me to explain.

The Michigan Opera Theater, now the Detroit opera, hired a new artistic director, Yuval Sharon, just before the pandemic, and boy is he artistic. This production put him on the damn map, at least if you consider attention from The New Yorker and New York Times to be something (and I do):

In the psychogeography of modern life, parking garages are sites of anxiety and subtle terror. The doctor’s appointment is minutes away, and yet you are still frantically circling. The space you find is so torturously narrow that it could have been designed only in consultation with auto-body shops. Afterward, desperation rises as you wander acres of concrete, listening for your faintly beeping vehicle. The lighting is sepulchral, the air dank. Few soothing scenes in movies are set in garages: shady deals are done, witnesses are offed, Deep Throat speaks.

It made sense, then, that Yuval Sharon, the new artistic director of Michigan Opera Theatre, chose a Detroit parking garage as the impromptu set for an abridged production of “Götterdämmerung.” The final installment of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle ostensibly addresses the twilight of the gods, but no gods appear onstage: according to the libretto, we glimpse them only in the far distance, at the climax, as fire consumes Valhalla. Instead, the opera is dominated by a compromised array of human beings, who move through a darkening, decaying world. In the prologue, we are told that Wotan, the chief of the gods, fatally wounded the World Ash Tree when he tore a branch from it to make his spear of power. The death of the tree stands in for the ruination of the earth by capitalism and industrialization. A multistory parking garage is as good a spot as any for the Wagnerian apocalypse.

This was during the Covid closures, and the parking garage “Gotterdammerung” worked like this: Your ticket got you admittance to the garage, in your car, needless to say. You drove slowly through the levels, stopping at scenes where a singer would perform a particular piece, with the music coming through your car’s sound system, tuned to a special frequency. When he or she completed the number, you drove on to the next one. Socially distanced and, for my money, the smartest, coolest way to put on a work of art in a time when most places just went dark. Was it the entire opera? Of course not; the whole experience, renamed “Twilight: Gods” took about an hour. But it was a triumph.

Of course we couldn’t get tickets. But now, with Sharon in the fourth year of a five-year contract, already a MacArthur Foundation genius, I figure we’d better get our butts in the seats if we wanted to check him out before he’s snatched up by a bigger city. So we’re going to this production, “Europeras: 3 & 4,” which promises to also be pretty weird:

Pioneering composer John Cage reassembles European opera as a collage in Europeras 3 & 4. These intimate, avant-garde operas exemplify his life-long fascinations that forever changed music history. Chance operations dictate everything in the production, from the staging to the costumes to the lighting design. In its joyful anarchy, Cage’s work invites audiences to embrace the unexpected.

I’m looking forward to this.

This week, I got 90 percent of my work done yesterday, so today I cashed in one of my birthday presents, a gift card for the Schvitz. Hallelujah, one of the massage therapists had an opening, so I snapped it up. I regret to say both the dry sauna and the steam were so hot I could barely stand them — both well over 200 degrees. The steam room temperature display read ERR, as in, the numbers didn’t go any higher. I came back after my massage, and it was down to 230, and I could handle it for maybe five minutes. However, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of my solitary afternoon one bit. The place was blessedly quiet, and I could discreetly take in the amazing tattoo variety without having to crane my neck. A good afternoon.

I think self-care is the only way I’m going to get through the next few months, frankly. It’s gonna be so ugly.

But now the week is under way, right? Let’s get through it.

Posted at 6:16 pm in Popculch |

34 responses to “A night at the opera.”

  1. LAMary said on March 5, 2024 at 10:41 pm

    I just watched about five minutes of trump’s victory speech at Mar-a-Lago. If you’re still feeling all relaxed and comfy from the shvitz, avoid any trump noise. He’s just a goddamn lying con man disgusting POS. It’s not like not voting for Bush or some other repub. I disagree with some candidates’ politics. I just hate trump for lying, spoonfeeding racist, agoraphobic blather to people who are so happy to hear someone who shares their worst beliefs. Thinking is way too hard for them. Just fucking think about what this guy is saying and doing for a moment. He’s got you completely conned, people.

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  2. LAMary said on March 5, 2024 at 11:52 pm

    I didn’t mean agoraphobic. I’m too pissed off to think of the word I meant.

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  3. nancy said on March 6, 2024 at 5:40 am

    Xenophobic, maybe.

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  4. alex said on March 6, 2024 at 7:55 am

    I remember getting dragged to see a performance of a John Cage masterwork in Chicago and it was completely unlistenable noise. I thought to myself this dude’s really having one over on the fartsies.

    In other news, I just found out that my COBRA insurance quit on me unbeknownst to me at the end of last year. I’m officially enrolled in a marketplace plan as of March 1, so it doesn’t matter. But I received a letter two days ago from United Healthcare telling me that my automatic payment had failed to process on December 31, so under the rules I was terminated and couldn’t be reinstated. I reviewed my bank statement and saw that no payments had been made, however the insurance nevertheless covered my medical expenses in January and February so I’m not sure what’s up with that. They even sent me explanations of benefits showing what had been paid. Much as my curiosity wants me to unravel this mystery, I think it’s better to let the sleeping dog lie.

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  5. Jeff Gill said on March 6, 2024 at 9:19 am

    Encouragingly, interesting trend noted by Justin Wolfers on Xwitter:

    This striking pattern of Trump under-performing his poll numbers continues. According to 538, Trump was meant to win:

    – Massachusetts by 37 (NYT says he’s up by 23)
    – Tennessee by 69 (he’s up 57)
    – Texas by 64 (he’s up 56)
    – Virginia by 49 (he’s up by 29)

    The exception:
    – North Carolina by 46 (he’s up 51)

    This follows Wolfers’s 2/28 tweet:

    According to the polls, Trump was meant to win:
    – Iowa by 53 points (he won by 30)
    – New Hampshire by 18 points (he won by 11)
    – South Carolina by 28 points (he won by 20)
    – Michigan by 62 points (he’s up by 42)

    4 states yields 4 examples of him dramatically underperformed polls

    [And I’m going with xenophobic, too.]

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  6. basset said on March 6, 2024 at 9:26 am

    Worked a poll yesterday, low turnout (about 8%, and another 8 in early & absentee) and definitely a majority of those who showed up in person at our precinct asked for a Republican ballot, which worries me in this Democratic county.

    At least nobody showed up armed and in camo exercising what they see as their Second Amendment rights… I always expect that to happen, hasn’t yet though.

    Meanwhile, the first batch of deer tallow soap has finished curing and seems to work quite well.

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  7. Dorothy said on March 6, 2024 at 9:29 am

    I probably will never get away from the feeling that I’m not high-falutin’ enough to really enjoy opera. Which is a shame because I worked with very gifted artists in the Dept of Music at UD. I did attend some performances, but most of the time I just mostly enjoyed hearing my colleagues sing so gorgeously, even though I wasn’t following the story very well. The other day on IG I came across a reel of someone microphoned up in a mall somewhere, and he began singing, and then others joined him (a pop up flash mob kind of thing I guess they’re called). And it was gorgeous and gave me chills. I showed it to Olivia in the hope of letting her know there are all kinds of music to appreciate, not just pop music or Christmas or Disney tunes.

    Alex you’re right about the sleeping dogs aspect of that tale. In 2018 when my husband developed a large blood clot in his throat just 15 hours after his thyroid was removed, and we had quite the scare when he was intubated and in the hospital for 4-5 days as a result, we never saw one tiny piece of paper with any kind of pricing on it for that situation. We assumed the surgeon who removed his thyroid on a Friday took responsibility for everything that happened starting Saturday at 7 AM with his throat feeling like it was closing up and we called the paramedics. So we will never poke that sleeping dog, and I admit I’d love to know how much that all came to.

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  8. LAMary said on March 6, 2024 at 9:35 am

    Yeah, it’s xenophobic. I was tired and fed up last night. Not surprised but still disappointed. The orange pustule was stringing together stupid lie after lie and his toadies were soaking it up.
    Here in L.A. Adam Schiff has to run against Steve Garvey to replace Diane Feinstein. Schiff’s campaign went after Garvey to avoid having to run against Katie Porter. I was on the phone with my nephew in CT and he asked what Garvey had done since retiring from first base. Nephew was appropriately impressed when I told him Steve has been hustling reverse mortgages on television and promising to send a signed baseball to everyone who calls for more information.

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  9. alex said on March 6, 2024 at 10:08 am

    I subscribe to both the WaPo and NYT and both seem to be spreading pessimism and alarmism, yet my critical faculties tell me that it cannot possibly bode well for the Orange Turd if such large percentages of Republicans are voting against him.

    What also goes unmentioned in all of the mainstream media’s horse-race coverage is that Haley is picking up a significant number of delegates and this will give her some clout at the GOP convention to demand such things as a return to the party having a platform, aid to Ukraine and continued loyalty to our NATO allies. This is doubtless why she stayed in the race this long and why donors kept on giving.

    Still, the stress of it all is taking quite a toll on me and I’m sure you’re all feeling it too. I’m mitigating it by having retired early from a stressful job situation and seeking out soothing diversions.

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  10. Julie Robinson said on March 6, 2024 at 10:37 am

    Haley has dropped out, without endorsing Trump.

    Oh, that John Cage, trickster composer of 4’33”. It has three movements, all completely silent. Genius or naked Emperor, everyone gets to decide. Although I kinda get what he’s doing, I don’t care for his actual music.

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  11. Jeff Borden said on March 6, 2024 at 11:08 am

    Hardly surprising but Mitch McConnell–who is retiring and has nothing to lose–endorsed the Orange Ki ng, he’s as craven as ever.

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  12. alex said on March 6, 2024 at 11:20 am

    McConnell has his wife to lose — along with her fat bank account. And if I were her, I’d ditch that marriage of convenience to that unchivalrous scumbag. After the way Trump insulted her I don’t see how there could be any forgiveness.

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  13. Suzanne said on March 6, 2024 at 11:55 am

    My take? Mitch McC is trying to avoid falling out of a window. Can this really be a coincidence?


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  14. Heather said on March 6, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    Alex, when I got laid off I went through a similar thing with the administrator of my former employer’s COBRA plan. They kept threatening to cancel for nonpayment one month even though I had proof that they had cashed the check. Eventually I went on a marketplace plan so it didn’t matter, and best of all they later mistakenly refunded me one month’s payment. You bet I kept it. I considered it fair payment for the hours I spent emailing and calling trying to fix the problem.

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  15. alex said on March 6, 2024 at 3:23 pm

    Heather, I felt from the beginning that the COBRA people weren’t acting in good faith and I’m relieved to be enrolled in the marketplace. I’ve got a silver plan that’s specifically tailored for diabetics. One of the things I need to watch out for, though, now that my retirement savings are rolled into a mutual fund, is taxation on capital gains and dividends, which will count against my ACA subsidies even if they are reinvested by the fund and I’m not pocketing anything.

    I just came home from my pharmacy where I was told that my Mounjaro is back-ordered until mid-April. This is the same problem as last year when diabetes meds were being prescribed off-label for weight loss. Suddenly they discovered that Mounjaro, which I’m taking, is even better than Ozempic. Also, Ozempic for weight loss is a new product separate from the diabetes med and priced differently. The pharmacy has plenty of Ozempic on hand. My doctor didn’t want me on Ozempic for some reason so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

    As much time and trouble as I spend on the phone and online trying to resolve insurance and medication issues, it’s a good thing I’m retired because it has become a full-time job.

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  16. Deborah said on March 6, 2024 at 3:23 pm

    Suzanne, I wondered the same thing when I read about McConnell’s sister in law. I do not understand how they, all of them, can possibly endorse Trump after all of the things he’s said about them. Spineless.

    I’ve kind of had it with Imperial grounds here in Kyoto. You have to tour with a guide and a group of people. It’s cold and windy but you can never walk far or fast enough to warm up and you’re constantly jockeying around to let people have a better view or take photos. So we decided to skip the rest of those places and only go to the gardens where you can walk freely.

    We took a 3 mile walk around our ryokan, I very much enjoyed that, extremely narrow streets, with at least three full blown temples near here, also lots of cemeteries.

    The food continues to be good except yesterday we got a Japanese breakfast after we had signed up for all continental breakfasts. As I said before fish and salad for breakfast is not appealing, sorry to be so closed minded about that.

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  17. tajalli said on March 6, 2024 at 5:24 pm

    Alex, although this strategy will not alleviate your “nothing til April” situation, ask you doctor about prescribing extra each month so you can stockpile for emergencies. They may be able to do this without violating standard of care constraints.

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  18. David C said on March 6, 2024 at 5:59 pm

    It wasn’t in the article Suzanne posted but I read in another the Angela Chao was driving a Muskmobile. Maybe it Full Self Driving-ed itself into the pond where she drowned. Less strange things have happened to Teslas.

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  19. alex said on March 6, 2024 at 6:01 pm

    I was doing that, tajalli. My meds were being ordered in 3-month increments, just like they do with mail-order, but then things got knocked totally out of kilter the last time there was a shortage. I found another pharmacy that has my med but in a different dosage so I’m waiting to hear back from my doctor if I should switch to that or something else entirely.

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  20. tajalli said on March 6, 2024 at 7:23 pm

    So sorry to hear this, Alex. It’s like running out of an oxygen prescription.

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  21. Deborah said on March 7, 2024 at 1:27 am

    Today we went to a tourist destination in Kyoto https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq6PXEiTggE. First you see an elaborate shrine and then you hike up a mountain walking through many colored gates. Lots and lots of people there and lots of stuff for sale. But it was fun and the weather was great, not cold, windy or rainy.

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  22. Deborah said on March 7, 2024 at 3:44 am

    I meant to say you walk through many vermilion colored gates.

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  23. Deborah said on March 7, 2024 at 6:06 am

    Make that vermillion. Jeez, I’ve been typing with one finger on my iPhone for weeks now.

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  24. Peter said on March 7, 2024 at 8:45 am

    Jeff @ #5 – Those poll vs. actual vote counts is an interesting opinion, but I think there are two factors for that:
    1. In many states, Democrats are crossing over and voting for Nikki as a protest, and
    2. There’s really low voter turnout.
    I think #2 is the much bigger story that people are ignoring. I think a lot of Republicans are just sick and tired of the never ending sob story and grift and can’t bring themselves to vote at all. The GOP’s only chance is to keep flinging poo at Biden and Harris and see if anything sticks.

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  25. Icarus said on March 7, 2024 at 10:53 am

    although it really doesn’t matter, I’m kinda hoping my in-laws forgot to vote early* as they are in Florida for the next two weeks.

    * in Missippi-stan, Old people and handicapped can vote by mail. Everyone else, F-you.

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  26. alex said on March 7, 2024 at 10:56 am

    Seems like I’ve seen “vermillion gates” used as a sexual metaphor in some amateur poetry. Or was she a Bond girl?

    I read that the Orange Turd is going to mock Biden in real time on Truth Social, no doubt to distract his cultists away from the fact that Biden is not doddering and senile by talking over him and drowning him out.

    I’ve been texting via MyChart to find workarounds for my med quandary. I should have stuck to the same thread because one nurse says she ordered Ozempic from one pharmacy and another says she ordered Mounjaro in a different strength from another. I’ll get it straightened out when I go in to pick up a sample of another med, Toujeo, which the pharmacy can’t fill before it runs out. This really is getting to be like a full-time job, only I’m not being compensated but paying out the wazoo.

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  27. Deborah said on March 7, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    What is the problem with US pharmaceutical shortages? Are other countries having these problems too? LB has a friend with ADHD who is having a hard time getting her meds and it has been going on for a long time now. It’s hard for people to function when they can’t get what they need obviously. Alex, sorry you’re having a hard time getting your diabetes meds, I hope you get it straightened out soon. What a pain.

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  28. David C said on March 7, 2024 at 4:43 pm

    There are a lot of reasons for drug shortages. Outsourcing, off-label prescribing by doctors which is probably the one causing Alex’s problem finding his diabetes drug, a subset of outsourcing is the base materials used for many drugs are made in India or China so they have a problem with the long production line, and just plain old greed shortages raise prices.

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  29. Charlie (she/her) said on March 7, 2024 at 7:01 pm

    Drug shortages in other countries aren’t totally unheard of – I remember a shortage of estradiol patches in Europe around the time the pandemic started.

    I’ve been caught up in the Adderall shortage in the US (which has spread into other ADHD meds as people are changing their prescriptions) and from what I can tell, it seems to be a mix of two things – a big jump in diagnoses in the last couple years, and the DEA not wanting to raise manufacturing quotas to match that increase. After all, somebody, somewhere, might be getting high!

    The causes are kinda oddball and idiosyncratic for each different drug shortage, but a whole bunch together does seem to point to a brittle system.

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  30. alex said on March 7, 2024 at 10:08 pm

    Great message if only he weren’t slurring it. This is scary, even though his heart and mind are in the right place. I love the fire in the belly, but it’s getting upstaged by the plaques in the arteries.

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  31. alex said on March 7, 2024 at 11:08 pm

    Alabama bitch is a better liar than Trump, and a bigger one too. I hope the media blast her on her patent lies, but I won’t bet on it.

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  32. alex said on March 7, 2024 at 11:19 pm

    Norah O’Donnell on CBS and her panel predictably praising Katie Britt for her poise while glossing over the fire hose of shit issuing from her pretty hole.

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  33. LAMary said on March 7, 2024 at 11:22 pm

    So breathy. So bullshitty.

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  34. Deborah said on March 8, 2024 at 2:30 am

    Back at the ryokan after our outings today, I tried to read the press about the SOTU but I’m finding it irritating to read, why can’t the NYT write a single positive thing without giving it a negative twist?

    Today we went to the most beautiful place yet, Koke Dera, which is often called the moss garden. The ground is completely covered with moss, it’s surrounded by tall trees, including very tall wispy bamboo, it’s the most peaceful place you can imagine. You get a sort of calligraphy course at first, which was kind of brutal for me because you sit on the floor with your feet under you and my arthritis has been acting up here because of the cool damp weather. My right hip went into spasms while I quickly completed my calligraphy practice, then I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stand up by myself. I was, everything was fine (old people issues). The walk through the garden was independent, no tour guide, we went around twice it was so incredible. Then we walked about a mile to find a taxi for the hour ride back to our ryokan. Walking actually helps my hip when it gets stoved up so that was good.

    Then we did one of the most frustrating things so far, we went to the post office to send a package of stuff to my husband’s granddaughter so she could get a kick out of receiving a package directly from Japan. The rigmarole of filling out the forms at the PO took forever and took both of us constantly researching what various terms meant online. The poor PO worker who was trying to help us was very patient, Google translate got a workout.

    We have one more full day and night here, then Sunday morning we take the bullet train back to Tokyo and a taxi to the airport for our flight back to San Francisco. The clock will tell us in San Francisco that we will have arrived there at about the same time we left Tokyo, that will be weird.

    As great as this trip has been I’m ready for it to be over and get back in the US of A where it’s all familiar and ordinary (except for the politics of course).

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