Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Modest Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov (1868-1873)

You know, I'm willing to be that there are an awful lot of people with no idea that this name is what "Boris Badenov" is a play on. Not that you couldn't find it in .3 seconds via the Wikipedia entry, but would you even think to? Anyway. I don't know what my point is, except that it's sort of interesting to go back to something that's mainly known, to the extent that it's known, via pop culture goofing around.
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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Donald Newlove, Sweet Adversity (1978)

Well, it's Tough Poets' latest release. At six hundred pages, it's more than twice as long as any previous, and accordingly, the funding goals and price to kickstart was a little more, but the good news is, it easily shattered these goals, which bodes well for future publications.
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Friday, January 25, 2019

Gaetano Donizetti, La Fille du Régiment

I always think of Donizetti's operatic work as being a stark and somewhat weird dichotomy between on the one hand frothy comedies and on the other grim period dramas about the British nobility. That's not fair; he was very prolific and wrote a bunch of stuff that doesn't fall into either category. But WHATEVER! That's how I feel, and as we all know, our feelings are the most important thing. Feel free to guess which side this one falls on. There's going to be a new HD production in March, but I'm not going to be around to see that, so I saw this. Which also has the bonus of starring Natalie Dessay, the highlight of Ariadne auf Naxos, in the title role. La. One curiosity is that, unusually for an Italian opera, the libretto--as the title might've given away--is in French.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas (1688-ish)

Look, I'll admit that English literature has its moments, but when it comes to opera, it's time to face a hard truth: we are getting the shit kicked out of us. Or better to say, I suppose, we have gotten the shit kicked out of us. We got the shit kicked out of us. It is a done deal. Yes, there are still operas being written, and if I had to guess on the basis of no evidence, I'd say that a greater proportion of contemporary operas are in English than in the past, but face it: we're done. Catching up is hopeless. The question of why that should have happened is no doubt multifarious, and not being an expert, I really couldn't even hazard a guess.
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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Richard Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos (1912)

Okay, so from now on, I'm going to try to write something about every opera I see. I don't know why I didn't start doing this a long time ago, really. I'm into opera now, FYI.
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Friday, January 18, 2019

Dmitri Shostakovich, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934)

The entirety of my knowledge of Shostakovich came from William Vollmann's novel Europe Central, where he's one of the main characters. But I read that kind of a long time ago, and I can't say I remember it very well. I guess I was mostly interested this because Verdi's Macbeth is so bangin,' and here was another opera with the word "Macbeth" in the title even though it bears absolutely no similarities to the other one, so boy, THIS sentence sure is turning out great; I'm glad it's over now. Anyway, I saw this production.
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Why don't you hate who I hate kill who I kill to be free?

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've used those lines as a title before; they just seem so grimly apropos lately.

Maybe you've seen this article, where Trump supporters realize, hey, maybe there was a downside to this, hard as it is to believe. And maybe especially you've seen the final quote from one of them, a Crystal Minton: “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” I mean, not that it's any revelation that Trump supporters really just want to hurt people, but it's still sort of surprising to see it stated so explicitly. I have to wonder if she had a moment of self-awareness after being quoted as such: oops, did I really say that out loud...? But no, it's almost certainly not that conscious. And besides, it really needs to go further: who exactly do you want to hurt, Crystal Minton? Specificity is the soul of narrative!

It really goes to show the unbridgeable divide, though, because I will swear to you up and down: I have never voted for a political candidate with the anticipation that they've inflict suffering on people I don't like. I couldn't if I wanted to, because it's just not something that Democratic candidates offer. Some of them may do things that don't mitigate suffering as much as we might like, and yeah sometimes they adopt Republican framing to their detriment (though entirely too many people seem to have the idea that it's still the nineties and that Clintonesque triangulating is still the norm) but it's certainly not a selling point. I may think Crystal Minton is a hideous person (even if she was made that way by Republican policies in the first place), but I still espouse policies that would help her and people like her.

And, you know, it's not just a moral issue either. I would be freaked out if Democrats campaigned on causing suffering (this is the part where, if any right-wingers were reading this, they would be pointing out my ineffable hypocrisy of wanting to grievously wound billionaires by making them pay taxes. As a preemptive rebuttal to that, please know that I am rolling my eyes really hard right now). I don't want that shit, just speaking practically. Because--and this ought to but tragically apparently isn't incredibly obvious--they may start by hurting people you don't like, but eventually it's gonna blow back on you. It just is. Christ, that Niemöller poem is so engrained in the popular consciousness that I'm fairly sure even Crystal Minton could tell you the gist of it. But apparently, for some people, it's just a catchy tune with no actual meaning that could conceivably be taken to heart.  I think we're still sort of on the knife-edge between tragedy and farce here, but people like ol' Crystal-Blue Persuasion here are not helping.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Robert Pinget, Mahu or the Material (1952)

Hey look I read one a them there nouveaux romans, by one of the main nouveau roman dudes. Good for me. This one has laudatory quotes from both John Updike and Donald Barthelme, which seems about as far apart as you can get on the spectrum of fiction writers. Obviously, this will recall the latter more than the former, but I'm glad ol' Updike was able to appreciate the avant garde, so far away from the sort of thing he wrote himself.
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Friday, January 04, 2019

Manuel Mujica Lainez, The Wandering Unicorn (1965)

Well, I decided to read Mujica Lainez' other English-tranlated novel. So I did! So there! Um, anyway.

The first thing you might be wondering--at least if you're like me--is "hey, what if anything does this have to do with Peter S Beagle's seminal Last Unicorn, which was published around the same time? And the answer is: almost certainly nothing. Beagle's novel was first published three years after, so if anyone was influencing anyone, it would've had to be Mujica Lainez influencing Beagle, but, well, the first issue is that ML's book hadn't been translated at the time (does Beagle read Spanish? No idea), and the second--perhaps more to the point--is that, apart from a certain self-awareness, and both being broadly classifiable as fantasy the two really have nothing in common. ML's doesn't even feature an actual unicorn (just the horn of one). I DO think there's one connection, though: the animated movie based on The Last Unicorn was released in 1982, whereas this translation was published in 1983. I think it very probable that this was an effort to cash in on whatever perceived unicorn-mania the movie had engendered. Fair enough!
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