Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What is it about the ancient Greeks?

...from Berkeley
Singing Elisa

I continue to almost-but-not-quite* binge-read my way through Deborah Crombie's marvelous Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery novels.  Over the weekend, while performing my debut as Elisa in The Handel Opera Project's chamber performance of Handel's rarely performed but ravishing score of Tolomeo, I also finished the fifth in Crombie's series, Dreaming of the BonesI found the denouement surprisingly moving--surprisingly, because being moved isn't what one always finds in British murder mystery novels.

To avoid any spoilers, let me just say that vengeance not-quite-a-la-Elektra rears its retributive head in Crombie's #5. Crombie refers to Elektra several times in her tale, including at the very end, which got me contemplating vengeance, as my Handelian character, Elisa, has her own, much, much milder attack of a different kind of vengeance. (A princess who is spurned by the man she loves--who turns out to be a prince in disguise who loves another--Elisa luckily lets her better self comes to the fore before she poisons said unlucky lover, whom she, instead, lets live and love. She doesn't quite get as far as loving the one she's with, but hey, she's a Handelian princess, right?)

All this brought me back, yet again, to that other "E" character, Elektra--especially as I just performed in a house concert of Strauss' Elektra again this past summer--and to her primal cry for vengeance, vengeance driven by the will of the Greek gods externally manifesting the internal needs of the human psyche. Which all goes to show that in such a deeply Jungian, collective-consciousness sense, in their plays, mythology, and all-too-human gods, the ancient Greeks got it right, mining key human emotions--vengeance,  retribution, and expiation all being at the core of so much tragedy, right down to this very day.

Perhaps the most moving of all for Elektra and Crombie #5 is the single voice crying aloud against evil that was once committed, and for it to be made right.Who'd a thunk that a mystery novel could generate such disturbing, philosophical thoughts? And yet the best ones do.

What I'm reading: Deborah Crombie's #6, Kissed a Sad Goodbye

What I'm listening to: Can't get Tolomeo out of my head, nor, for that matter, the Poulenc, Delage, and Tailleferre from last week.

What I'm working on: songs by John Harbison and David Garner, for concerts later this spring and our tour to Krakow this summer.

*Oh and why almost-but-not-quite binge reading?  Well, beyond my first time singing as Elisa over the weekend, I also performed some lovely French music in concert on Tuesday with Ensemble for These Times and on Wed. as well. It's hard to binge-read at full throttle when you're performing, as adequate sleep and concentration are prerequisites for singing well and staying healthy.  But I have to admit that the Duncan-Gemma duo created quite a temptation, taking all my professional will power to put them down.

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