Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Promises, Promises...

...from Berkeley
San Diego Zoo Safari Park

With yesterday having been Leap Day, it seems fitting to think about time...Missing time, lost time, and making up time... Leap Day allows us to find a place for the lost time in the Gregorian calendar,  so that "real time" and the calendar stay in sync.  Likewise, in my case, the month of February flew by so quickly, that I, too, am out of sync and need that lost time to catch up with promised answers and topics from previous blog posts. Hence today is a day for catching up on overdue promises...A bit of housekeeping, as it were, but hopefully a bit more interesting than housekeeping, both to do and to read.

First, where did that mysterious picture up top and from two weeks ago come from?

As the caption (omitted in the original post) says, this is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, on an amazingly warm (84 degrees!) day in early February.

Moving on to the even more shamefully overdue promised story about the origins of Verdi's opera La Traviata from many weeks ago....

Like many operas--a topic to explore on another day and another post--La Traviata comes from a successful literary work in another genre, in this case, the novel La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas fils (1824-1895).  Dumas based his protagonist on a real-life Parisian courtesan, Marie Duplessis who, much like Verdi's Violetta, died of tuberculosis.*  (The story was turned into a play as well. The moral of the story here? Good tales bouncily bound across genre borders as easily as Peter Rabbit.)

La Traviata premiered in 1853 in Venice and was set, against Verdi's wishes, in the turn-of-the-previous-century past. It wasn't until several decades later that stagings of La Traviata were moved to the 19th century "present" as Verdi had desired.

As is so often the case, opening night was a bit of a flop, with the requisite booing, including ample criticism that the 38-year old soprano, Fanny Salvini-Donatelli (pictured here) was far too old and far too...ample to play a character who died of consumption, or even a woman who would have been appealing enough to be a courtesan.** Nonetheless, La Traviata soon grew to become one of the world's most beloved operas, and Violetta one of opera world's favorite heroines.

*Any idea whichother famous, equally beloved soprano character in 19th century opera also dies of TB? Comment if you do and feel like it!

**This is an old, regular cavil for opera: plus ca change, etc., it would seem. But in my opinion, unlike in musical theater, where looking the part is much more crucial, opera singers need first and foremost to sing gloriously; looks should be a distant second.

What I'm reading: Deborah Crombie's The Sound of Broken Glass; Nest by Esther Ehrlich

What I'm listening to: the wonderful excerpts played in the first few episodes from the second season of Amazon's award-winning "Mozart in the Jungle."  Excerpts today included the overture to Le Nozze di Figaro; Schubert's 8th Symphony, Beethoven's 5th, Mozart's Rondo alla turca  and more Mozart, Mahler... What great music: Amazon should market a downloadable playlist!

What I'm working on: David Garner's Mein blaues Klavier, which goes into rehearsal this week for a repeat performance on April 4--just in time for the CD release on April 8...
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