Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Another Night at the Opera

Last year I coaxed Kyle into joining me for Wagner's Ring Cycle broadcast "Live from the Met in HD."  My passion for Wagner assured that I would love it.  But 16 hours of Wagner, one of the least accessible composers for the novice, was literally baptism by fire. One of the icon parts of the 4 opera grand twisted tale base somewhat on Teutonic mythology is Brunnhilde being surround by a ring of fire and subsequently rescued.  Kyle, like most folks, new Elmer Fudd's take on The Ride of Valkyries, "Killed a Wabbit."  That was all he knew.

He loved it and has attended many of these broadcast since.  Tonight we saw Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman. Drawn from the stories of E.T.A. Hoffman, the opera weaves together 3 stories of failed love into a fourth.  The Met's production put a more surreal spin on this "opera fantastique."  It was another sucessful night at the opera!

Olympia, Hoffman's first love, is a mechanical doll.  His first love is quite literally shattered.

The first act. set in the dollmaker's shop, pure fun.  Packed with body parts, including jars of eyeballs in a gelatinous mess, the staging is extremely creative.  The second act, in jarring contrast, is a somber winter scene. Offenbach's top 40 hit "Barcarolle" dominates Act III along with most scantilly clad women I have ever seen on an opera stage.

For anyone afraid of the "opera experience" I heartily recommend it.  The singing is subtitled (even when it's sung in English) and intermission(s) features backstage interviews and a peak at the grandeur that is a the Met. Sets, costumes and the crew that works with the mechanically impressive stage that dwarfs the house (where the audience is seated).

These productions eventually make their way to PBS, but rarely with the intermission features.  Intermissions also give you 10 to 15 minutes to stretch your legs.  It's the next best thing to being there.

Think that opera is trite or boring? Coming soon is Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. Below is a synopsis. Make's 50 Shades of Grey sound tame.  It's on a double bill with Tchaikovsky Iolanta.  Care to join me?
Bluebeard's Castle synopsis:
Place: A huge, dark hall in a castle, with seven locked doors.
Time: Not defined.
Judith and Bluebeard arrive at his castle, which is all dark. Bluebeard asks Judith if she wants to stay and even offers her an opportunity to leave, but she decides to stay. Judith insists that all the doors be opened, to allow light to enter into the forbidding interior, insisting further that her demands are based on her love for Bluebeard. Bluebeard refuses, saying that they are private places not to be explored by others, and asking Judith to love him but ask no questions. Judith persists, and eventually prevails over his resistance.

The first door opens to reveal a torture chamber, stained with blood. Repelled, but then intrigued, Judith pushes on. Behind the second door is a storehouse of weapons, and behind the third a storehouse of riches. Bluebeard urges her on. Behind the fourth door is a secret garden of great beauty; behind the fifth, a window onto Bluebeard's vast kingdom. All is now sunlit, but blood has stained the riches, watered the garden, and grim clouds throw blood-red shadows over Bluebeard's kingdom.

Bluebeard pleads with her to stop: the castle is as bright as it can get, and will not get any brighter, but Judith refuses to be stopped after coming this far, and opens the penultimate sixth door, as a shadow passes over the castle. This is the first room that has not been somehow stained with blood; a silent silvery lake is all that lies within, "a lake of tears". Bluebeard begs Judith to simply love him, and ask no more questions. The last door must be shut forever. But she persists, asking him about his former wives, and then accusing him of having murdered them, suggesting that their blood was the blood everywhere, that their tears were those that filled the lake, and that their bodies lie behind the last door. At this, Bluebeard hands over the last key.

Behind the door are Bluebeard's three former wives, but still alive, dressed in crowns and jewellery. They emerge silently, and Bluebeard, overcome with emotion, prostrates himself before them and praises each in turn, finally turning to Judith and beginning to praise her as his fourth wife. She is horrified, begs him to stop, but it is too late. He dresses her in the jewellery they wear, which she finds exceedingly heavy. Her head drooping under the weight, she follows the other wives along a beam of moonlight through the seventh door. It closes behind her, and Bluebeard is left alone as all fades to total darkness.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Requiem: Marcus Borg

Marcus Borg has died at the age of 72.  His theological literature has helped me continue to identify myself as a Christian in a world were that word, at the very least, is unwelcome in much of the LGBTQ community.

"Thin places" is part of Borg's approach to spirituality that I often quote.  We find these in the times, places and experiences that are a "porous" encounter with the Divine.  An emotional moment, a musical event, a transcendent work of art and for me beautiful liturgy and the sacrament of the Eucharist.

These thin places can also be the times that we encounter the "other." It can be when we engage and radically welcome those that are not like us.

Borg's book "The Heart of Christianity" explores this. I found this study guide very helpful:

Read more about Borg:


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Nominations

Here's the list!
√=have seen +=must see ?=might see
As of now: MF=My Favorite, MP=My Prediction
I'll be sharing changes and details as I see all films.
Best picture
+American Sniper
√Boyhood MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√The Imitation Game
√The Theory of Everything MF

Actor in a leading role
√Steve Carell — Foxcatcher
√Bradley Cooper — American Sniper
√Benedict Cumberbatch — The Imitation Game
√Michael Keaton — Birdman MP
√Eddie Redmayne — The Theory of Everything MF

Actress in a leading role
?Marion Cotillard — Two Days, One Night
√Felicity Jones — The Theory of Everything
+Julianne Moore — Still Alice MP
√Rosamund Pike — Gone Girl MF
?Reese Witherspoon — Wild

Actor in a supporting role
?Robert Duvall — The Judge
√Ethan Hawke — Boyhood
√Edward Norton — Birdman
√Mark Ruffalo — Foxcatcher MF
+J.K. Simmons — Whiplash

Actress in a supporting role
√Patricia Arquette — Boyhood MP
?Laura Dern — Wild
√Keira Knightley — The Imitation Game
√Emma Stone — Birdman
√Meryl Streep — Into the Woods MF

Animated feature film
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2 MP
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

√Birdman — Emmanuel Lubezki MF MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — Robert Yeoman
?Ida — Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
+Mr. Turner — Dick Pope
+Unbroken — Roger Deakins

Costume Design
√The Grand Budapest Hotel MP
?Inherent Vice
√Into the Woods MF
+Mr. Turner

√Birdman — Alejandro G. Iñárritu MF
√Boyhood — Richard Linklater MP
√Foxcatcher — Bennett Miller
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — Wes Anderson
√The Imitation Game — Morten Tyldum

Documentary feature
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

Documentary short subject
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

Film editing
+American Sniper
√Boyhood MF MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√The Imitation Game

Foreign language film
Ida — Poland
Leviathan — Russia
Tangerines — Estonia
Timbuktu — Mauritania
Wild Tales — Argentina

Makeup and hairstyle
√Foxcatcher MF MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√Guardians of the Galaxy

Music original score
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — Alexandre Desplat
√The Imitation Game — Alexandre Desplat
√Interstellar — Hans Zimmer
+Mr. Turner — Gary Yershon
√The Theory of Everything — Jóhann Jóhannsson

Music original song
"Everything is Awesome" — The Lego Movie
√"Glory" — Selma MP MF
"Grateful" — Beyond the Lights
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" — Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me
"Lost Stars" — Begin Again

Production design
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√The Imitation Game
√Interstellar MP
√Into the Woods MF
+Mr. Turner

Short film animated
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Short film live action
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)
The Phone Call

Sound editing
√American Sniper
√The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Sound mixing
√American Sniper

Visual effects
√Captain America: The Winter Soldier
√Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
√Guardians of the Galaxy
√Interstellar MP
√X-Men: Days of Future Past MF (for Hugh Jackman's bum)

Writing adapted screenplay
+American Sniper — Jason Hall
√The Imitation Game — Graham Moore MF
?Inherent Vice — Paul Thomas Anderson
√The Theory of Everything — Anthony McCarten MP
+Whiplash — Damien Chazelle

Writing original screenplay
√Birdman — Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo MF  MP
√Boyhood — Richard Linklater
√Foxcatcher — E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — screenplay by Wes Anderson, story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
?Nightcrawler — Dan Gilroy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mohammed, Jesus Christ and The New Cover of Charlie Hebdo

There is reluctance on the part of many news outlets to share this cover lest they become the next victims of radical Muslims.  I cannot speak for the Muslims, but as a Christian, if my faith was used to inflict violence, which it has been repeatedly over the past 2,000 years, I know how I would feel.  A picture of Jesus Christ crying and holding this sign with "All is forgiven" over his head would be seen as an extremely generous response.

The era of forcing people to hold sacred the beliefs of oppressors is over.  Followers of Christ, Mohammed, Vishnu, Zoroaster, Buddha, God and any other deity/spiritual leader must take responsibility for hate exercised in their name.   They must stand up to those who degrade a message of love for all humanity.  If they can't do that they are worshiping a false god.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The New Jim Crow

Hobby Lobby is not a slippery slope, it's greased wall that will now have to be climbed before laws like Mississippi's new "Jim Crow" can be challenged.

The Supreme Court, well the 5 Roman Catholic Men on the Bench, have started to dissect according to particular beliefs of particular denominations.  If people are worried about Sharia law, perhaps the should broaden that to any law that is based on a particular set of religious sectarian beliefs.  That's the real issue in Iraq. America was not established as a theocracy. Separation of Church and State was particularly meant to avoid a theocracy.  It has struggled to hold it's own amidst many challenges. It has been eroded by "In God We Trust" and the addition in the 1950's of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.  Prayers, specifically Christian, are now allowed in public meetings thanks to those 5 Roman Catholic men.

This stuff scares me...

Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act now allows businessowners to turn away LGBT customers if they claim their existence conflicts with their religion.
The law passed in April and was quickly signed by Republican governor Phil Bryant; it went into effect July 1. Several cities in Mississippi, including Jackson and Hattiesburg, are challenging the insidious law by passing resolutions affirming all patrons are welcome. Equality Mississippi is distributing stickers that proclaim, "We don't discriminate: If you're buying, we're selling."
The American Family Association has found a way to take umbrage with the stickers.“It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign, and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture," AFA's Buddy Smith stated, according to Pink News.
Local merchants and professionals like chef John Currence bristle at the law's effect on the state's already inhospitable reputation. “We are not going to sit idly by and watch Jim Crow get revived in our state," he said, vowing to fight the law. Similar legislation is wending its way through Kansas.

From The Advocate July 6, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Where's the Beef? In the PROUD Whopper!

It's been a while since I have tended this blog. Here's a great reason to get back into the swing of things!