Weekend 7-15-12

I spent four hours yesterday afternoon reading works of seventeenth-century controversial divinity. When John Cotton publishes something called Sixteen Questions of Serious and Necessary Consequence you know 1. you’re in for a treat! and 2. it’s probably going to take a while.

I was doing this not because I had to, but because — well, actually I sort of had to, but it’s part of a larger research plan that does not actually turn on the finer points of 1640s theological disputation. (Also, for anyone who does not know this, I am not a lunatic; I am a historian. These two things only look similar.)

After that I made a successful foray to the library and came away with both the Glyndebourne production of Rodelinda (the one with Antonacci, Streit and Scholl) and a DVD of Cavalli’s Calisto that I’ve been meaning to see for a while.

For the rest, this weekend has been like being nibbled to death by minnows. It began with the cats and the lawnmower. Have you ever purchased a lawnmower? I never had until Wednesday. More to the point, I have never, even now, successfully operated a lawnmower. My parents did all the yard work when I was growing up and since leaving for college I’ve never lived in anything but apartments without lawns. But here there is a lawn, and I have to mow it. So, I bought a lawnmower. It came with engine oil, but I had forgotten that mowers need fuel – and I actually had to sit down and read the owner’s manual to determine that the fuel they need is gasoline. Laugh if you must, but as I said – I’ve never had one of these before!

Meanwhile, my neighbor’s cats were having a grand old time sitting on the lawmower box, climbing into the lawnmower box, climbing into my lap, climbing on my feet, and generally getting in the way. After shooing them both out from under my car (this is one of their favorite spots for some reason, after the lawnmower box) I managed to drive into town, buy a gas can, fill the can with gas, and return to my house – in a torrential summer thunderstorm that precluded any actual mowing of the lawn. But I’ve got the gas now! It’s not in the mower, but it’s near the mower. And the mower is near the grass. So, even if we have not yet mown the lawn, I can report with confidence that we are closer now than ever before.

17 thoughts on “Weekend 7-15-12

  1. Watch out, you are going to end up with those cats (or others) soon, and that fine line between historian and lunatic will get blurrier.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the other Rodelinda. NOW I have to go back and watch it again.

    I spent today with the Cosi from Aix en Province. Yet another interesting take. The ending, where the four lovers are wandering about in confusion is wonderful (and somehow disturbing) and then all six end in a huddle, turned away from the audience.

    I have decided that one of the things I like about regie (or regie-ish) productions is that the singers REALLY have to ACT. No getting away with “Park and Bark”! (the downside is if friend who is pretty unfamiliar with the opera wanders in near the beginning of Act 2 and is trying to figure out what’s going on. The plot of Cosi sounds just plain weird when you try to explain it and catch someone up. He is her sisters boyfriend and he is trying to get it on with her, even though in a way he doesn’t want to , but he really does, and they are in disguise, and the old guy put them up to a bet, and he knows about the disguise, but the sisters don’t recognizes the lovers, and Despina is a pushy busybody who is the sisters’ servant but she really seems to be the boss, and now they are getting married, but not really, and each to his friend’s girlfriend, even though they really belong together and not the original pairs and said friend falls asleep sitting up.)

    A customer reviewer of the Salzburg M22 Cosi said it was confusing; he couldn’t tell which sister was which and which lover was which, and I thought AHA! That’s the point, isn’t it. It really doesn’t matter who ends up with whom. They are all in love with the idea of love; and/or they may be purely in the imagination of Alfonso and/or Despina. In fact, its hard to tell them all apart till they sing in MANY of the productions i have seen. (With the exception of the Berlin production with Dorothea Röschmann, but that’s partly because she is somewhat slight of stature, which makes her sister look like an Amazon!)

    Which reminds me. In that Zurich Cosi, when Fiordigili (Malin Hartelius — sigh!) dies at the end? How come SHE really dies when she drinks that blue stuff, but the guys didn’t? Was Guglielmo REALLY trying to poison her in particular, and if so, how could he be sure she would be the one to pick up that glass. Not to mention, that after it obviously tasted bad to her, why did she take a second drink of it? Of course that is probably the least of the questions in THAT production.

    (Notice how, in a feeble attempt to make up for hijacking your thread, I got Malin Hartelius into the post? I guess I really need to start my own blog…)


    1. Opera plots do tend to sound kind of weird when you try to explain them – I tried to explain Handel’s Giulio Cesare to someone once and gave up midway through.

      I agree about Cosi – there’s something a little disturbing about this opera when one starts thinking about it. The men think, perhaps rightly, that the women are interchangeable, and it emerges that the men are too – the productions of this opera that make the most sense to me are the ones that end with everyone confused and upset. (I remember that Berlin version very well! Röschmann does look very little next to Katharina Kammerloher – there’s no way one would mix those two up). I like regie productions for that same reason – the singers have to act, which means everyone has to really think about what the point of it all is, and so when all goes well it tends to make the performance of the music more interesting too.

      Fiordiligi’s the only one who gets the glass of blue poison, right? I haven’t watched that one in a while – wasn’t one of the men trying to poison himself, and pours the glass, and then leaves it, and it gets mixed up with the others on the table, and then Fiordiligi gets it by accident? I can’t remember – will have to check later. (Also: mention of Malin Hartelius duly noted! I checked my blog stats the other day, and she is actually the top search term of how people find me. Not Röschmann, not DiDonato, not ‘regietheater’ or whatever one might normally suppose: but Malin Hartelius. The internet: it’s weird.)


      1. OK now I have to got back and look at that Cosi again. The bottle of poison is under a chair over to the side. When they are singing that quartet, the women and Fernando are rhapsodizing about love, and Guglielmo sings “I wish they were drinking poison instead of champagne” (or words to that effect), he notices the poison and goes over and picks it up. But I forget how the business works from there.

        In the M22 Cosi by the Hermanns (there is an egg instead of a potato or watermelon) right at the beginning of the opening duet, the sisters hand each other their lovers’ portraits. They sing most of the duet to the “wrong” portrait, Dorabella looks at hers again, and realizes it’s not her man, and sheepishly trades pictures with her sister. Apropos of nothing, they have the fortepiano continuo player on stage, which for me somehow makes TOTAL sense. But I am not sure why. But she does get involved in the story, mostly in reacting. Several characters at various times take refuge on the bench with her.

        SO, I’m seriously thinking I need to start my own blog so as to stop horning in on yours (Malin Hartelius). I am thinking of calling it:
        “Regie, or Not Regie?” But maybe I should just call it “Malin Hartelius”


        1. I’ll have a look at that Cosi again too – I feel obligated to get to the bottom of this now! (And I really ought to dig up the M22 one as well.)

          Re blogging: The world always needs more opera blogs – go for it! (Although I’m happy to have folks horning in on mine too)


          1. I haven’t looked at it again, yet, but I think maybe after the opera ends, Fiordiligi recovers. Since it obviously didn’t kill the men, maybe it would just have an anesthesia-type effect.
            That would be an interesting sequel: Murder Mystery Opera: La morte di Fiordiligi


        1. I am not sure anyone else mentions Calixto Bieito much at all. But thanks for the tip! Anything to get found, eh?

          Well, since, as we noted, the world needs more opera blogs (not really) and since my editing assignment was postponed, and I had already cleaned out my inbox and trimmed my fingernails, I decided to take the plunge (again) into the blogosphere. We’ll see.

          You can find me at http://regieornotregie.blogspot.com

          (John, I am on my way over to check your blog too! Or maybe I will just hijack it by leaving lengthy comments. I just started reading your Cosi review.)


          1. I can’t comment on your blog! The wordpress option for identifying oneself doesn’t work – is there a simple name/url option? (I just wanted to say 1. looking forward to the next installment! and 2. there is no such thing as a gratuitous Röschmann reference)


            1. Well that totally sucks. I mean the fact that you cant comment, not the fact that you wanted to . 🙂
              Does the “open ID” form work? I guess not or you would have tried it. I checked settings just to make sure I wasn’t accidentally blocking comments. I will have to go beat up someone at Google. Tomorrow.

              Thanks, and stay tuned! 🙂


                1. Argh – the problem is on my end then. (This happens to me with other google blogs too, so maybe I have some bizarre thing going on with my internet setup.)

                  I find those Captcha things tricky sometimes too: some of them are genuinely ambiguous. Perhaps I am a machine after all and never realized . . .


    1. Yep, part of it. A lot of the stuff I’ve been slogging through is also focused on church government – independent congregations versus a presbyterian system. Everyone agrees that they hate bishops, but that’s about all they agree on.


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