Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Winter that Refuses to Die
March Fourth and still a good foot of snow covers our back yard! Its a hard, crusty, icy mantle. We've had snow cover steady since Christmas. January was the big snow fall month and February was just plain cold so nothing melted much. Our roof sprang a few leaks, and our heating bill went through the same roof. Huge mountains of plowed snow decorate our streets, but these ungainly sculptures, now soot black, do little to elevate our spirits or arouse our aesthetic libido.
I've had my x-c skis in the back of the car but haven't used them in over a month as this hard old stuff doesn not invite trespass by foot or ski. Frustrating to say the least because it LOOKS so inviting from a distance.
In my class at Yale, ("Minimalism: Before, During and After") we have just listened to John Adams Harmonium. I am amazed at how powerful and full of expressive grace it is after all these thirty some years. Sure, it has an abundance of exurberance--maybe a bit too much--but it really holds up. Those cowbells at the end of the second movement haunt and remind me of a September night in the Sierran cabin when we were awakened by faint clangings, distant harbingers of summer's end (the bovine migration from the high country).h
News, news news!!
But the big Adamsian event was, of course, the Met's production of Nixon In China.We were fortunate to be able to attend the dress rehearsal and had great seats just six rows back from the pit. I am not an opera fan and I doubt that many contemporary operas will still be around in the next fifty years or so, but I have a feeling that Nixon will, if only because there's so much damned good music in it! A week after seeing the performance live, I was able to see it again in so called HD transmission in Yale's Sprague Hall. This was overwhelming and brought you into the opera more than the live performance. It was thoroughly captivating. Jame Madalena does a remarkable job with Nixon's character and has been doing so all over the world in the last 25 years. His voice seems a bit strained now, and he on occasion misses a high note or two, but his dramatic power is flawless; he really owns that character.
Dramatically I've always found the enigmatic last act weak, but it doesn't pull down the rest of the work; it is what it is and as such is unique and probably will be around for a long time.