I want to fall into the realm ineffable
First in a series of writings on words emerging from music
This week I take a departure from my grueling self-imposed opera study/writing regime to share something I have been working on for a dear friend, a writer in her own very well deserved right, and someone who is an inspiration to me today and – I expect – for years to come.
Amy Gottlieb recently published a wonderful novel, The Beautiful Possible. She goes to all the funky, haunting, alluring places I aspire to and then some! Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book. It’s a great read!
Here’s the book trailer I made for her this week –
Class note: I am out of the country next week so there is a high probability that I will not be posting a micro opera – not unless something inspires me deeply and I have no choice but to post something…
will she or won’t she? Only time will tell.
A dark stage
A single spotlight comes up on an empty stage
A woman steps into the light
She reaches out her arms in front and spins around as though someone has just hit her
She falls to the floor
Music crashes in evoking an overbearing presence filled with malice. The woman sits in the center of the light protecting herself. The music subsides.
She is alone
Sometimes these things happen
and the end result is that we just remember who we are
more than ever before
A choir of men & women dressed in Quaker garb step into the light
Choir of Quakers
Men and women must seek the light
the great heresy is to await
In a kind of indifference
for the Light to come to us
There is so much that distracts us
from love and connections
Choir of Quakers
God is the Light, the Truth that stirs within
Years of negativity and dislike
built brick upon brick upon brick
Such that we cannot see over to the other side of the other side
Choir of Quakers
Walk worthy unto that which ye are called
Practice abstinence from that which intoxicates
How increasingly incumbent is it upon you
to carry out your principles
so that you be not found in the background
of the great reformation that is taking place
in human society today
Last night someone looked at me and said
“Oh honey, you’ve gained weight”
And when I mentioned that to someone else they said
“Well, you have, ya know”
I know that shouldn’t bother me but today it does
Choir of Quakers
Orthodoxy and bigotry shut men and women from the Light
Prune rote-creed and superstition from your mind
Let in the Light
The clear, stark, uncompromising Nantucket Light
I always struggle with my body
the discrepancy between what I see
and what others see
I think its time to assert myself
against comments like that
Let in the Light
The clear, stark, uncompromising Nantucket light
Where there is no room for prejudice to grow
Or oppression to flourish
Do not comment on someone’s body
shape or size
unless you are fucking asked about it
Woman is claiming for herself stronger and more profitable food
There is today a more extended recognition of her rights
her important duties
her responsibilities in life
Your opinion on my body is unwarranted
and I didn’t ask
so don’t comment
Launch forth, as men do, amid real, independent, stormy life
This is a cultural issue
that it’s been OK to objectify women’s bodies
It is interwoven throughout our country
and we may well acknowledge that we are all
All verily guilty concerning our sisters and our brothers
I think it shows a remarkable lack of tact
What the fuck is wrong with people?!
Inquire for thyself and acknowledge the Light that resides within
I need not set aside a special time for worship
I worship always seeking the divine will
and practicing holy obedience
I appreciate the wise laws of nature
and the divine spark in man and in woman
Breath in – breath out
you can’t change people
Only your response to them
Because the Light is one in all
it binds us together
In the bonds of love
Free discussion is never to be feared
except by such as prefer darkness to light
The spotlight has expanded during this interlude and now floods the stage in brightness
The woman changed her clothing from the party girl out on the town look into simple Quaker garb. She now stands with the choir undistinguished from the rest
Librettist’s note: This weeks Micro Opera is a curious mixture of words from a Lucretia Mott address and a dialogue I watched unfold on FaceBook. Somehow I found them to be related. This is raw, I didn’t take enough time but I had to post something because I played hooky last week. It was Passover, I was tired and full and buzzing from many glasses of wine. But this also points to my ongoing process of “turning over, and turning over” the words of my ancestor in the hopes of finding new meaning for our society today. There must be a connection. I continue to dig. I’m 20 minutes past my posting deadline. Time to get this sucker up there.
As always, thank you so much for reading.
There’s a profound line between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. There’s an even greater gap between doing something for the first time and actually “getting” what you are doing. It was a hell of a process simply going from the idea of attending the opera to physically putting my butt in the chair for our inaugural season subscription at the Met. Everything I went through to get to that point; the flurry of excitement, the phone calls, the planning, the fretting could not prepare me for the watershed, “Ah ha!” realization about the world that was waiting for me in Don Giovanni.
Imagine, if you will, Mozart’s overture beginning with the amazing chord that strikes fear into any listening heart. Now imagine this Opera Abecedarian – green as a length of sod freshly rolled out at the Bryant Park lawn with little signs stating “please stay off while the new grass is establishing roots” – sitting there ready to be opera’ed.
I was holding a great deal of reservation about my subscription. Had I been rash and impulsive? Was I taking my family on a crazy cultural ride to nowhere? I was excited and yet, truly feared boredom. Casting aside my doubt I surrendered to the music. As Act 1 progressed it was going well. I understood the story. The Don was pretty hot with his shirt falling off his shoulder; who cares that he was trying to rape that woman*, the music was pretty. So maybe this opera thing was going to work out. It would make a nice occasional family event – something I could post on Facebook. I felt smug as the story progressed through the Catalogue Aria and into the choral section with the vivid pastoral setting with a lot of business going on. Then everyone cleared the stage and Ramon Vargas, as Don Ottavio, was alone in the spotlight performing Dala Sua Pace. The world slowed down as I fell into empathy for this silly, somber man expressing love for the distant Donna Anna.
What stops my world from spinning; what slaps me hard across the face in the midst of this aria is the sudden and complete understanding that opera lives in the spaces between our relationship with other people and things. Opera gives voice and depth to the commentary we all have running through our head and in doing so, SHUTS THE COMMENTARY UP!
It’s Zen! It’s here and now, man! One pure thought can endure and unfold profoundly before hundreds of people if handled with care by the librettist, composer, orchestra and vocalist all working in concert. Fuckin’ Awesome!
I felt that I was being gifted with another human’s experience, multi-dimensionally. I could see and hear and practically touch the living desire of Don Ottavio and I experienced the depth of his pain and longing. I could taste it, I could feel it in my gut. We went way past empathy to psychic, full body link. Any bullshit chatter I had going on in my head was silent and I’m sure I sat there slack-jawed hanging on Vargas’ every note. This was the magic of opera. It shut me up when I wasn’t even saying anything.
Zen is hard. It’s not every time attending the opera that I get it. There’s still struggle. Preparation is key for I believe it is incumbent upon the audience to bring as much to the evening (or matinee) as the artists are expected to bring. What we bring is our understanding, our money and our listening. What we offer is our willingness to let go of what we understand. We give ourselves generously to the company so they may bring us to a place we cannot take ourselves to. They feed us their world and we love them for it.
Opera lives in the space between our relationships with other people and things.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
*I abhor even the idea of anyone sexually overpowering another. Rape is not something I take lightly.