Valentine’s Day isn’t everyone’s favorite day. I am still haunted by a mis-step I took some years ago. I was leading a writing group. It was Valentine’s Day, and I foolishly suggested that we might begin by brainstorming aspects of love. Which set off an agitated member of the group. Bristling at my suggestion, she said that she would not be writing about love because she had no love interest in her life.
Pulling up my socks, my feeble response was to say that in addition to romantic love, we had familial love, love of the landscape, love of books, love of country, etc. and no, people don’t give or receive a dozen roses from their pets, but nonetheless, many people truly love their dogs and cats.
The air hung thick between us. It was one of those awkward moments that stretch like warm taffy. Waiting for her to meet me half way was a cliff-hanger.
That lesson learned, I now avoid all talk of love. I was amused this week when opening my email, I found the Poetry Foundation newsletter. They too have learned to cover all the bases. If you go to http:///www.poetryfoundation.org, you can choose between a collection of Love Poems or… if you are in a darker mood, perhaps you’d like to read a few selections under the heading of “Screw Cupid.”
The next time I lead a writers’ workshop on Valentine’s Day, I will open with, “Excluding romantic love, let’s brainstorm the other loves we hold close to our heart.”At this moment, my heart is full of books, opera, and choreography.
Beginning with books, I recommend listening to http://www.npr.org/2013/16/172175237. Aired on Morning Edition, February 16, Scott Simon interviewed Ron Rash, who read an excerpt from his newest collection, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Simon introduced the reading saying that the short story about to be read was “just about the loveliest thing I’ve read in a while.” I can second that.
Moving on to opera, I watched Rigoletto Live from the Met in HD at my local theater yesterday and left drunken with pleasure. The classicists, I suppose, want their opera staged as originally staged. In the case of Rigoletto, the original 1851 staging feels dated. And stale. We’ve “been there… done that.”
A couple of days before the screening, I called a friend to ask if she thought I should buy my tickets on-line. “No,” she answered, “it is a modern adaptation. Attendance will be low.” As, indeed it was.
In contrast, the Metropolitan Opera’s newest production under the direction of Michael Mayer is fresh and exciting. Mayer moved the 1851 decadence, lust and betrayal of Verdi’s time to 1960s Las Vegas. The storyline is the same as is the elegance, glitz and trivialization of women. But the pole dancer, the Rat Pack, and the gaming, criminal underworld is hidden yet highlighted by the flashing neon lights. The theme is old; the interpretation is new.
If you are not already a fan of Metropolitan Live in HD, check out the website. You will sit front and center at a fraction of the price of flying to New York and (if you can get a ticket) sitting front and center. As a bonus, you have the advantage of seeing the production through the lens of dozens of carefully orchestrated cameras. Watch a video at www.metoperafamily.org.
I love adaptations that twist and shout. Thinking along these lines, my thoughts flow to Matthew Bourne, my favorite choreographer who best exemplifies the re-invention of the old. His mostly male (but not exclusively male) adaptation of Swan Lake is my favorite. I’ve seen it live twice, but I could easily watch the ballet weekly. Catch sequential snippets of the show at http://swanlaketour.com.
And then there is Carman in which Bourne took Gorges Bizet‘s 1875 Carmen music and moved it to a 1960s garage where it followed James Cain‘s script, The Postman Never Rings Twice. Such inventiveness – I can’t begin to still my racing heart. You can watch a video clip of this show at http://the-car-man.com.
(All these references! I should really fork over the money and enable embedding my favorite videos in timeout2.)
Following in the steps of Michel Mayer and Matthew Bourne, re-invent a story. Using the same characters and setting, set them on a new trajectory. Or…
It is fun to re-write a familiar story through another character’s point of view. One of my favorites is The Wolf’s Story by Toby Forward who re-tells the story of the three little pigs through the wolf’s point of view.
A second re-invented story is the Pulitzer Prize Winner March by Geraldine Brooks. You may remember Louisa May Alcott‘s Little Women (stiff-upper-lipped women at home during the American Civil War) as a bit over too sweet and wholesome. In contrast, March concerns the life of the father, away from home, whose fidelity and core beliefs are challenged by the carnage and privations of war.