воскресенье, октября 16, 2005

Tristans

Today the NYT had an article about the future of opera recordings, which are becoming more and more expensive. They mentioned the recent release of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde on EMI Classics, which was recorded in studio during 8 weeks and must have cost more than 1 million dollars. The sole reason of being of this recording was to see how well the 64-year old Plácido Domingo, who has for the last 15 years experimenting more deeply with the Wagnerian repertoire, would deal with one of the most demanding rôles in the history of opera. In fact, it must have been due to the hardships involved with singing this rôle that the tenor who created it, in Munich in 1865, died only weeks after having sung it. His name was Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, and he was replacing another tenor who had had a nervous breakdown or something of the kind, during the rehearsals. Von Carolsfeld's wife, Malvina, survived her husband some 30 years, leading a successful career as a Wagnerian soprano (she sang with her husband at the début of Tristan).

Anyway, I don't really want to write about these aspects of Tristan. I just want to draw attention to the cover of this "deluxe" recording, which a reviewer on amazon said that resembled "the promotional poster for a movie you would never want to see." And, truly, what the hell is EMI trying to do to Tristan? Trying to transform it into some kind of Mexican soap-opera?!?!? They already have two Mexicans in the cast (Domingo was born in Madrid but grew up in Mexico City, and a rising star in the operatic world, Rolando Villazón, who sings a minor rôle in the first act, is Mexican as well), so it is only a small step to change the language of the opera to Spanish, and to put as much make-up as possible on Isolde.

(Photo courtesy of amazon.com)


And then the NYT goes on to say that the future of opera recordings is in live recordings, and analyzes another version of Tristan, recorded at the Vienna State Opera in 2003, and released last year. I won't discuss that version either. I just want to point out one thing: what is Deutsche Grammophon (the label that released the set) trying to do to Tristan and Isolde??!??!?! Why did they have to put such an ugly painting on the cover of the disc set?! For a long time, when I looked at it, I thought that Isolde had a blue tongue, and was showing it to Tristan, until I understood that the blue thing coming out of her mouth was actually Tristan's hand (yes, Tristan is blue). How come, in less than two years, two big recording labels manage to put out on the market two recordings of the same opera with two equally ugly covers?! Where has all the good taste gone?

(Photo courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon)

At least for the DG recording, it is understandable that they would not use images from the live production of Tristan. On this link there is a review of the production, including photos, which make us long for the time when Wieland Wagner ruled over Bayreuth.

And, since we are talking about Wieland Wagner, I found this interesting paragraph in the book I am reading about Tristan und Isolde, which summarizes all this I have been trying to talk about:

"Wagner's story ends as the old legend ends, with Isolde and Tristan united in death. Following Wieland Wagner's Bayreuth production of 1962, opera houses have acquired the habit of representing the final transfiguration as a kind of glorious resurrection, so that Isolde does not die but rises with outstreched arms to greet the world, not unlike a football player who has just scored a clinching goal. This is one of many ways in which producers have tried to distort, satirize, or obliterate Wagner's message and to reduce the most sublime of modern dramas to a vulgar riot. There is a reason for this: The two experiences on which Wagner draws for his emotional material - erotic love and religious sacrifice - are no longer easily available to modern audiences without quotation marks. By offering the quotation marks, producers imagine that they have made the rest of the experience safe for us. ..."

четверг, августа 11, 2005

"Мы женаты", сказала она
Ложась на мраморную постель накрытую хризантемами
- На могилу своего любовника.

среда, августа 10, 2005

"Estamos casados", disse ela
Deitando-se no leito marmóreo e coberto de crisântemos
- O túmulo de seu amante.

суббота, мая 21, 2005

Плохая примета

Гулять полно ночью полной луной в очень дальнем королевстве и встретить чёрного лебедя - очень, очень, очень плохая примета, ужасная примета. Мой знакомый встретился с чёрным лебедём. Он очень романтичный, суеверный и таинственный человек.

Он пошёл к предсказательнице. Она ему сказала:

"Вы, печальный человек, умрёте скоро. У Вас есть один выход, только один выход! Вы должны будете взять двух девушек, девственниц. В ночи без лунного света, Вы должны будете гулять с девушками по озеру.

"Когда белый лебедь запоёт, одна девственница должна поплыть к лебедю. Вам нельзя будет видеть её ещё раз. Вы должны будете жениться на другой девственнице, и Вам нельзя будет прикасаться к ней. Никогда!"

Он сделал, как она сказала. Он живёт сейчас в Бразилии. Ему сто сорок восемь лет.

воскресенье, мая 15, 2005

Весенние выходные в Барде

Весенние выходные являются самым важным событием в Барде. В эти дни студенты, профессора, чиновники Барда, и дикие животные из деревень около колледжа собираются на большой обряд в честь богов Весны и Реки Гудзона.

Подготовка ритуала начинается в четверг, когда все студенты встречаются в маленькой часовне и поют много песен по темам, созданным Святым Леоном из Венгрии, знаменитым музыкантом средних веков. В это же время преподаватели Барда ходят по лесу, где они ловят много опасных, питающихся мёдом медведей, милых гуляющих оленей, цветных быстро летающих бабочек и суетливых, бегущих по стволам деревьев белок. Ночью в четверг студенты показывают их общежитие восхищающимся животным. Обычно ищущие орех и мёд белки с медведями наводняют кухни, и иногда они находят шкафчик, набитый до отказа вкусной едой.

В пятницу все животные и люди идут вместе в спортзал, где они поют и празднуют прибытие жары, солнца и пчёл, которые приготовят хороший и питательный мёд через несколько дней. Также в пятницу толпа идёт на реку. Там, студенты играют, а профессора, гуляя по реке со зверьми, разговаривают на разные темы, например: о производстве мёда в Аргентине, о тушении оленей в Канаде, о выращивании роз в Голландии. Наконец, все участники собрания ночуют на дрейфующем корабле.

В субботу звук полёта уходящих бабочек будит зверей и студентов. Профессора ещё храпят. Корабль останавливается на берегу Гудзона. Как из Ноева ковчега, звери выйдут из корабля на свободу. Студенты также уйдут, как только сон преподавателей закончится. Последнее благодарение начинается: торжественная процессия в Большом зале Центра имени Фишера.

пятница, мая 13, 2005

Воснесение Торговца

Много веков назад жил торговец из Аравии, который возил много вещей между Россией и Аравией. Часто, идя на Восток, он останавливался месяца на два в Сибири, где у него было несколько знакомых. Там, на подметаемых ветром дорогах и около волнующихся озер Сибири, ему было приятно кататься на своей лошади под бесконечно блестящим солнцем.

Было лето. Он прокатился до берега синего и тихого озера, где он выкупался. Отдыхая в тени большого дерева, он заснул и, заснув, он видел сон. Прекрасная девушка пришла к нему во сне, и они сразу же влюбились друг в друга.

Спящий торговец проснулся и, отчаянно поискав красивую девушку в каждом посёлке района, он возвратился на озера, не найдя предмета своих мечтаний. Он лёг спать. Девушка ещё раз явилась спящему арабу. Танцуя перед ним, она пела:

«Мне пора, мне пора,
В озере нет места для меня.
Мне пора, сейчас лечу на звезду.
К звезде, со мной пойдут
Все рыбы в озере.
Можешь ли ты? Приди ко мне!»

Он сразу проснулся и, открывая глаза, он увидел умопомрачительное восхождение летающих и сверкающих серых рыб. Потом он побежал к озеру и начал купаться. Купаясь, через несколько минут он заметил, что он колебался над озером как облако. Он поплыл между серыми звездами на Луну, красивую, никогда не казавшуюся более прекрасной, синюю Луну. В небе, он стал звездой, и обрёл покой.

среда, апреля 27, 2005

Случай в Петербурге

Как-то раз, гуляя по улицам и набережным Петербурга, я встретился со странным человеком, который был очень похож на меня самого. Я только ушёл с маленькой вечеринки у друзей, и тепер я должен был перейти через мост, чтобы дойти до дома. На вечеринке я немножко пил, поэтому, выйдя на улицу, я не видел ясно город перед моими глазами. Был рассвет, и солнце, никогда не спящее в то время, ещё не поднималось над городом, и вместе того сидело около серебряного горизонта. Было раннее утро: всё в городе было погружено в тени. Человек появился передо мною неожиданно, как будто он пришёл из моего воображения, или из уходящей ночи. Встретившись, мы остановились и долго смотрели друг на друга. «Он так похож на меня», думал я. «Неужели я – не я, а я – возможно, он?» У него были те же самые глаза, тот же самый рот, те же самые волосы, и… тот же самый голос! «Доброе утро, товарищ! Вы не знаете, как дойти до станции метро Сенная площадь?» «Идите прямо по той же дороге, поверните налево на Садовую улицу». «Спасибо, товарищ… мы знакомы?» «Нет. Я Вас не узнаю». Я продолжил свой путь, и мне вдруг стало плохо. Моя душа болела: я боялся моей смерти, и собственного не существования. Я побежал домой. Войдя в мою комнату, в безопасность моего одиночества, я так обрадовался!

четверг, марта 03, 2005

Лада Лайка


Его всегда тянуло к машинам. Его точка зрения совпадала с мнением его отца, которого продолжает располагать к русской – бывшей советской – промышленности. Поэтому сын посвящал себя советским машинам. Он с детства намеревался купить Ладу Лайку, и с его рок группой, смешивающей музыку Бетховена с Кино, он записал песню, называющуюся «Предстоящая покупка Советской Машины». Он хотел чёрную Лайку; поэтому ему было нужно искать и в Сибири и на Востоке машину такого цвета, потому что в Ленинграде и в Москве чёрной Лайки не было. Он объявлял по радио, что он очень хотел чёрную машину, но никто не продавал чёрную Ладу. Он остался без машины, ожидая дня, когда из фабрики Лады выехала бы чёрная Лада Лайка. «Нет предела совершенству», он всегда говорил.

среда, февраля 16, 2005

At School (II and last)

Dima did not answer. He looked at the floor, at the rectangular, smooth faces of the centuries-old parallelepipeds. Then he looked once again at the narrow lane leading to the street, with the doorman’s house to the left and the white lamplights flashing like a beacon above the city, beyond the brick pavement. And then he looked to the other side, at the pink building of the ancient orphanage where he had classes. Behind it the chapel tower ostensibly showed its slow-paced clock, as it loomed in the star-spotted darkness, bereft of the city and its damp lights outside.

And from there he looked at the winged hybrid standing in the garden, alone. But then his mother showed up, hugging him and explaining that she had had a last-hour meeting at work, and Dad did not know that she could not pick him up at school. She thanked the doorman for keeping an eye on her son and, as Dima listened to the doorman’s humble reply (the kid had been behaving well, if she would not show up one of the nuns would have called his parents anyway), he started crying, and begged his mother to go home. She deduced that he was hungry, he had not had food since the mid-afternoon snack, and he said good-bye to the doorman and they left. On the way home he pictured in his mind the simple dinner the doorman’s family would have, he pictured the daughter with the limp running around the house at night, and he felt compassion for them (maybe he did not know yet what compassion was in theoretical terms, but he felt it nevertheless). But he wanted to go to bed now.

And, in the darkness of his room, hearing the low humming of cars on the street outside, he could not scare away from his mind the image of the granite-bodied creature who had kept him company at twilight. He imagined him shivering with cold and with fear of the hounds; even though he was one of those half-Godlike creatures who were closer to God than us, the angel was alone in the garden, stuck to the grayish pedestal. Dima turned around in bed, and different thoughts entertained his slumber.

At School (I)

After having stared fixedly at the arm for a couple of minutes, directing occasionally the pair of black pupils to the wing, and then back to the arm, he concluded that undoubtedly both appendages were moving. It did not matter how slowly they moved; he clearly sensed that, under the golden light of sunset, the arm and the wing were shrinking, approaching the ivory-white body until all dust would be crushed in between the limb and the thorax, in between the useless and heavy organ of flight and the spine.

It was getting dark already. All the other kids had already gone home, except for the little girl who lived two steps away from the school entrance. She was the daughter of the doorman, a short man with sunburnt skin and grayish hair who – the school kids used to say – wandered alone through the school at night, when not even the most fervorous of the nuns, under the protection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, would dare to leave her room in order to knock at a neighbor’s door.

The doorman stepped out of the hut by the school gate, and with slow steps moved towards the patch of brownish grass where Dima was standing. Still looking up, under the spell of the white-winged, slow-moving angel, Dima heard the doorman’s voice behind his back scolding him for being where he was. The kid slowly turned around, and even more slowly – perhaps as an attempt to reproduce the motion of the pondering spirit he was admiring – returned to the cloud-like solidity of the brickstones on the floor.

He followed the doorman back to the gate, which was already half-closed in preparation for the falling night. He could not understand what was happening: why had nobody shown up to pick him up yet? Had they forgotten about him? What would happen if the doorman closed the gate for good (in fifteen minutes he would do that; the bell at the chapel had just rung the third quarter of the hour): would he stay inside, inside with the hounds and the dead kids who lived here when the school was an orphanage, or would he stay outside, outside in the… what would there be outside without his parents nearby?

It seems that the doorman’s daughter, a simple girl with rosy-dead cheeks and a strange way of walking (one hand always kept close to the side, as if she were afraid of some spear being hurled at her), was asking herself the same questions concerning his situation, because she yelled a carefully rehearsed “Beware of the dead orphans, Dima!” as she limped back home for dinner.

четверг, января 06, 2005

Uma historinha

I'm posting this in the language I wrote it, more because translating it for the √-1 Brazilian readers would not make the text better, unfortunately. There's no way to save this, I think, but nevertheless I'll try it by returning to the original version, written on Dec. 28 of last year and on Jan. 1st this year, in Gaithersburg MD (or Washington DC, to sound more fancy). Actually, the first thing I did this year (besides going to bed after the New Year's party and waking up some hours later, I mean) was rewriting the conclusion of the story, which is possibly the only alteration worthy of survival.

I wrote this in English because it was meant to be read at a diplomatic reception in the Embassy of Tokelau, the country that, as you may be aware, kindly gave me the free domain www.hipermnesiahipnagogica.tk . However, I found it better to stick to a poem by the good old Vinicius de Moraes, although someone would have to pay the consequences of such wise deed: it is you, my reader, who will be forced to place your eyes on this mumble-jumble. Sorry about that.

(Comments here or elsewhere comparing the present text with the style of a certain Brazilian author well-known abroad will be carefully read, but I reserve the right to erase such comments in order to protect my reputation. Thank you.)



Once upon a time, a young couple lived in a small town lost in the vicinity of a coffee plantation in Southeastern Brazil. He worked for the plantation, transporting coffee to the big city. His wife worked at a small local market.

Because a trip to the big city took at least three days each way, the man would often spend long periods away from his wife. In the big city he drank frequently, getting on fights with British seamen, and requesting the services of "ladies of weak morals," as they used to be called. Back at home, he would spend his free time drinking alone. The bruises and marks he left on his wife's skin made her pray to God for her husband to be killed in one of his sojourns.

And so it happened that once, returning from the big city, the man was stopped by a jagunço with only one eye, and a red cross on his chest. The jagunço stole all the money earned from the sale of coffee, took the man's horse and cart, and wanted to take his life as well. The man begged for his mercy, saying that he had a wife and children to take care of (a half-lie, since the man had no children). The jagunço then replied:

- You'd better take really good care of your family. I'll spare your life. Make good use of it, otherwise, don't doubt it, our paths will cross again. Now, go!

And, walking, it took the man two days more than usual to arrive in town. He crossed the small square in front of the church at dusk. A small town fair was being prepared. He went home. His wife was at the spinning wheel, at the corner where she would often hide from him. He said:

- Let's go out and dance. Get ready.

There was a faint smile on the corner of his lips. She took the dress she had just knitted and put it on silently. She brushed her hair and painted her eyelids. The couple went to the crowded square, which was shining with the yellow lamps of the food tents. There they danced. The neighbors, accustomed to hearing the woman's yelps and the man's shouts, heard only their laughter. The priest, a red cross on his chest, covered up his only eye, condamning the indecency being portrayed in front of the church.

But the couple did not pay heed to that. They danced until the sun shone forth and, as they looked around them, they saw, not the empty sleeping town, but the spinning wheel, which was sweetly echoing the waltz that the woman had been whispering all night, as she knitted the clothes for her husband, who - she would find out in the morning, after another whole night of fearful vigil - had been killed on the road by a jagunço, a couple of days before.