The Mikado

Yeah. I’ve been away for a while. Have you missed me?

I’ve been spending lotsa time in a darkened theatre. And if you’re smart, that’s what you’ll be doing too! Because The Mikado opens in 24 hours, and you’re going to come and see it. Aren’t you? (imagine a pathetic look on my face–I know, not hard to do, right?)

We had our final orchestra dress rehearsal last night. Actually, it’s not much of a rehearsal. It’s a performance. Opera Pacific calls it “Youth Night”, and invites a couple thousand schoolkids to come to the Orange County Performing Arts Center and see the show for free.

I love Youth Night. You would think they’d have a hard time sitting still for hours on end (and some of these operas can be long; I remember Otello ran almost 4 hours), but the kids are invariably our finest audience. They are supremely enthusiastic and always a rewarding crowd. Maybe there’s hope for the future after all.

The Mikado only runs for four performances (this Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday), so call Ticketmaster and git on down to see it. All you people who keep saying you’re going to come to see one of my shows (yes, that means YOU), this is it.

Aside from that, I’ve been working on Pick Up Ax. We have been interviewing directors, and have a read-through of the show this afternoon.

Things That Make You Go “Hmmmm”.

Show of the week:
The Mikado

Epigram of the week:
“We’re all in the gutter…. some of us are just looking toward the stars.”
— Oscar Wilde

Operetta of the week:
The Mikado

Quote of the week:
“A woman is like the wick of a candle. If you raise her in your respect she will shine on you, but if you lower and deprecate her she will leave you in the dark.”
— translated from a Ghanese artwork I saw at the Seattle Art Museum

Event of the week:
The Mikado

Hmmm…. I think I see a pattern developing.

Over-Written Thought of the Week

Last week I spent a bit of time listening to reports from New York on the 550 point nosedive the Dow Jones Industrial Average took. It’s ironic that this comes 10 years (almost to the day!) after the famous Black Monday stock market crash in October of 1987.

Can you imagine? 660 billion dollars evaporated in just five hours. And that’s just in the U.S. Hong Kong’s stock market has dropped one-third of it’s value in the past couple of weeks. The worldwide total for this slide is probably several trillion dollars. I can’t fathom that kind of money.

But in the end, it’s just money. From personal experience, I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in things material. The green has its own pull, Lord knows. But Kaufmann had it right: you can’t take it with you. Right?

So it struck me that while many were transfixed by the paper loss of gains which were unrealized anyway, that around the country an equal number of people were just trying to figure out where their next meal was going to come from, or where they were going to sleep tonight. Or perhaps how they were going to live with themselves. Or the disease which afflicts them.

The crosses we each have to bear may be different, but our need for compassion and human kindness in times of trouble is not.

A German poet named Rainer Maria Rilke tackled this idea in 1906, forseeing the human disasters of the our generation (or perhaps those of her own). This text, as translated by Stephen Mitchell and Albert Flemming, is a powerful one to which I often return.

It is the individual voices of a beggar, a drunkard, a suicide, a leper (an AIDS victim in today’s parlance), and an idiot (retarded person). Not only are they all around us, but they are us. This piece was performed several years ago by the Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony, and I’ve always respected John Alexander for programming a piece in Orange County that starts out by telling the rich and fortuate to shut up and listen.

In my finest Serling-esque fashion, I submit it for your approval.



    The rich and the fortunate do well to keep silent,
    for no one cares to know who or what they are.
    But those in need must reveal themselves,
    must say: I am blind, or: on the verge of going blind, or: nothing goes well with me on earth, or: I have a sickly child, or: I have little to hold me together…

    And chances are this is not nearly enough.

    And because people try to ignore them as they pass them by: these unfortunate ones have to sing! And at times one hears some excellent singing.

    Of course, people differ in their tastes: some would prefer to listen to choirs of boy castrati.

    But God himself comes often and stays long, when the castrati’s singing disturbs Him.

    Song of the Beggar

    I am always going from door to door, weather in rain or heat,
    and sometimes I will lay my right ear in the palm of my right hand.
    And as I speak, my voice seems strange, as if it were alien to me,
    For I’m not certain whose voice is crying: mine or someone elses.

    I cry for a pittance to sustain me. The poets cry for more.

    In the end I conceal my entire face and cover both my eyes; there it lies, in my hands with all its weight and looks as if at rest, so no one may think I had no place whereupon to lay my head.

    Song of the Drunkard

    It was not in me. It moved in and out.
    When I dared to stop it, the wine won out.
    (What it was, I no longer remember.)
    The wine then offered this and offered that, till I became dependent on him, I, fool!

    Now I am part of his game, as he throws me around in utter contempt, and surely he will lose me this day to that scavenger, Death.

    When Death wins me, soiled card that I am, he will use me only to scratch his sordid scabs and toss me away into the mire.

    Song of the Suicide

    Well then, one final look around.
    How they have always managed to cut my rope!
    Lately I was so well prepared that in my entrails
    I sensed already something of eternity.

    They keep on offering me the spoon: this spoon containing life,
    No, I want none of it, not now or ever, let me go…

    I know that life is altogether good, the world itself a brimful pot, but my blood refuses to absorb it, instead it goes right to my head.

    What nourishes others makes me sick. Do realize that I scorn life.
    For at least a thousand years to come, I will have to diet.

    Song of the Idiot

    The do not hinder me. They let me go. They say, nothing could happen. How good.

    Nothing can happen.

    Everything comes and circles uninterrupted around the Holy Ghost, around that certain Ghost (you know)–, how good.

    No, one really must never think that there could be any danger involved in this.
    There is, of course, the blook. Blood is the heaviest. For blood is heavy.
    Sometimes I believe, I can no longer–. How good.

    Ah, what a lovely ball that is: red and round all over. Good that you brought it. I wonder would it come if I called?

    How odd everything behaves, driving into each other, swimming away from each other:

    friendly, though a little confused: how good.

    Song of the Leper

    See, I am one everyone has deserted. No one in the city knows of me.

    I have fallen victim to leprosy.

    I beat my wooden clappers and knock the pitiable sight of me into the ears of everyone that passes near me.

    And those who hear the wooden sound avert their eyes, look elsewhere, not wanting to know what has befallen me.
    Where the sound of my rattle reaches, I am at home; perhaps it is you who makes it sound so loud, that no one dares to be too far from me who now avoids to come to close to me.

    So now I can walk for ever so long without encountering a girl, a woman or man, or even a child.

    Animals I do not frighten.

After the darkness of the above sections, the poetry takes a decidedly more upbeat tone and Rilke shows us that all is not lost. There are three more sections, but I will save them for later. It’s past my bed time!


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