Tuesday, June 24, 2014

muskrat love

"Muskrat, muskrat, candlelight..." It's been running through my head all day.

Yesterday I finally went to investigate the pond where Sr. Brigid assured me there were almost always swans. There were. With cygnets (I will post those photos eventually).

However, to my astonishment and delight, while I was taking pictures of the swans, a muskrat climbed out of the water not too far from me and had supper.  He certainly loved his salad.  He didn't seem to mind me in the least.  I'd never seen a muskrat before, but I couldn't think of anything else it might be - water animal, beaver-like with a rat tail. Needless to say, I changed my focus for a while.  

I thought I'd share.

Well, look who is wandering up the hill...


Clearly saying Evening Prayer...

Yes, those are swan feathers. 

Well, hello there!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

vampire opera

I just went to a vampire opera.

No, I am not making this up.

Tammy Ryan, who plays a lead role, Della, is someone I have known for a number of years now.  I remember her staying with us when she was auditioning for things when she was in college.  I've watched and enjoyed Facebook photos.  This was the first time, however, that I've heard her sing! That is, if you don't count hymns in chapel.  And let's just say there aren't many high D's in The Hymnal 1982.

I enjoyed it very much.

The music is from the 1828 "gothic opera" by Heinrich Marschner.  It's big music, the kind of music most people think of when they think of opera. Reminded me of Wagner (and therefore Bugs Bunny and "kill the wabbit" on an epic scale, but never mind). Well done. I appreciated having real musicians playing (piano, violin, and brass, if I remember correctly).

Here's a big performance of another version in New Orleans, a much larger setting than this tiny minimalist one.  It looks nothing like what I saw, but you can hear the music:

And then there's the new libretto.  I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud.  Not all of the lines in it are something I'd type out on a blog, but it's fun and fabulous.  Occasionally the juxtaposition of such lines with such music made it even funnier.  And I appreciated the nods to Monty Python and Buffy the Vampire-Slayer, too.  Wonder what other references I missed, not being up on my Anne Rice or current television series and movies... Of course, you can't hear all the words when you have three different characters singing different words at the same time, so there were parts I missed. I'd love to find a written copy at some point.

The basic storyline, modified from the original to the point that it's almost a different story, is that of a man who wants to join a group of London vampires. He's looking for power and immortality, though he certainly does enjoy preying on young women as a way to get it.  Apparently vampires need to seduce them first before imbibing, or it doesn't count? I was a bit at a loss here, again being somewhat ignorant as vampire traditions go.  In any case, once bitten himself, this man has to kill 29 young women over 29 days in order to be fully a member.  Think gang ritual initiation.

Meanwhile, Tammy's character, Della (SPOILER ALERT!) dumps her fiance because he and her father are deciding her future without even consulting her.

Add bar scenes, various lovers' spats, and a Buffy-style Muffy who tries unsuccessfully to kill off the vampire herself.  Fast forward to the end and add a masked costume ball.  So far, so good, certainly the stuff of opera.

What this new libretto also does, along with making people laugh, is make some very pointed statements about women not being treated as men's property and about the way people tend to blame the victim.  Well, that tart shouldn't have been out alone at night. She was asking for it. What do you expect. Too familiar to contemporary ears.

It also made the point that Della's fiance isn't as holy as he thinks he is given that he has stood by and done nothing up until the point when Della is threatened.  What, none of these other women matter? ...and so all we so-called innocent bystanders share some of the guilt for things that happen if we do nothing when we could do something.

No, it doesn't quite spell it out in such very small words, but nearly, mostly through the humor.

To summarize: 19th century London, including costumes, but a current sensibility.  (If you've read any Amelia Peabody Egyptology mysteries, it's a somewhat similar combination.)

It was well done, it was fun, and I would have been glad to be there even if I hadn't had the extra enjoyment of finally seeing and hearing Tammy on stage. I love being surrounded by music, performed live.  Time well spent.

Any of you who live in the Boston area and might be interested, go have some fun! There are four performances left: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. Tickets are to be had online here: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/3363. They are free, with donations encouraged (which is why I could go).  It's at the Boston Center for the Arts' Plaza Theater on Tremont Street.

Finally, here is a not-very-good homemade video of it I just found on YouTube. The performance and set have improved since this taping, I must say (must have been a rehearsal), but it will give you a better idea:

For more information:
OperaHub Announces: DER VAMPYR

Saturday, June 21, 2014

purple-headed mallards and other pond waterfowl du jour

Sr. Brigid and I attended a celebration today for our bishop, Tom Shaw SSJE. He's stepping down after around twenty years as bishop, and they planned an outdoor Eucharist and a picnic in the park by Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain, Boston.  BYOP, but water/iced tea and ice cream were provided. Free Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia! Life is good. 

a preacher's kid gets put to work mowing the prairie around the tent - good grief - the grass was past my habit hem once I was seated, which was rather amusing

We were driving in from the south shore, so we got there plenty early and had more than enough time to go for a walk and enjoy the truly beautiful day. Just warm enough early on not to need a jacket; not too hot to sit in the sun later on.

While walking around Jamaica Pond, Sr. Brigid and I happened upon these ducks.  

Well, actually, I almost walked right by them because I was watching a couple of cormorants out on a little island. I didn't expect cormorants in a city pond... Thank God for SB or I might have missed them.  But what are they? I wondered. They look like mallards, but where's the green? Must be something else. But then...

So then I crept close. Several of them saw me and couldn't have cared less, but I was still careful. They were mostly sleeping, and I didn't want to scare them off.  Maybe, I thought, they are just at a funny angle in the sun. Iridescence can change color sometimes.  Nope. Still purple.

Yup, they have the mallard wing bar...

I've now sent an email to a friend who knows all about birds, so I am waiting to hear about this.

Meanwhile, I must share pictures of two other pond fowl.

First, a brand-new bird to me: what turns out to be a Muscovy duck.  This time I did see it and said, "What is THAT?"  Black and white with a red turkey ruffle on his beak.

Well, I bet his mother thinks he's beautiful.

Green iridescent feathers on his back... I couldn't see those at first.

So I started chasing him, paparazzi-style. But trying not to scare him off completely, of course. I wonder if paparazzi have to try this, too. 

Don't leave! I don't have my real camera with a telephoto!

One last set of photos, this time of birds who couldn't have cared less that I was there.  I'm not dumb enough to pick them up, but I was certainly close enough to do so.

Canada gosling! Who knew fuzzy baby birds could be so huge?!

Mom just turned her back and left, even with this person standing over her baby. Whatever. He's fine. 


Can you believe this is right in the city of Boston?  How lucky we are.

All this, Eucharist with much thanksgiving, friends with cute babies I hadn't seen yet, and Ben and Jerry's to top it all off.  Thank you, God.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Suor Cristina Scuccia canta "Livin' on a Prayer"

Let's hear it for singing sisters! Gregorian chant this is not... But I'm enjoying the idea just as much as the crowd who voted her the winner of Italy's 'The Voice' this year.

"Holy moly, a nun just won Italy's 'The Voice'"

Here's an article about it:
A short excerpt:
After winning, the nun kept her modest attitude up and asked the audience to join her in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Thanking her fellow sisters who had come along to all of the previous rounds, she lifted the trophy into the air and thanked God. 

Leading the audience in prayer is not the usual stuff of those shows.  Go, Sister!

Wonder if she'll accept that record deal... Wonder what her community thinks of all this! My guess is that they're delighted and perplexed at the same time. I doubt their rule of life addresses "reality" television! God is full of surprises, and this is certainly one of them.