Long time coming . . .

I thought blogging would be easy.  After all, I’m an extrovert with tons of stuff to say, and plenty to be grateful for.  I forgot that I’m also a prime procrastinator.  Silly of me.

So, what to write about today?  It’s Saturday, and according to the MPBN website, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s broadcast of  Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”  will soon brighten my afternoon.  I’ve seen different stagings and some of the singers, who I like.  I can picture the sets and costumes in my head, arrange everything exactly as I like it.  No trashy “modern interpretations” for me.  Looking down the list of future broadcasts are more favorites: Cappricio, Trovatore, Tannhauser, Tosca and Anna Bolena.

I discovered opera as a kid watching the Ed Sullivan Show.  Ed showcased the greats; Pavarotti, Sutherland, Price–so many magnificent voices.  My first opera purchase was Aida with Price.  Still adore it.  When Amneris, the mezzo, laments over the trial of the man she loves while the priests’ chorus condemns him to death, I get chills.

In college, I answered the Back Bay Theater’s ad for ushers for a week-long showing of a film of Strauss’s  “Der Rosenkavalier” with elegant Elizabeth Schwarzkopf as the Marschallin.  Three plus hours of gorgeous music and singing.  I confess, I got bored during the first showing.  Strauss’s music isn’t easy.  But by the last show I was in tears.  It was over.  I’d never see it again.

Now I own the DVD.  Grateful.

When the Boston Opera Company set up in the Back Bay, I was there, ushering in the audience, then hurrying to one of the boxes–they weren’t fit to be sold–no seats–to watch, close up, Sutherland and Horne in Rossini’s “Semiramide.”  After the first performance, the local critic praised Horne to the heavens, but said that Sutherland wasn’t giving her all.  Next night, she did.  I could tell the difference.  So could the audience.  I can still hear the cheers.

I earned $2.00 a show in cash.  The evening’s true value–incalculable.  I saw Pavarotti in “La Boheme,”  I saw works by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, which transported me–and works I found less than appealing: the world premier of “Intolerenza” (which as far as I know, has vanished) Shoenberg’s “Moses und Aaron,”  Berg’s “Lulu”,

When I left Boston I feared I’d left opera behind, but MPBN played an opera on the radio every Saturday,  and (too seldom) on TV.  Now I can buy DVDs of world class performances, and the Met broadcasts ten to a dozen operas every year on a movie screen at Cook’s Corner.  Grateful!

If anyone has read this far, they may wonder what I see in opera–or hear in it.  Some dismiss it as so much noise–which is what I think about most pop music, so I shouldn’t complain.  (But I do.)  As I type I’m listening to a soprano/tenor duet.  The music is full of furious energy.  Soon the tenor will sing of his devotion to his lady, and his determination to stand by her in her hunt for her father’s killer.  Words and music telling stories together, and for a story-lover like me, that is riches.

The singers and musicians studied and rehearsed for years to express their art.  The composers spent years learning their craft and finding or writing librettos.  All that love and effort pays off when it comes together on stage.  Needless to say, but I will anyway, I’m deeply grateful for the dedication of thousands, all so I can be transported into heaven.

Yes, it is all about me.

Opera has everything.  Music, poetry, art, dance, wrapped up in a story.  At it’s best, it’s vocalists, musicians, artists, dancers, carpenters, lighting technicians, and many more talented people working together to produce something beautiful.  I wish the “real” world functioned that way, but obviously, it doesn’t.  When I’m at the opera I’m part of a sublime creation, part of a whole far more wonderful than I can imagine.

Grateful.

Showers

Pretty simple, eh? Water and soap. But when I think about it, not so simple.

First, our life-supporting planet. Just the right gravity, and air, and hydrogen and oxygen combining into water. Heat and cold, and my skin’s ability to sense and enjoy them. Thank you, Nature.

But that’s only the beginning. I’m grateful for the first folks who thought of piping water and the many engineers who developed out water delivery systems, the inventors who created water heaters, fabricated shower stalls, the manufacturers and workers who made and installed them, the people who keep our water safe.

Oh, I can’t forget soap. For centuries, making soap was a dirty, dangerous job. It probably still is, but I can pick up ready-made bars in the market. Same with shampoo. Someone else gathers the materials, blends and tests them, packages them neatly and conveniently and sells them to me for a pittance.

So my morning shower connects me with a huge web of people, past and present. With the dreams of inventors and the sweat of laborers.

Which makes me think about the “bootstrap” folks. The “I did it my way” folks. The folks who proudly claim that they made it on their own. Poppycock. Me, I’m grateful for every helping hand I’ve gotten and, I hope, given along my way. I couldn’t have survived without them.

Storytelling

A few days ago, as I was crossing the town mall, a young woman ran up to me.  “You’re the storyteller!” she said.  “I remember you from school.”

I nodded.  Smiled.

“Could you tell them a story?” she asked, gathering two little girls to her side.  They looked hopeful.

I had an appointment, but I also had a few free moments.  Not enough for one of my favorite tales–they tend to run long.  So I made up a story of an elephant who wanted to fly.  The kids laughed.  I felt great as I went to meet my friend.

I’ve been telling stories since I was able to talk, first to my little sister, then to the neighbor kids.  Later, to anyone who wanted to listen.  Now I tell stories in our local grammar school.  And at the library, the supermarket, the mall–anywhere a kid or a grownup kid asks me for a tale.  When I’m telling a story I feel connected to my audience, and also to the tellers of ages past.  I’m passing down a valuable legacy with the hope that at least a few of my listeners will pick it up.

The fairytales, folktales and myths that have lasted contain the distilled wisdom of the ages.  They hint at how to survive the many tests and trials life presents to us in a form that is memorable and entertaining.  Tales weren’t always just for children but after literacy took hold, the tales intended for adults were told less often.   They still live, though.  And I tell them.

I feel whole and complete when I’m telling a story, whether it’s one I’ve read or one I’ve made up.  I’m grateful for the stories, for a memory that holds them and for the people who listen and enjoy.

In other posts, I plan to write about my favorite tales and books of and about tales.

Thanks for reading.