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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Operatic Therapy

We've become accustomed to the belief that the world of fact is, in some hidden way, harmonious with the world of sanity. Nothing could be further from the truth. By natural selection, those who couldn't bear this disappointment exploded, and those determined to live learned to dream. It is they who invented opera, for emotional survival.

Opera reminds us not to allow imagination overmuch rule by reality. You can attend "Le Nozze di Figaro"--based upon Beaumarchais's sequel to "Barber of Seville"-- by Mozart or its compounded pun, "The Nose" --"Hoc, Nos", reverse of "coh, son", Russian for "dream"-- by Shostakovich, and find the world connected by barbers, wordplay, musical phrasing, ingenuity --in fact, by everything but reality. There are constructs and procedures that come close to consciousness --marriage, haircuts, noses fleeing police, warfare, misrule. I don't know if there is an opera about plumbing but it couldn't hurt, could it?

The world has been dreaming a long time, so there are many operas, but it is also useful to make up your own opera, your own mind. I do this as therapeutic meditation and always feel better. Here is one currently under construction:

Don Fulano De Tal --Portuguese/Spanish variant of the American term "Whoever"-- (synopsis):

Jorge, a poor young plumber (tenor)
Papa, Jorge's father, also a plumber (baritone)
Don Fulano de Tal, a wealthy Portuguese and Spanish nobleman (bass)
Yolanda, his daughter (soprano)
Ragudo, an agent of the Inquisition --character is based upon a real person, a kid named Ragudo who, in 1960, would punch me and other kids in the stomach whenever we encountered him in the school halls. In 1966 he rifled my gym locker and stole my wallet-- (baritone)
The Pope (bass)

Story opens at Papa's house in a rustic village. Jorge sings about how poor he is --"Mis Primos y Yo". He was forced to wear the worn-out clothes of relatives, often while worn-out relatives were still in them. This embarrassed Jorge, especially on dates and upon it he blames his loneliness.

His father joins him in a duet. Papa expresses sorrow at the plight of his son and regrets his poverty but says it couldn't be helped. Someday, he assures Jorge, the reason will be known. He advises Jorge to leave their rustic village and go to the city, where he can practice his trade "where plumbing at least exists".

Beautiful Yolanda, delighted by picking wildflowers (with the assistance of elves and other magical Elementals), has wandered away from her father's castle. She sings about how happy, lost and worried she is because she has wandered quite out of her native country as well --an aria overheard by the evil Ragudo!

Ragudo jumps out of a ditch and demands Yolanda prove she is not a witch gathering herbs for wicked rites he might like helping with. She is horrified and they sing a duet in which her part consists entirely of the word, "no". Ragudo  steals her wallet, ties her to a convenient stake and builds a fire under it.

Jorge, off to seek his fortune with only a biscuit in his pocket, hears Yolanda's protestations and hurries to the scene. Ragudo punches him in the stomach and flees. Jorge uses a hacksaw from his plumbing toolkit to cut the smoldering stake away from the fire. Yolanda is unconscious. He carries her back to Papa's hovel.

Papa helps Jorge lay Yolanda onto their rustic chaise longue while singing praises of his son's heroism. "Leave her here and I'll get you another biscuit, a second and better biscuit for your pocket!", he sings. They repair to the kitchen. Jorge leaves home again. Unfortunately, he and Papa forget to remove the smoldering stake tied to Yolanda's back and the hovel burns down.

Years later, at the castle of Don Fulano de Tal, there is excitement in the courtyard. The Pope is coming to visit! In honor of this occasion Don Fulano will give his daughter in marriage to the most worthy and deserving guest. Wine flows and the guests are jubilant but soon need to relieve themselves. Don Fulano is compelled to make the recitative announcement that although his castle boasts a thousand rooms, only one is a bathroom --and it is broken, "La Cisterna de Water No Funciona!"

The guests form a chorus, "Pista de Baile", and perform, upon the courtyard --now dance floor-- a rousing peepee dance to ease their discomfort. Ragudo enters laughing evilly with a broken sewer pipe in his hand, punches people in the stomach and steals their wallets.

Jorge, the simple plumber, arrives disguised as a complicated plumber. He vows to repair the bathroom and ascends the stairs toward Don Fulano de Tal. He stops in surprise midway because he recognizes Yolanda by the smoldering timber still roped to her back. An impassioned trio establishes true love and closes with Don Fulano's promise to bless the union if Jorge can fix the toilet.

The Pope arrives and demands to know why Ragudo is still acting as agent of the Inquisition, which ended centuries before. They argue, but hush at a moan from the top of the stairs. Jorge has repaired the loo, but cannot accept Don Fulano's blessing because he is poor and can offer Yolanda only love and the other biscuit.

With dramatic fanfare, Papa runs up with a duffel bag, which he opens with a flourish and reveals his secret. He has distrusted banks since the Great Depression, and so refrained from cashing his paychecks for 80 years. After the hovel fire he got therapy, did his banking and now has a duffel bag of cash.

Jorge, learning he is of moneyed family, embraces Yolanda. The Pope declares he will personally conduct their wedding ceremony. He also forgives Ragudo, re-Christens him Count Impetigo, presents him with friendly dinosaur --handled by three more Jorges-- and leads a joyous chorus, "Ha Llovido Mucho Desde Entonces", all water under the bridge! Count Impetigo (Ragudo) punches the Pope in the stomach, steals his wallet and tries to run away but is tangled by a festoon to the dinosaur, which runs to Scotland to live in the Loch Ness. Everyone laughs and dances.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Language In Thought And Action

Who knows what gestures mean? Some seem definite but are they? Are they really? To illustrate, I shall post a short film taken by my wife. It was made last year of me performing a private retirement dance. My son posted it on Youtube and called it, "Geezer dances until told to stop". They thought it might make me a famous dancer, which I considered optimistic over a career of only 16 seconds.

Turns out the 16-second gravel dance gathered over 180 views, which is famous enough for me, but recently I was told I could sensationalize the title and greatly expand my audience. I am uncertain of the process, but consider "Geezer convulses and hoarks up a hip-bone" a strong favorite. It wouldn't be truthful, but those expert in dance gesture assure me no one could tell until the end of the clip.