Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Anita Epstein-Rosen Explains Carmen for You

Anita, one of the docents, made me nuts because she was so abrasive, hypercritical, and stereotypically New York. I thought it would be fun to try to capture her attitude and temperament in writing.

Anita Epstein-Rosen Explains Carmen for You

So hello and welcome to the lecture on Carmen. My name is Anita Epstein-Rosen. So. Carmen. How many of you have never seen Carmen, the most popular opera in the world? Raise your hands. Okay, most of you have never seen it. This tells me that you're all philistines out here in the desert. What, you've never been to the Met? Why am I even asking you that? You're probably too lazy to drive to the Santa Fe Puebloplex and see the latest Bruce Willis, much less go to an opera. You at least know the Toreador Song, though, right? "Toreador, don't spit on the floor. Use the cuspidor. That's what it's for." You didn't sing that in the school yard? Oy.

So. Carmen by Georges Bizet. As the opera starts, we're in Spain at a cigarette factory. Georges, talk to Anita. What kind of composer would open an opera in a cigarette factory? I'm thinking something a little more upscale, Georges, a little more Midtown. Would it have killed you to set the first act in Bloomingdale's? Frankly, I can't see the customers having a knife fight over cigarettes. Georges, let's see some real conflict between these women, let's see a half-off sale on bath fashions, maybe a knife fight over wicker Kleenex caddies and some Ralph Lauren washcloths in plum. But cigarettes? Georges, those sounds you hear are your mother's sobs of shame.

So. Carmen. A soldier named Don Jose ignores Carmen at the factory, so she throws him a flower to show she's interested. Excuse me, but does anybody believe this? If she's interested in him, she should have invited him over for dinner, maybe some brisket and a nice kugel with a bottle of chilled Manieschevitz. But a flower? I'm not buying it. Don Jose tucks the flower away and meets Carmen later in a tavern with gypsies. Georges, I'm worried. First a cigarette factory and now a tavern? They couldn't meet at the Algonquin for a nice chablis with lovely people instead of a tavern filled with people who have never been near shampoo, deodorant, and toothbrushes in their lives? All right, so we'll accept the fact that Don Jose and Carmen are in love, but between you and me, he's not for her, she's not for him.

So they go into the mountains, and Carmen's friend Micaëla tells Don Jose to return to his dying mother, which, if you ask me, he should have done in the first act; he should have said, "Mom, I'm sorry. You taught me better than to pick up a slut-rag I met at a cigarette factory. Mom, to show you how sorry I am, I'm taking you to a matinee of Mama Mia and afterward we'll go to the Russian Tea Room for a nice glass of rosé and maybe some pound cake. Really, it's no bother." Up there in the mountains, Carmen starts flirting with Escamillo, a bullfighter in a suit of lights. Excuse me, Georges, but I'm not seeing sequins, reflective metallic thread, embroidery, slippers, and a beaver skin hat anytime soon in the summer line at Barney's.

So. Escamillo. Carmen accepts his invitation and goes to the bullfight in her peasant blouse, broomstick skirt, and lots of silver bangles, which, if she got them in Santa Fe, were really no bargain. But Don Jose is at the bullring, too, in spite of having just buried his mother and not even sitting shiva, because he's so in love with Carmen. Carmen tells Don Jose that she loves Escamillo and throws the ring he gave her at him. So he does what I wanted to do since the end of the first act and stabs her to death, and the other gypsies have to figure out how to get bloodstains out of a polyblend peasant blouse.

Any questions? No? Good! Enjoy the opera.

Carmen at the half-off sale at Bloomingdale's

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mrs. Aldersflügel's second husband

I finished up three weeks' of docent training at the Santa Fe Opera and was on information overload the whole time. We learned all about production design, costumes, wigs and makeup, props, scenery construction, and everything else associated with putting on an opera. The heads of the various production shops did the sessions on their specialties, and we learned about this season's six operas from the inimitable Oliver Prezant.

For some reason, no matter where I sat during docent training, the elderly Mrs.Aldersflügel always sat next to me and repeated or commented on everything the speaker said.

Prop master: Here are some of the props we'll be using in Carmen this season.

Mrs. Aldersflügel: Ja, props for Carmen. I haf zeen Carmen all over vorld. Many times. Oh, many, many times. [heaves a sigh for all good things past]

Prop master: One of the wonderful things we've fabricated is a trick dagger with a retractable blade and a bladder for fake blood.

Mrs. Aldersflügel: Jawohl, a knife! Like flick knife I used on mein second husband. Blood was real, though. [to me] Dey never found out who did it.Vat you tink about dot?

Me: [Scoot down the bench away from her. Accidentally bump hips with Anita the Pill, who is always spoiling for a fight. Scoot away a few inches so she won't hit me.]

Prop master: You must also be sure to point out the severed heads of Jokanaan from our various productions of Salome.

Mrs. Aldersflügel: Ach,Salome. Heads mit blood. Salome vass mein sister's name also. She did not decapitated her husband, but I had femur of mein second husband and clubbed brother-in-law's head mit it after dancing mit veils like Salome. Actual, I used towels. Veils vass being dry-cleaned mit brother-in-law's toupee. Vat you tink about dot?

Me: [The hell with this. I'm scooting way down the bench. End up next to the man who has seen every production of Carmen since 1915, who thinks I'm flirting with him.]

Mrs. Aldersflügel: You! Docent all the times taking notes! Vy you scooting avay so fastly?

Mrs. Aldersflügel considers her third husband.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 street fund and books

After we closed the bookstore, I began reading for pleasure instead of production. Now that I don't need to keep up with current releases and hot sellers to make informed recommendations to customers, my numbers are down. In 2013, I read 60 books, down from 104 in 2012 and way down from the all-time high of 129 in 2010.

In 2013 I read a lot about orphan trains and the street kids of New York City in the 1880s. Most of the books on orphan trains were crap: they sounded eerily like English and seemed to be of interest only to amateur geneaologists eager to prove that they were indeed adopted, and that's why the rest of the family is certifiably nuts. My three favorite books were

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell;
The Secret History by Donna Tartt; and
The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders.

got books?

The street fund was down also. I found $9.72:

92 pennies,
6 nickels,
20 dimes.
14 quarters, and
3 dollar bills.

I blame the slow economy.

Next year P-Doobie will use an accomplice to trip people outside the ATM.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do you see what I see?

Every year the folks down at the corner of Diamond Drive and Sandia Drive have a holiday display of inflatable figures. In the evening, the display is quite festive.

Santa is stuck in an igloo.
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, had a very shiny crotch.
What's the bear sitting on?

Nothing says New Mexico Christmas like a saguaro cactus.
In the shadowless light of day, the display is of Christmas in Jonestown.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cañada Bonita

The Las Conchas Fire in 2011 reached the ski hill above Los Alamos and came close to one of my favorite trails, the Cañada Bonita Trail, which goes from the ski area to the Cañada Bonita meadow and thence to the Valle Grande to the west or to Guaje Ridge and Guaje Canyon to the north. I take the gentle hike through the forest to the meadow and then return to the ski area. (See also a previous post about the wildflowers along the trail.) But after the fire, I didn't go up there for fear of what I'd see.

Thursday I took Frankey up for a walk to see what the fire had done and to play with my new camera, which I'm still getting used to. The trailhead still looks pretty normal.

The middle third of the trail to the meadow, however, shows the effects of the fire. Although the aspens and mixed conifers were burned, the aspens, grasses, and wildflowers are returning in abundance.

In some places the grasses and weeds almost covered the trail. The wildflowers were growning in profusion on the slopes.

The forest used to be so thick that I don't recall ever noticing these rocks.


The final third of the trail to the meadow looks much as it used to.


And Cañada Bonita was gorgeous, as usual.

Here are some flowers and berries we saw along the trail.

Baneberry. Do not eat them unless you enjoy the feel of battery acid or hellfire.

 Horsemint is common.

Paintbrushes tell me that summer is almost over.

The wild raspberries are getting ripe. Frankey ate one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Indian Market 2013

Bobbie and I went to Indian Market 2013 last Saturday. We walked right into Tia Sophia's for breakfast, then hit the streets. Naturally, the point is to visit favorite artists and observe the passing scene. Walk along with us (and click on an image for a larger view)!

For the finest in footwear, nothing beats the traditional cowboy boot worn without socks for that perfectly chafed look.

Pleated, ruffledy-puffledy fiesta raiment is a great look if you can carry it off.

This young woman was handling everything, from fragile baskets to fragile pottery. We had to avert our gaze.

Nothing says "Indian Market" like loungewear.

For the couple-about-town, contrast a colorful hat, skirt, and boots with the elegant simplicity of turquoise and a man-purse.

Southwestern Goth is a new look this year. Heads will turn when you stroll along the Plaza in 90-degree heat.

And speaking of 90-degree heat, you'll love adding to the luxury of skin like fine Corinthian leather.

Lengthy hat plumes are sure to get the attention of your fellow shoppers when the feathers whap them in the face.

A traditional ribbon shirt teams with a retro fanny pack to create the Southwest Nerd.

Dress up in your most outrageous regalia and then become annoyed when someone looks at you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

And don't put your lips on John the Baptist's head!

I've been going to the Santa Fe Opera for 45 years. I've seen 98 different operas and attended 160 performances. I've seen The Magic Flute 12 times (they haven't gotten it right since 1968).

Yesterday morning I took the backstage tour at SFO for the first time. I was with a nice couple, Keith and Laura, from Shawnee, OK, who are staying at the Glorieta Baptist Assembly. He teaches at Oklahoma Baptist University. They're Baptists.

There were Rules. No photography. Don't even think about eating. If you need to pee, go now, because we are not stopping. Do not speak at all in the costume shop, because the stitchers needed to concentrate. And no drinking anything anywhere, even though it's 98º and the relative humidity is 4%.

The tour was interesting but not very detailed. The docent would point out stuff—"This, of course, is the fledamora plankstaff, complete with state-of-the-art street elbows and bell-top flow flanges"—but wouldn't elaborate on what exactly it was, what it did, and why no self-respecting opera house should be without one. She made much of the fact that there's no curtain, and all the set changes are made in full view of the audience. Keith and Laura were not impressed.

She also pointed out that there's no back wall to the stage, but didn't give examples of why not having a wall would occasionally be a good thing; so I told Keith and Laura about using the lights of Los Alamos as the lights of the harbor at Nagasaki, the Flying Dutchman's ship rising out of the sea during a lightning storm in the Jemez, and the Queen of the Night's entrance in the 1968 production of The Magic Flute.

We went to the Stieren Orchestral Hall; the docent said it was used for rehearsals. I added that the preview lectures are also held there. Keith and Laura seemed to appreciate my annotations, but the docent may have thought I was a know-it-all.

I asked whether it was true that the opera had the prop head of every singer who had sung Jochanaan in Salome, and the docent said they did, but we couldn't see them. Ratz. That was the main reason I went.
Aubrey Beardley's illustration for Oscar Wilde's play

We had only a couple interactions with the workers. We talked briefly with a wigmaker, and I learned enough that I never want to take up that job. The opera uses real human hair, and all the wigs for the principals are handmade. The process requires meticulousness and patience. We also got to talk with a journeyman who was painting a piece for The Marriage of Figaro.

We saw one of the costumes from Lucio Silla, and the docent said that they always use "muslim" when making the first pattern for the costume. That's one way to bring peace to the Middle East, I guess.

Architectural costume designed by Paul Brown. Photo by Beatuy by Noel.
She also showed us some swatches for this year's production of "Don del Lago," an opera apparently based on Mafia activity in the Scottish Highlands (Prendete l'haggis. Lasciare la sciabola. "Take the haggis. Leave the broadsword.").

It was fun, and I got my $10 worth. Maybe next season I can volunteer as a docent. I bet I'd be boffo.