Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bummer, No Summer

Goal 63 - Swim in the pool every summer

I am having a real hard time getting to the pool this summer. It's been cold and rainy. When I was off at Bard, the weather got real hot, like in the nineties, but then like I say I was off at Bard. And ever since I got back, the mercury dipped quite a bit.

Today it was supposed to be 82, but hey, it isn't. I just went out on the balcony and it's windy and coolish-to-warmish. It almost has to be in the upper eighties before I can go swimming. I hate getting cold and wet like a cat. The dumb 10-day forecast (which changes radically from day to day) says it might heat up to 84 later next week, and MAYBE I'll get myself down there before they close up the pool after Labor Day.

The point of this goal is that we spend so much money on rent (Google rents in the NY metro area sometime, for a two-bedroom high-rise apartment with doorman and parking and pool), and we don't take advantage of all the facilities. I forgot to mention the gym. At least I do get down there once in a while.

I DID, however, use the pool because I had the lovely AC take my step-granddaughter down there when she was visiting. So maybe I can make that count toward the goal! I even think they went down there twice!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Report!

(Goal 61 - Read all the books on my reading list)

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Random Fact:Wilde was so extremely disliked at Magdalen College, Oxford that his fellow students dunked him in the river and trashed his room.

One word review: Lordy.

Okay, I'll elaborate. First I'll back up: when I was making up a reading list I consulted various "must-read" lists floating around the internets--the ones that claim in order to be considered well-read or educated, you have to have read the following, blah blah blah. Dorian Gray was on at least one of them, and I thought it would be entertaining, since Oscar Wilde usually is.

I whiled away the long idle stretches of rehearsal last week (at the recent Bard Festival) with this carbuncle of a novel. A fellow "literati" had warned me, when I told him that Dorian Gray was next on my list, that it was a bit "ugh," and sure enough it is. This exercise in decadence is beautifully and overly wrought, and the story is extremely unpleasant if fascinating.

The plot is well-known, but I'll excerpt the Wikipedia summary here:

The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward...Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, expressing his desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form.

So, you gotta know this isn't going to end well.

Wilde's prose is very, very purple, ornate and exotic. Not that it isn't beautiful. Every now and then he throws in a witticism; the most famous one in this book is uttered by the impossibly effete Lord Henry: "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Dorian late in the story calls Lord Henry "Prince Paradox." I'm not sure whether that was because he considered Henry personally paradoxical, or because of Henry's penchant for uttering paradoxes and passing them off as witticisms (unless we should really credit Wilde with that). That first one isn't bad, but they become annoying as the story slithers on. (Lord Henry's witticism formula: "[noun] is [superlative] except for when it isn't.")

To give Wilde all the points he deserves, his anti-hero's long spiral down into debauchery and cruelty seems to point up the limitations of the aesthetic philosophy that Wilde held, or professed to hold, so dear. Or maybe it illustrates, or he hopes it does, that if you make something really beautiful it doesn't matter if the subject is depraved. I guess the question is how beautiful it really is.

I will now, absent Oscar Wilde, go dunk this book in the river.

Second Random Fact: the cover image for this edition (Barnes & Noble Classics) shows a portrait of the composer Franz Liszt by Henri Lehmann. (Coincidentally we just "did" Liszt at the Bard Festival a couple of years ago.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Auf wiedersehn, Wagner...

It's hard in some ways to pack up at Bard and come home, but on the other hand, we live in a dorm, and I'm attached to my creature comforts. At least this time I took an actual lamp, and a big pillow so I could sit up in bed, and two bouquets of flowers. I meant to take a dhurrie rug but I forgot it.

I meant to post up at Bard last week, but I inadvertently erased all the photos on my iPhone. I was transferring them to my Mac at home, so they're all here, but they were inaccessible up at Bard, so I didn't get to post. Well, I could have, but I think posts with no photos are kind of boring. Unless there are good stories.

So I thought I'd post some random artsy photos from the week. (Keep in mind they're only iPhone pictures!)

The one at the top was just some interesting shadows I saw on the side of the Ward Manor gatehouse. I somehow thought that the shadow of the lantern was a touch ironic. And pretty.

The one below is one that I snuck over the top of my music of Leon Botstein, with the men in the chorus in the background. When you realize that that's like three rows of men and the semicircle of the chorus goes all the way around the room in a big arc (I'm at the end of the semicircle on the other side), you can tell how big a group it is.

The music is part of the vocal score to Die Meistersinger. The thing about singing Wagner, and Brahms for that matter, one of whose pieces (Triumphlied) we did on the same program--it has three dynamic levels for most of the time: 1) loud, 2) stun and 3) kill. At least for this program we didn't have any siegs that I remember, though we did have a lot of heils. I kind of hope I don't have to sing any Wagner again for a long while, by which time I will be too old. But it was kind of fun. Die Meistersinger is a very cute opera, for Wagner.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bard-y Girl

Wow, I had the best time last night. One of the big attractions at the Bard Summerscape Experience is the Spiegelpalais, which most of us call the Spiegeltent because it's more of a tent than a palais. (Spiegelpalais means "mirror palace." It's full of mirrors. AND a disco ball.) But it's a pretty substantial tent--with a big dance floor and bar and restaurant. They have shows there, bands and singers and things, all summer long. It's great when we're there for the Bard Festival, because all the people come out of the concert, performers and audience alike, and head over to the tent for some party time.

Yesterday we had a grueling agenda--a marathon choral concert at 5:00 and then a whole bunch of Wagner excerpts at the first big orchestral event of the festival at 8:00. That's a lot of singing. The choral concert was an ordeal--Wagner, Palestrina, Bruckner, Liszt and Brahms. Lots of Brahms, because he has a ton of great choral music. (And Wagner supposedly didn't even like choruses, though he used them a lot in his operas.) So at the 8:00 concert, screaming excerpts from Tannhäuser and Lohengrin seemed like a walk in the park in comparison. Mostly because the orchestra and soloists did all the heavy lifting. (We actually, really, in the Lohengrin part, sang "Sieg, heil!" at the top of our lungs. But not for long.)

So anyway, the ever-lovely AC and the handsome Scottiedog came up for the weekend. After the 8:00 concert, I changed into my jeans, and we made a beeline for the Spiegeltent. Where we proceeded to do some serious cardio and core workout. I had a bunch of wine, but I don't know how much because my glasses kept getting bused while I was out on the dance floor.

Today my kneecaps hurt; it's the strangest thing.

ScottieDog took this picture when we got back to the room; I think it was about 3:15 a.m. (The Spiegeltent closes at 1:00 a.m., but we went and played poker after that. We party hearty.)

Here are some pictures of our outing this afternoon:


This is a mansion that just happens to be on campus. Ward Manor, which I mentioned earlier, is sort of a "getaway" cottage that was part of the Blithewood estate, if I'm remembering correctly.

This is the Blithewood garden. It's heavenly.

ScottieDog and AC in the Blithewood garden

P.S. I have not had any more f-ups after all. But I feel like I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back at Bard

Hey all, Bard Music Festival 2009 is under way here at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, and I have already sung more Wagner in four days than I ever have in my entire life. Or probably ever will again.

It turns out, though, to be a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be. And my voice is, unbelievably, holding up.

This picture is the gatehouse to Ward Manor, which they made into a dorm a long time ago. Ward Manor kind of looks like this except bigger. I pass by the gatehouse walking back and forth to the cafeteria . I'm not staying in Ward Manor this year for the first time in my seven years of coming to the Festival. This year I "get" to stay in the new air-conditioned dorm (see below), which is pretty comfortable but short on atmosphere. And bugs.

A couple of dumb things have happened: first I locked myself out of my room on the First Day...and had to call Security to get back in, and they made me sing something over the phone to prove I was who I said I was. I thought that was pretty weird. It took forever for them to come, too, so I must not have made much of an impression.

The second dumb thing is that I muttered under my breath during a rehearsal and was overheard by the conductor. This guy is Leon Botstein, who is extremely brilliant and kind of crazy, not that there's anything wrong with that, and also really effing funny. From time to time, like once or twice per rehearsal, he goes into a long story or speech about something--at which point the room gets extremely quiet because you don't want to miss what he has to say, because it will be interesting and there will always be a big laugh somewhere along the line. For some reason he was going on about the faithlessness (or stupidity) of Elsa, the heroine of Lohengrin, and he got off on this satirically misogynistic thing about weddings being a march to the scaffold or something, and then he interrupted himself to say that in some cultures they play the same marches at weddings that they do at funerals. At which I muttered under my breath, "You're making that up." So then he slewed around and looked right at me, and said, "You think I'm making that up? I'm not!" He wasn't frowning, or anything, so I sure hope he knew I was kidding.

Since supposedly things come in threes, no doubt I will do something dumb at this afternoon's rehearsal. If so, I'll be sure to let you know.