Sunday, October 25, 2009

Entertainment

Yesterday was a beautiful Saturday -- clear blue sky, trees in full color, temps crisp but not cold. We slept well and got up to go find plates of scrambled eggs, French toast, and bacon / sausage at our favorite breakfast bar. Then the boys romped in the park. We all felt fine.

Hubby suggested a movie so I checked online and our favorite local movie megaplex was showing the The Metropolitan Opera live performance of Aida. Projected on the big screen in Staller Center’s Main Stage Theater, performances are shown in high definition with Dolby Digital surround sound. I have never seen the Verdi opera. Hubby thought I might not really like it, but agreed that $20 a ticket was a fair price and four hours spent at the opera might be a good way to spend the afternoon, so off we went.

Dressed in our sweat pants and Obama sweat shirts, we loaded up on Goobers and fresh popped buttery corn along with a huge soda, and we settled in for one of the most enjoyable afternoons ever. The theater was nearly full, though I admit the patrons were all on the old side. I don't think there were any in the audience under 50 except for a couple of grandkids that had tagged along. Some had gotten pizza to munch during the performance, many had sodas, but on the whole this was a very serious audience who appeared to be regular attendees at these live performances.

Renee Fleming does the "backstory" -- she fills in the intermission with great tidbits about the opera itself, and interviews the stars. Before the show opens and during the intermissions, the film crew shows us sets being constructed and props placed. It was only during the last 45 minutes or so that either Hubby or I began to squirm in our seats, simply because we were tired of sitting. Otherwise the movie production and the opera itself was riveting.

Violeta Urmana stars in the title role of the enslaved Ethiopian princess, with Dolora Zajick as her rival. Johan Botha, the South African tenor, plays Radam├Ęs, commander of the Egyptian army, and Daniele Gatti was the conductor. Interesting, especially from Hubby's point of view, both Violeta and Johan started careers singing in other vocal ranges: Violeta was a metso and Johan was a baritone. Hubby oved the Johan interview because he gave voice to many of his own memories of vocal training. Dolora Zajick, though, stole the stage from everyone else. She had played the Egyptian princess over 250 times and she could both sing and act the part to draw the audience into her feelings and motivation. My favorite interviews were with the "supers" -- those people who just come onstage to fill it up. One man was an attorney, another had his own business in health care management, and the woman made her living as a full time extra on the Met stage.

Though I had heard the Aida march many times, I never realized that what I was hearing was FROM Aida -- and yes! the staging, even without the elephants, was wonderful. I loved the second act very much. The stage was filled to capacity with all manner of visual treats, including live horses -- and the full voiced chorus was beautiful.

The opera began at noon, had two intermissions, and was over just before 4 p.m. The next showing is Turnadot in two weeks and I don't think we're up for another four hours so soon, but Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss in January might be just "the ticket."

I feel bad that I don't really want to attend live performances of opera here in Kansas City. I really enjoyed this movie version, which speaks badly, I'm sure, of my true interest in opera. But it was so easy to understand Aida with the huge translation at the bottom of the screen and the camera kept me focused on the parts I should be watching instead of what I usually do at live opera -- watch to see if the guy in the back who's hat is on crooked is going to keep it on or will lose it and trip of the dancers in the supporting ballet. Plus I could clearly see the details of the costumes and the staging -- and when the beauty of the music lagged for me, I was visually thrilled the entire time. And finally -- seeing opera in sweat pants with a box of Goopers is, honestly, the best way to view a four hour spectacle.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Death

We were notified today that a teacher who had been having health problems last year and then let go at the end of the year died over the weekend. She was only in her 40's.

Last year she got the flu. The flu turned into pneumonia. The pneumonia turned into respiratory failure, followed by some kind of stroke-like episode, leaving her a pale shadow of the once out-going woman we had know and admired. Her last semester at school had been agonizing. Sometimes she wasn't sure where she was and would leave her classroom and wander the halls until an administrator would find her and take back to her room. She could no longer handle disciplining the kids and they ran rough-shod over her at every turn. Whether she could still handle the curriculum is also debatable. I'm not sure. I do know that it was mutually agreed that at the end of the year she wasn't capable of returning to our high school.

This fall she worked at a private academy. They seemed to appreciate her and work around her "episodes" of mental wanderings. No one expected, though, that she would not have long to live. The news today that she had died was just shocking!

My own mortality has suddenly been imperiled.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fit as a Fiddle

It took a long, long time but suddenly this week I got "all better now." Thank god!

August and September were perfectly horrible months for health. Once that dreadful stomach flu sapped all my energy, I just vegged. Yes, I went to school (most days). Yes, I went to grad classes (every meeting). But weekends I collapsed. Every night required a nap before dinner (when I could eat dinner) and then at least six hours of dead-to-the-world sleep. And every day it took every ounce of my strength just to get my hips to move my legs and my legs to carry my body around and my brain to make some semblance of sense. This went on week after week after week.

But now -- finally -- things seem much more normal. Naps are NOT absolutely necessary. They are still welcome but I CAN stay awake for eight hours without keeling over. I can function minimally on the weekends. We met friends last night for dinner and a lovely concert. I didn't need to spend all day in bed just to make it to the dinner.

Last Sunday I managed to get the 2.5 month hair-cut and perm. I've managed to load up the summer clothes (if not get them downstairs yet) on the couch to make room for sweaters and long sleeves and locate the trash bag of happy pants for fall. I've done minimal grocery shopping and no cooking -- but then how would Chinese restaurants subsist if we all started cooking every meal?

Maybe I can even check in here now and again and write a small entry.

On that note, for family and dog friends -- Gus is turning five this week. Little, tiny Gus -- the sweet boy who came to us a week after Wolfie died. And yes, this weekend is the 4th anniversary of Wolfie's death. I will always miss him -- but the tears are more sweet than bitter now. And Gus is such a dear, gentle, loving little boy. Happy Yapday, my love!