Opera in 3D and Suspending Disbelief

My daughter and I got ourselves all excited over seeing the opera Carmen in 3D. We carved out a day when we could get together, convinced her Daddy to go with us (even though he doesn’t much care for opera), and then Daddy and I drove into the city in Sunday afternoon traffic. It was going to be totally awesome.

Image via fullissue.com

First premiered in Paris in 1875, George Bizet’s story gives meaning to the adage, the things we do for love. Free-spirited gypsy Carmen seduces the naive soldier Don Jose, causing him to give up his hometown honey and his promising military career to follow Carmen into the band of smugglers she hangs with. When she moves on to a grander conquest in bullfighter Escamillo, Don Jose murders Carmen. The opera is tragic, yet the masterful writing of Bizet has many comic bits that keep the audience from being buried in melancholy. There’s a reason why it’s considered a masterpiece.

Building on the Metropolitan Opera’s roaring success and sell-out crowds seeing live simulcasts of its operas, this Carmen is the first in a series of operas to be filmed in 3-D, and it was a glorious production. Every song in Carmen is singable and Christine Rice in the title role was seductive and sassy. The problem was I just didn’t like her. I grew up with the film version of Carmen starring Julia Migenes-Johnson and Placido Domingo and I loved it. Although Rice’s version is probably more accurate to reality, Migenes’s Carmen is much softer and it’s more believable that Don Jose would give it all up for her.

Unfortunately, somehow Carmen isn’t aging well with me. It’s not unexpected that my 25 year-old daughter would think Don Jose’s devotion to Carmen was ridiculous. Even on my most obsessive days, I can’t imagine murdering anyone out of jealousy. There’s just not any man or woman worth the consequences. Saving the life of my family members in the face of danger? That I could murder for — maybe. But not for jealousy.

The good news is that Carmen in 3D is spectacular — I flinched when the crowd threw roses at the toreadors. The tavern scene is choreographed ingeniously, complete with acrobats! And if you don’t like what Carmen and Don Jose are saying to each other, you can ignore the English subtitles and just listen to the glorious music in its original French language. Although they aren’t the most fashionable choice, the 3D glasses are wearable and since everyone is in the same boat, it doesn’t make any difference if you look silly.

My internet sources tell me that the term suspending disbelief was originally coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 as a means to justify his use of the supernatural in the Lyrical Ballads. Since then, literary scholars and academics have taught us that the temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible is an important literary tool.  Suspension of disbelief allows an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

In the case of Carmen in 3D, I encourage you to suspend disbelief and decide for yourself if Carmen has passed the test of time. Even though I’m not a fan of the jealousy plotline, the production itself is worth the price of admission. And speaking of that, if you were to see this cast at the Royal Opera House in London, you would have to pay as much as  £158. In American dollars, that’s $261.00. If you love opera, you’ll love Carmen in 3D.

25 Days of Christmas 2011: Christmas Gifts

A lovely Christmas morning service with darling husband’s brass ensemble playing in a beautiful setting — what a gift to start our day!

Wonderful food and drink prepared by willing hands. Many dishes, wine glasses, and pots and pans washed and put away, some of them for another year. Priceless memories to savor and conversations to replay and remember — the gift of community.

And then there were more tangible remembrances of Christmas. A hand-knit scarf from Mexico, home-made cookies and a spectacular Yule log cake, beautiful  jewelry and fun electronics, and special California-themed foods. I can’t wait to get the Roku box up and running, and my new Kindle holds so much promise. Thousands of movies and books, all obtained at the touch of my fingers. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of friends and family.

Today I have the gift of time. Every now and then we wander to the kitchen to do another round of dishes and make another pot of coffee in our new French press, but after three days of non-stop togetherness, it feels good to have a little breathing room. Soon we’ll morph into our Magnificent Mile selves and head downtown to enjoy another day with our children and revel in the beauty that is our home town during the holidays.

Image via forbes.com

Gifts are everywhere.

21 Days of Christmas 2011: It’s not Christmas until the band plays Sleigh Ride

I admit it; I’m a band nerd. I didn’t get a slushie in my face during high school because my principal would have shoved the miscreant up against a locker and scared the crap out of him, but I loved band then and I still do. In contrast to what one sees on television, being in band in high school and college at Miami University in Ohio was a wonderful thing and allowed me to create life-long friendships and meet fun-loving, fabulous people. And, according to the studies (and I want to believe), playing multiple instruments also made me smarter.

Image via trexandme.wordpress.com

Watching my college band play in the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving just makes me cry with happiness and nostalgia.

We weren’t quite as cool as Miami’s current band when I went to Miami, although we did get to go to the other Miami to march in the Tangerine Bowl parade. This photo shows the second generation of the Miami Marching Machine that was built to fit over our band director’s Volkswagen bug. Yeah, I know. We chose to perpetuate our nerd stereotype and we were proud to wear the emblem. (I just realized that the Marching Machine has an image of a reel-to-reel tape. Can I date myself anymore than that? And is that Dr. Nick in the plaid pants?)

I still love band and one of the best things about Christmas is playing holiday music on my saxophone. At the ripe old age of — I’m not saying how old, but old enough –, I joined a concert band again after an absence of way too many years. I haven’t played in a full concert band with adults since college, and I’ve missed it. I encouraged my beloved husband to make a midlife instrument change and got him to play the trombone and euphonium, never imagining that his obsession with all things brass would shut me out of most of his musical groups. I’ve been a brass ensemble widow for years, and I didn’t like it very much. Because alto saxophone players are a dime-a-dozen in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and everyone is looking for lower brass players, it was difficult to find an ensemble in which we could play. Finally, we joined a band in the southwestern suburbs that needed both of us. As you can see from the photo, it’s a group that welcomes “experienced” bandsmen and women. It’s pretty easy to pick me out — I’m the only mature woman in the saxophone section, and as always, the saxophones are playing second fiddle to the trumpets.

We played a concert that included a series of medleys featuring pretty much all of the secular music that we hear in the malls and on the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio stations. I’ve gotta say — it was fun even if it was sappy.

The grand-daddy of all secular Christmas music transcriptions for band is Sleigh Ride, written by Leroy Anderson in 1948 and first played by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the baton of Arthur Fiedler. As far as Christmas music goes for me, Sleigh Ride is right up there with the songs from White Christmas, and I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t play it this year for our concert. Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of youtube.com, we can all hear the Boston Pops with John Williams conducting.

Of course, you can always go to your public library and pick up a copy of the CD for your listening pleasure at home and in your car!

Finally,  if you want to read what I had to say last year at this time, check out my 2010 21 Days post. See you tomorrow!

23 Days of Christmas 2011: Christmas Shoes

This post is totally based on what “I wish.” I saw these drop-dead-gorgeous shoes in my favorite catalog and since I can’t wear them, I could only imagine WHO would wear them. Cause it wouldn’t be me. Anymore.

I can remember the day that I was wearing the most fabulous shoes  that I have ever owned — purple suede and black patent leather spectator pumps with three-inch heels. It was the last time I ever wore fabulous shoes. I was at a conference in Oakbrook and at lunch I went to Naturalizer and bought sensible shoes because my feet hurt so badly I couldn’t stand it another minute. It was the beginning of the downhill slippery slope upon which I now stand — poised for nothing but boring shoes.

I hope you can buy and wear these adorable shoes. You deserve them because you too are fabulous. For my male readers, if the shoe fits… but I’m not judging.

So who should wear these shoes? The first person that came to mind was Christina Aguilera, and she’s got a fabulous Christmas album if you’d like to honor her by her music along with her fashion.

Mariah Carey came next in my fantasy singer draft for the red shoes. Although at the moment, Mariah seems busy popping out babies, her Christmas albums have been best sellers and I can totally see her wearing the red shoes when she’s not taking care of her twins. Carey’s 1994 Christmas album, Merry Christmas, was the best-selling holiday album of all time. She released two versions of “All I Want for Christmas” in music video; this one is supposed to mimic home movies.

Mariah’s now-classic addition to the secular Christmas music canon has held up well over the years. It was used in my favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually, and in the film is sung by 11-year-old Olivia Olson. While coming home from Thanksgiving celebrations in Ohio, I heard Justin Bieber’s duet with Carey which appears on his 2011 Under the Mistletoe Christmas album. We thought it was a little creepy when we heard it; it’s one thing to sing a duet with a real person in an album, but the listener can tell that they each recorded their parts separately and never worked together. I’m not criticizing The Bieb; we think he’s very talented and the Christmas album is a nice addition to your playlist. While researching this post, I also found out that the divine Amber Riley covered “All I Want” on the Glee Christmas II album. It’s pretty Mercedes-fabulous!

And finally, how could any fabulous shoes post be complete without the queen of spike heels, Miss Dolly Parton? Her 1990 album, Home for Christmas has just the right touch of down-home twang and country instrumentals while still showcasing Dolly’s amazing voice and styling.

This is part of the second annual 25 Days of Christmas series; here’s my 2010 post for December 3.

And yes, Lala, they will come in your size if you tell Santa that you want them.

25 Days of Christmas 2011: My Favorite Things

Last year, I got all ambitious and decided to do a post a day as we led up to Christmas. We all have our “things” that make us happy and sad at the same time, holidays and events that evoke sentimentality and craziness. Christmas time is that “thing” with me. That’s probably why I have a basement full of Christmas decorations, and you can see that we take our Christmas packaging very seriously.

Yes, Virginia, that’s a Halloween pumpkin that has lost its way into the Christmas corner, by the way.

Image via booksshouldbefree.com

As you probably noticed during the 31 Day Challenge in October, it’s pretty difficult for me to post every day, but I almost managed to make it. I promised myself after the October scramble that I wasn’t going to do the 25 Days this year, but then I ran across a catalog that got my creative juices flowing again. So, here we are, celebrating my favorite time of year with some of “My Favorite Things.” I hope you will comment and share your stories as we travel the holiday road together.

It’s not a coincidence that I pulled the photo of Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children to start the series. Music is the first induction into the season, and both the inspiring sacred masterpieces and the silly secular songs have meaning for me. As I said last year, it’s not Christmas until Rosemary Clooney sings “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” and it’s not Christmas without my iPod loaded up with Christmas albums. I’ll start you off with the first four I loaded into iTunes — all fabulous for listening to in your car and while you cook.

And because Glee makes us happy with their impeccably produced covers of just about anything, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the new Glee Christmas album that came out in November.

What’s YOUR favorite thing at Christmas? Shoot me an email (gotmyreservations@gmail.com) and we can talk about a guest post or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Just so your mind is at ease (and I KNOW you’ve been worrying about this ALL year), I found my Christmas mug collection. The mugs were right where I put them before the construction. 🙂

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