Thursday, September 02, 2010

Three Women in One

KM joined me last night for Jacques Offenbach's Les Contes D'Hoffman, and both of us enjoyed the tales of Hoffman very much. The poet compared Stella, the singer he was unhappily in love with, to three past loves: an innocent, an artist and a prostitute, and told the tavern guests the stories of these loves.

The innocent turned out to be a mechanical doll named Olympia. Putting on a pair of magic glasses, sold to him by the villain Coppelius, Hoffman fell in love with her. He was horrified to learn the truth when the glasses broke. Kathleen Kim who sang as Olympia was virtuosic in her aria. It took some art to sing all technique, completely artlessly. Alan Held, who sang as Coppelius, also sang as the other three villains.

In the second story, Hoffman was in love with the singer Antonia who, unknown to herself, had too weak a heart to sing. But the evil Dr. Miracle persuaded her that her dead singer-mother would have her sing. She fell for the trick, and sang to her death. As Antonia, Anna Netrebko had a voice that was astonishingly both lush and pure.

The Venetian courtesan Giulietta (Ekaterina Gubanova) in the third story was bribed by the devilish Dapertutto into seducing Hoffman and stealing his reflection. The poet fell in love with the whore and gave her his reflection. He was rescued by his Muse (lovely Kate Lindsey) who, disguised as his friend Nicklausse, had tried throughout to turn the poet's mind away from love to art. Hoffman, lamenting that one love had shattered, another had died, and the last was damned, had only his creative genius for consolation in the end. Joseph Calleja, in his voice, body and gestures, embodied in this production the spirit of the poet.

Obviously KM and I, both struggling in art and love, saw ourselves in Hoffman. The women represented different temptations for the artist. Olympia was the fascination of pure technique. Antonia was the love of fame. Hedonism was Giulietta's distraction. But they were also a gay man's various love objects. First, we fall in love with the Chelsea boy clone, then with the narcissistic culture queen, and finally, our time running out, our age telling, with the bathhouse troll. It's sad, but there it is.

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I read last Thursday at the Inspired Word Reading, curated by Mike Geffner. SK, who was staying with me, joined me at One and One Bar and Restaurant. GH heard me read for the first time. WTC also came and she read for the open-mic. Sold five books, three to SK. Good crowd. They were attentive throughout my free flying lesson. Cathryn Lynne was the wonderful official photographer.


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