Archive for the ‘Linkedin’ Category

I Cried in Act Two of Madama Butterfly & I Don’t Understand Why

February 8, 2012 1 comment

What’s Opera!?
A New Series Documenting My Induction into the World of Opera
I knew I was heading into the Met to see a classic for the first time. The rain was pounding on that Tuesday in Manhattan and we fought our way across the wet, windy plaza to slip into the sanctuary of the corner entryway by the Metropolitan Opera gift shop. Dripping with anticipation we shook off the tempest and followed the throng into the heart of the lobby and up the grand stair case with its deep red velvet and gold trim.
I knew enough of Puccini’s opera to recognize the music and the general story line. It was simple; a brash American military man taking a Japanese Geisha and then abandoning her, only returning at the end to collect her child whom he had fathered. I listened to a recording enough times to know the music delivered the emotional equivalent of a sucker punch so I thought myself brilliant to have stashed a couple of tissues in my jacket pocket for the inevitably sad finale. Ah, inexperience, it seems was about to catch me unawares once again.
Act one is stunningly beautiful. The set, the music, the costumes, the chiaroscuro of the black raked stage to the brilliant performers and the simplicity of the staging weaves a world that I easily loose myself into. As the opera progresses I fall forward from my steeply raked stadium seat at the back of the house into a soft and alluring divan of music and flowers. I am easily wooed by B. F. Pinkerton knowing his intentions are provisional. I abandon reason for passion as the house fills with fluttering red petals thick as the sheets of rain I ran through earlier and the curtain falls as my own “kimono” falls to the floor leaving me a trembling vessel,naked, aroused and waiting to be consumed. Lights up, I take in a deep breath.

So far so good, it’s everything I was hoping it would be. I wonder around the back of the house lined with those holding standing-room-only tickets who are now sitting on the floor. The house is full so I make my way off to the side to find the ladies room and gaze out the window onto Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure,” sculpture in its reflecting pool. The rain continues unabated and I am drawn back momentarily into passion and fluttering flower petals.

Madama Butterfly at the Met

A number of folks from my synagogue have tickets to tonight’s performance so we find each other and schmooze on the little landing leading up to the Family Circle seating. Some people are annoyed as they make their way past us but we are all so happy just to be there we ignore the occasional looks and grumblings. Soon we are back in our seats with the lights dimming down and the orchestra warming up. I quickly clean my glasses so I can see everything clearly and we are off to act two. I am glad for having had the break. Intermission cooled my stirrings and brought me back to my senses; I am in control of myself.

Before I know it Butterfly is alone and hopeful. I follow her steps and see the world through her eyes knowing her optimism will not be enough. I even find her annoying with her overbearing sanguinity and naïveté. My legs are restless and I try not to kick the seat in front of me as I shift back and forth. My mood from act 1 is stale and I turn sullen waiting for something to happen when, as if in response to my impatience, a single drip tickles the back of my nose. I dig for my tissue thinking it’s the end of my cold. The “letter duet” with Sharpless is almost at its conclusion when Cio-Cio San reveals her child and my face is suddenly all wet.
I generally equate the rising urge to cry with a tightening of my throat and a squinting of my eyes but I’m not feeling that way at all… “I’m crying.” I tell myself, shocked at my own surprise. Tears are falling from my eyes and I have used up the two tissues I so smartly stashed in my pocket and I can not explain why I am crying. Cio-Cio San and Suzuki are joyfully strewing their home with flowers, the child is happily playing nearby, Pinkerton’s ship is at harbor, the music is bright and overtly positive yet tears are streaming down my face though I still don’t feel the classic symptoms of sadness. What is going on?! My mind has yet to catch up with the emotional response my body is clearly exhibiting and I look around trying to grab hold of something to give me stability and balance. The brilliant white of Cio-Cio San’s robe against the black of the stage blinds me and I cannot make out the translation being broadcast on the LED bar in front of my seat. My eyes blur from fresh tears. I use my sleeve to wipe them as the tissues are now wet and limp in my hand. I settle for listening, temporarily abandoning my attachment to sight. The trio settles in for an evening’s vigil on “the little house on the hill” on-stage. Butterfly awaits the arrival of Pinkerton and I settle into a waiting stance of my own. The tears from my eyes abate and I, in a place of unsettled desire for a futile hopefulness, accept the rising of the house lights as second intermission kicks in and I am returned to my seat in the back of the house at the Met.

Confused, shaken and armed with a fist full of paper towels pulled from the ladies room during intermission I thankfully welcome the fading house lights, pulling the darkness around my shoulders like a familiar blanket. Act 2 part 2 opens with a musical slap across the face followed by a conciliatory hug not unlike a hit from an abusive boyfriend on a beautiful Sunday morning. I know what is to come and I can hardly bear to watch Cio-Cio San’s descent into despair. I maintain my composure until I hear someone two rows behind and slightly to my left sniffle and choke back tears. This is all I need to start weeping openly hoping I don’t descend into noisy sobs. This time my body and mind are in sync as my emotions come into full bloom and I hand myself over to Puccini’s achingly beautiful music loosing much of myself in the process. Catharsis kicks into high gear lifting me out of worldly concerns blotting out all but the inevitable unfolding before me. With heart pounding resolution Butterfly lies dead. Streams of blood-red fabric pour out from her body. We burst forth with applause shouting “Brava,brava!” wiping away collective tears.
When my friend, Amy, died from breast cancer in 2008 I recall carrying grief around with me for several days after her funeral. It would unexpectedly rise up with my breath and I’d have to exhale a mournful sigh releasing a bit of the pain every time. As I walked out of the Metropolitan Opera into a post-storm, crystal-clear midnight sky I carried Madama Butterfly home with me. I brought her to work the next day and we had lunch together alone in my office; the sadness still palpable. Such a simple story of a woman caught in circumstances doing her best to retain some modicum of dignity in her simple life. Maybe I identify with her situation more than I care to admit. Still, I really don’t understand why I cried before the familiar pangs of sadness kicked in. Puccini’s orchestration must have been speaking to me in a language I did not intellectually know yet instinctively understood. Was it possible for my body to respond to the music before my mind could contextualize it or did my alter ego, knowing what was to come, just take advantage of the opportunity to get in a good cry? I am not saavy enough in this vastly intellectual world of operatic expertise or psychology to proffer much of an opinion. What I do know is that some tragic truth about the human condition got through to me that night. Puccini, together with the entire ensemble at the MetOpera, fashioned a remarkable production that pierced my hard-polished New York exterior and showed me how delicate I was; how poignant all our lives are.
I used to openly mock the notion of opera.

I had no idea!


Suddenly Patriotic


I’m on my way into work as usual thinking about the day ahead when suddenly a surge of patriotism washes over me.
I can’t quite put a finger on why…

Categories: Cybernetic Thoughts, Linkedin Tags:

Do It Yourself Ticket Acquisition

DIY is – for the most part – De rigueur in our household.

Common sense leads my family to make a number of choices that have dramatic impact upon our day-to-day living. For example we cook our own meals which means we plan, shop, prep, cook, consume and clean up after ourselves several times a day. We fix our broken light switches in the kitchen which means we sometimes go for weeks cooking in partial light until we get around to handling the broken switch. We scrape, prime & paint our own walls, we build our own loft beds, we take our own family portraits, we design & print our own holiday greeting cards; the list goes on. Sure it’s a pain and it takes up a lot of our time but there is something solid and wonderful about doing a task of our own bidding.

When the time came to make the step to secure tickets to the opera it was clear we were going to take the DIY approach. Calling in a subscription was much too simple, not to mention out of our budget. No, what we needed was a plan of attack. We had vision, obstacles & one goal in mind.

• Vision – holding tickets to the opera in my hand
• Obstacle – everyone else who wants tickets and who, like us, can’t afford a season subscription
• Goal – be among the first ten people in line at the Met when the box office opens August 15th at noon

Thus began a period of sweet anticipation and prep work as we gathered schedules, floor plans, box office notes, #Met Twitter feeds and Lincoln Center schematics to guide us. The calendar was marked, family members most affected by our opera obsession alerted & peace offerings made. Finally the weekend of the great acquisition arrived.

Read more…

Invoke the Damour Act of Decency

December 2, 2008 1 comment

Black Friday was a black day, indeed, for a Jamaica, Queens family who will never be able to face an American Thanksgiving weekend the same way ever again. Jdimytai Damour was killed in a Long Island Wal-Mart by roughly 2000 people* stoned on hyper consumerism.

I am ashamed, deeply ashamed of my countrymen and women. I want to point my finger at those people; those stupid, selfish, brain dead idiots and yell “Murderers! Assassins! Cannibals!” but I can’t. The truth is I would be pointing the finger at myself. I am as guilty as the seething mob that blindly trampled on the body of a fellow human being to get to the next sale item. While I made a point of NOT shopping this past Friday or online the following Monday, the blood stains of that young man are on my hands too. I cannot turn away from this tragic, unnecessary loss of life. I wish I could just blame Wal-Mart and be done with it but we drove Wal-Mart to be what it is. Our culture demands that we demand our STUFF and so what if a guy dies getting in-between me and a great deal on a coffee maker or hair dryer or flat screen TV or what ever?

Not anymore!

Mr. Damour’s untimely and completely unnecessary death draws a line I refuse to cross. There is nothing more precious than a life. There is no bargain mark-down or tempting super-offer to make it anything remotely near to acceptable that he was murdered on Black Friday. It is NOT OK!

I propose we institute a Damour Act of Decency where upon we all pledge to put the value of each other above all material things in this world. I want to see TV commercials that tout the amazing properties of a genuine act of compassion, sale signs that promote hugs with every purchase, where the value of a smile and a kind word are splashed across giant billboards along the Jersey Turnpike.

Do not mistake this for some Polyanna remedy to all our problems. The world will still be a dark and scary place. We will continue to grope hopelessly for meaning to our existence but remember that we are capable of transcending our present reality. We are America; we generate possibility. Bring value to human acts of decency; bring value to Jdimytai Damour’s life. Remember him next time you go shopping and invoke the Damour Act of Decency.

MMN – 12/2/08 NYC

*Daily News|NY Local
Gould, Trapasso & Schapiro
Daily News writers Updated Friday, November 28th 2008, 10:46pm