Monday, August 30, 2010

Lady goes up to eleven

This, dear readers, is wrong, just wrong. On so many levels.

To begin with, the John Lennon glasses are kind of distracting, don't you think? But whatever, trying not to be superficial here. The whole Wagnerian attitude (both in her gestures and her voice) is a real problem however. It's a piece about an increasingly desperate father trying to save his son, not the musical score for the final boss fight against the Flying Dutchman, lady. And a whole orchestra, instead of a simple piano accompaniment? Was that really necessary? (especially when considering that her voice, I admit that much, is pretty strong.) Maybe she just needed all of them to distract the audience from the fact that she's not really getting her lyrical characters right. (I'm working under the assumption here that the story in the translation is developed more or less parallel to the German text.) (Oh, right. They've translated it into Japanese. Did you notice?). For example, when she's singing the Erlkoenig persona, she kind of looks as if she is air-a tergo-ing the dying kid. Singer, ask thyself, is this really what you wanted to convey? There are even cymbal crashes at the conclusion of the most dramatic lines. That should be enough to convince you how corny this is, right?


Then why do I actually like her interpretation so much? Guess I have to file it under weeaboo.

* * * * *

Enough of this. Let's have a young Fischer-Dieskau (or maybe it's Orson Welles?) version as an antidote.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The park is living room in the city*

I recently thought of, for no particular reason that I could then determine, a certain park I had visited in Tokyo in July 2009. It wasn't the largest or most impressive park I've seen while being there, but it was the one that left the strongest impression on me. It was rather small, maybe more adequately called a garden. I realized I don't remember the name of it or its exact location, not even which ward it was in, and a quick search on the webpage of the Tokyo Park Association didn't help either. I do however remember its overall layout, it looked something like this. I wonder if, by chance, I'll find it again when I am back in Tokyo at some point.

The garden was, like I said, not all that impressive: a pretty but rather small pond next to a tea house, surrounded by a small forest, with some stone-covered paths leading from the main lawn area to the pond. That lawn, probably not much larger than a single tennis court, had a few cheap plastic chairs on it, in addition to one or two old metal benches. Nothing about it looked truly outstanding or particularly beautiful, but what made the experience so remarkable was the deep tranquility that emanated from the place.

Admission was limited, the entrance booth only sold so many tickets before letting no one else in; the fee wasn't even that expensive, and probably not too many people would have come anyway on that afternoon, on a pretty hot day, if I remember it right. I wasn't alone, but probably not more than 10 other people were in it at the time; some retirees, a group of mothers and their children, maybe one or two couples. I was sitting in one of the plastic chairs (it's remarkable how this little ugly piece of white plastic became such a universal constant in gardens and cafes everywhere on earth -- disfiguring each surrounding it ends up in equally if you make the mistake to pay attention to it, yet easily blending in if you ignore its design, which is the default after years of exposure to it), reading 'The Master and Margarita', not particularly concentrated though, letting my mind wander around aimlessly most of the time.

The aforementioned forest in the back and a few rather high bushes and trees around the lawn sealed off the park from the city, at least visually: apart from some barely visible fragments of colorful motion (probably larger trucks driving by) the city was invisible; you could easily hear it however, though slightly muted. I stayed maybe an hour or two, probably reading not more than just a few pages, nor did I observe anything around me with more than just fleeting concentration. (How did the children and their mothers look like? I don't remember. Who was sitting next to me? I can't say.) When I remembered this afternoon now, a poem by Jim Dodge came to my mind, which captures the feeling nearly perfect, even though the circumstances are entirely different:

'Practice, Practice, Practice'

It exacts the strictest discipline
To truly take it easy

Yet still retain the minimal
Quiver of ambition
Required for consciousness.

That's what I've been working on all morning,

Stretched out on the couch
By the cabin window at Bob's,

Watching the rain,
Without pattern,
Fall on the pond,

Just me and the dogs.

* Thank you, Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association.