Friday, June 26, 2009

Strauss: ELEKTRA

Opera in One (1) Act by Richard Strauss
Libretto in German by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
First performance: Dresden, Germany (1909)

Eva Marton, Cheryl Studer, Brigitte Fassbaender
Vienna State Opera and Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor

A real shocker when it first premiered in 1909, Strauss's Elektra continues to have the same effect on modern audiences, as this performance in eighties shows. The jeers/boos mixed with the enthusiastic applause at the close clearly divides the audience.

Strauss crafted an opera out of a difficult material and Hofmannsthal retold the story more or less in terms of modern pyschology: the bloody lust for revenge.

The classic Greek legend first outlined by Homer and raised to an unforgettable tragedy by Sophocles deals with a family that is bent on killing each other. Klytaemnestra helped by her lover Aegisth, has secured the murder of her husband, King Agamemnon, and now is afraid that her guilt will be discovered by her children, Elektra, Chrysothemis, and their banished brother Orestes.

Elektra, who is the personification of the passionate lust for vengeance, tries to persuade her timid sister to kill their mother, Klytaemnestra and stepfather, Aegisth. Before the plan is carried out, Orestes, who had been reported as dead, arrives and, upon being told the truth by Elektra, determines upon revenge for his father's death. He kills Klytaemnestra and Aegisth; Elektra, her thirst for vengeance satisfied, under the spell of a blood-madness, dances, beginning weirdly, increasing to a frenzy, and ending in her collapse in front of her horror-stricken attendants.

The gloomy perverse madness that permeates the whole story and the countless twists, crawls and spineless convolutions about the characters, lends a frightening raison d'etre to the story.

Strauss employs dissonance and chromaticism to create the desired eerie effect in this dreadful music-drama. Along with Mahler in symphonic music, he is the successor to Wagner in opera. The vocal resources are utilized only at the service of the drama: the singing voices are totally lost, there's hardly any melody you can whistle to as you make your way out of the theatre.

This outing by the Vienna State Opera is controversial- booed and jeered after the curtain closed down. Maybe because an opera about mad women won't make people feel good about themselves, it's actually the stuff nightmares are made of. The scene where a female sacrificial victim, as an offering to the deities, is being impaled and left to hang in all its gory details so that Klytaemnestra's nightmares will disappear leaves a lasting, horrifying memory to the audience.

Abbado handles the difficult score masterfully. True, the orchestration overwhelms and overpowers the singers, too loud in some sections, but I think Strauss wanted it this way- the atmospheric music reflects the inner, psychological struggle engulfing the characters. The music, drama, the text- they all serve the intent of the opera.

This is clearly a difficult opera to appreciate. But if you stick to it and allow yourself to be immersed in the story, the viewing experience is actually very rewarding.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Over Acting

Earlier this evening, I took the jeep from Cubao. As we were about to leave, an emaciated guy wearing a face mask boarded the jeep and took his seat near the driver's. Since he was the only one wearing a face mask, the guys beside me all snickered and couldn't help themselves from poking fun at the poor guy.

"What an OA (over-acting) bastard! Does he really think we have the virus?" announced the guy seated nearest the exit, loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Shhh. Shut up. People can hear you," warned his companion seated directly in front of him.

"So what. He's the one who looks like he's got the virus," he said, clearly annoyed at the mask-wearing guy.

I must admit I agreed with him.

Which is indicative of the general state of paranoia over swine flu. Jun says people queue up even at midnight to get themselves tested at their lab. A clear example of Over Acting.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009


The buzz on American reality TV is that Jon and Kate might separate. Yes people, I watch this show sometimes, on the Discovery Home & Health channel on cable. I wonder if their situation demonstrates Heisenberg's theory wherein the presence of an observer (camera/TV viewers) alters the behavior of the particle (participants/Jon & Kate). Sans the camera, it's quite possible that they wouldn't have to separate.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Leftist Lisa

When the wily, deceitful and exploitative capitalist Mr. Burns asked Lisa (Simpson) what she thought about the current popular music scene, she promptly replied, "It distracts people from more important social concerns." *sigh*

She reminds me of leftists NGO workers who listen to Asin and Joey Ayala, who wear tubaos tied around their heads while marching on the streets, and who write letters to the editor decrying social injustice.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Paranoia etc

I got so surprised connecting to the internet via my phone's modem over blue tooth proved to be so easy. Wi-fi at Starbucks is 100 pesos an hour, which for me, is equivalent to a hold-up so this at least is the cheaper and practical alternative at just 1/5th the price.

Anyway, the new Neozep commercial on TV is extremely funny. It hits the nail right on the head as it shows the public's general paranoia over H1N1. An FX taxi driver, unable to stop himself from sneezing inside his crowded vehicle, caused a commotion when all his passengers jumped out of the FX and scampered in all directions.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rock Star

Frodo drove over to my house so I could treat him out for coffee at Frontera Verde. Upon seeing him, I immediately said, "You're wearing those 4-inch shoes, are you not?"

"Of course not. I don't have those anymore." He's lying.

"Why are you sporting your hair long? Isn't it that you're supposed to look conservative when you're dealing with your clients?" I said.

"Oh no, not at all. My clients prefer that I look like this, like a rock star!" He said this without a hint of irony in his voice.

Honestly, your long hair makes you look like a cross between April Boy Regino and Bon Jovi. Actually, I only muttered this to myself, as I was pretty sure he'd throw me out the window if I'd voice this out loudly.

Anyway, we made plans of attending dragon boat practice, a resolve I have not been able to accomplish the past two years.

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Chopin Ballade no. 4

Chopin's 4th Ballade as interpreted by Stanislav Bunin. The ballade successfully combines the sonata form with the theme & variations. It is characterized by intensive polyphony and technical severity, only a pianist with no technical limitations can do justice to this masterwork of the Romantic period.

But what is even more amazing is that the Ballade is musically intense which is made even more dynamic by the extreme technical demands on the performer.

Here the opening bars- light-footed and tenderly played-- are like a ray of light that makes it through the cracks on the wall, and during the last section --the final variation before the coda, the intensity is such that you feel like you have an out-of-body experience.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The sex video scandal has run its course and needs to be buried. When I wrote about the issue previously, it was done with my tongue firmly in my cheek- an issue that's shouldn't be taken seriously. Or so I thought.

Politicians milked the issue for all its worth, starting with Bong Revilla's incendiary speech, to Cayetano's shame campaign, to Madrigal's bitchy grandstanding during the public hearing that will supposedly be used "in aid of legislation." If you ask me, they simply needed to portray themselves as guardians of public morality, now that elections are just around the corner.

Even Gabriella and the Philippines Medical Association joined in the farce since taking the videos without the informed consent of the girl consituted "violence against women" for the former and demonstrates "unethical behaviour of the doctor" for the latter.

Sure, this was a transgression of Katrina's privacy, so the issue should touch on that, privacy, not violence against women per se because the uninformed party in any sex scandal may well be a guy, some gay guy or the girl. So Gabriella should quit making the issue as exclusively a "women's issue." It's a bit of stretch to force the two issues into one. By the way, Gabriella's up for election in the party list next year. Go figure.

As for unethical behaviour, I mean really, Kho has a sex life, just like normal doctors, yes? Let's stop becoming righteous all of a sudden.

As for drug abuse...oh wait, what was the issue again? Privacy? How about focusing on the "privacy" aspect and craft the damn bill. It's not like the two were seen sniffing coke while copulating in the video.

As for the video itself, I mean really, people, it wasn't even that good. Your average thirty-peso bootleg DVD porn is clearer and far more impressive.

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