Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Blue ether, white light, and characters
afflicted with ritual failure to communicate:
Robert Wilson's production of
Wagner's LOHENGRIN at the Met

More about the production later. (N.B. I love it!) Also, more later about our debut-boy, Klaus Vogt as Lohengrin. (N.B. He rocks!)

For now I just want to say that Ortrud -- the pagan revanchist in the midst of Carolingian Europe -- has got to be the greatest villainess in opera; competition only from, who? The Nurse in FRAU, maybe.... And Margaret Wray nailed it 99%. It would be churlish to remark that Nell Rankin and Mignon Dunn, mezzo-sopranos both, always tossed off even the highest notes of this role with apparent ease, whereas soprano Wray was a tiny bit strained in the stratosphere. Didn't matter: in the rest of her range, Wray came up aces.

The Ortrud of the 1950s: Astrid Varnay

Ortrud on her mind:
Margaret Jane Wray (to give her her professional handle)

ORTRUD (alone, in Act II):
Ye gods profaned! Help me now in my revenge!
Punish the ignominy that you have suffered here!
Strengthen me in the service of your holy cause!
Destroy the vile delusions of the apostate!
Woden! I call on you, O god of strength!
Freyja! Hear me, O exalted one!
Bless my deceit and hypocrisy,
that I may be successful in my revenge!

Later, playing mindgames with Elsa, whose (Christian) knight has come to save her on condition that she not ask his name:

Back, Elsa! No longer will I suffer
to follow you like a maid!
You shall give me precedence everywhere,
you shall humbly bow down before me!

In God's name! What is this that I see?
What sudden change has come over you?

Just because I forgot my worth for one single hour,
do you think that I must only crawl before you?
I dare now to revenge my suffering,
I mean to redeem what is due to me!

Woe, did I let myself be led astray by your hypocrisy,
you who stole to me moaning in the night?
How can you arrogantly claim precedence over me,
you, spouse of a man condemned by God?

(feigning an expression
of deep pain):
False judgement may have banished my husband,
but his name was honoured throughout the land;
he was called the One of highest virtue,
his brave sword was known and feared.
But your husband, pray, who here knows him?
You yourself are unable to utter his name!

What does she say? Ha, what does she proclaim?
She blasphemes! Silence her tongue!

Can you utter it, can you tell us
whether he is of worthy and noble descent?
Or whence the waters brought him to you,
when he shall leave you again, and whither he shall go?
No, you cannot!
For to do so would cause him great anguish -
thus did the guileful knight
forbid the question!