Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our Final Family Holiday Weekend In New York

Joshua and I drove down to New York last weekend so that we could spend the long Columbus Day weekend helping my brother and his family pack things for the move back home.

We did not arrive until just after 10:30 p.m. Friday night.

My parents and my middle brother were in town, too, to help out. They had arrived a few hours before Josh and I arrived.

We spent much of the weekend cleaning out closets and cupboards and drawers, and packing things into boxes, and stacking the packed boxes in the dining room.

My nephew thought everything was one great party. He tried to keep his eye on everything that was going on, and everybody, and he tried to stay in the midst of all the activity.

He knows what’s going on. He knows he will be moving to Minnesota soon—although he appears to believe that the sole purpose of the move is to allow him to spend more time with his grandparents. He also has the vague and incorrect notion that he will live with his grandparents when he moves to Minnesota (he thinks that “Minnesota” is my parents’ house). Once a day or so, he will even seek reassurance from his parents that they, too, will move to Minnesota along with him.

He also knows that he will have a baby brother or sister soon. He will frequently ask his mother when his new brother or sister will arrive. His mother will always answer, “In a few more weeks”, after which he will always inquire why she and my brother can’t go to the hospital and pick up the new baby right now (he has been told that the baby will come “from the hospital”). “Because it’s not ready yet” is always the answer, which then invites his response, “Why isn’t the baby ready?”—and the whole cycle of questions starts anew.

He also knows that he has a birthday coming up, and that he will be three years old soon. He knows that he will receive a cake, and gifts, but he also appears to believe that the new baby is connected to his approaching birthday, sort of a playmate-as-birthday-gift concept. In fact, I think he believes that the move to Minnesota, the new baby and his upcoming birthday are all somehow one integrated series of events.

He’s quite a little guy.

I don’t how I got through the first twenty-five years of my life without him. Today it seems as if he has always been a part of our lives.

My mother says he’s the spitting image of his father at the same age.

My father says he is a “take-charge kind of guy”, and that he probably will be running General Mills by his fifth birthday.

My brothers and Josh and I did most of the work this weekend. My sister-in-law is not particularly mobile right now, all in all, and we did not allow her to do anything except issue instructions. My mother insisted on doing the cooking, so we did not allow her to do any other work so that she could spend as much time as possible with her grandson. My father did a little helping-out, but he spent most of his time assisting my mother and playing with his grandson. In any case, four persons were more than enough to complete the project.

We succeeded in getting everything packed that can be packed until the movers arrive to take care of the rest of the job.

We had four tickets to Saturday afternoon’s performance of Richard Strauss’s “Salome” at the Metropolitan Opera, but we had trouble making use of the fourth ticket.

I wanted to attend the performance, and my mother wanted to attend the performance, and Josh wanted to attend the performance (but mostly out of curiosity).

My father had lost all interest in the performance a few weeks ago, when a change in conductor had been announced. He would only have attended Saturday’s performance if my mother had asked him to go with her, and she did not want to ask him, knowing how much he detested the replacement conductor.

My sister-in-law genuinely had no interest in going out on Saturday afternoon, but she valiantly offered to accompany us—if I paid her. However, she was quick to add that, owing to current constraints in the credit markets, she could, with regret, not accept a personal check, and that she would be required to be paid in cash. She said her current policy—dealing with out-of-town persons such as myself solely on a cash-only basis until market conditions settle—was not intended to reflect adversely upon my character or upon my credit-worthiness.

My middle brother could not be enticed to a performance of “Salome” under any circumstances, paid or unpaid, having attended (and hated) a staging in Paris five years ago.

That left my older brother. The only way of getting him to attend an opera performance is to bind and gag him, and take him to the performance by force. Doing so would have involved my answering all sorts of tricky questions from security personnel monitoring the entrances to the Metropolitan Opera, and I did not want to have to face that prospect.

Consequently, we tried to give the fourth ticket away. I called a law-school classmate who lives and works in New York, and offered the ticket to him. He declined—but, he said, he knew a tax attorney who was looking for a ticket, and he said he would call her and get back to me.

I thought he was blowing me off, and I was on the verge of calling someone else when I received a call from the tax attorney, who in fact did want a seat to Saturday’s “Salome”. The ticket was taken. We were happy to give the extra ticket to her so that it did not go to waste.

In hindsight, we should have skipped “Salome” and stayed in and watched college football games on Saturday afternoon. The performance was very disappointing.

The stage production was not a serious attempt to deal with the themes of the opera. The stage production was camp. I was surprised the audience did not hoot it off the stage. Josh, my mother and I had to stifle giggles numerous times—when we were not rolling our eyes.

My father was wise to stay as far away from the performance as possible, because the conductor was certainly not a Strauss conductor. Of course, I do not thereby mean to suggest that this conductor is generally effective in the music of other composers—although I suspect he may have a decent “Man Of La Mancha” in him.

The cast was not distinguished, either, except that it featured a competent Salome, Karita Mattila. Mattila was the only reason even to tolerate the performance.

Myself, I am getting tired of Karita Mattila. I seem not to be able to avoid her. This was the third consecutive Metropolitan Opera performance we had attended in which Mattila was the featured singer (we caught a Mattila “Manon Lescaut” performance in February of this year and a Mattila “Jenufa” performance in February 2007). Poor Josh has never attended a performance at the Metropolitan Opera in which Mattila was NOT the featured singer. Josh must think Mattila is the ONLY featured singer on the company’s roster.

My recent encounters with Mattila have not been restricted to the Met stage. The last time I attended a performance at Covent Garden (2005) was a Mattila performance of “Un Ballo In Maschera”, and the last time I attended a performance at the Paris Opera (2003) was a Mattila performance of “Salome”.

In April 2007, we even caught a Mattila lieder recital in Saint Paul.

I cannot manage to escape this woman!

At this point, I have had more than enough exposure to Mattila, and so has Josh, and so has my mother. Mattila is a fine singer, and a likable performer, but she is not one of the immortals.

I discussed Mattila’s strengths and weaknesses in detail when I wrote about her February 2007 “Jenufa” and when I wrote about her April 2007 lieder recital. (I hardly touched upon her February 2008 “Manon Lescaut” because she had been so obviously miscast in that opera.) Her New York “Salome” demonstrated precisely the same strengths and precisely the same weaknesses I have witnessed in the past and have discussed in the past.

I CAN say that Mattila’s Paris “Salome” from five years ago was finer than her New York “Salome”. Mattila’s voice was fresher five years ago, and in Paris she had James Conlon in the pit to support and assist her, which surely worked to her advantage. Conlon was on fire the night of that Paris “Salome” (it was the final night of the run—and my brother and I ran into Conlon the next morning at Charles De Gaulle as Conlon was preparing to catch a United flight back to Chicago). That “Salome” was the finest thing I have ever heard from Conlon—and it was the finest thing I have ever heard from Mattila.

Until Mattila moves on to Wagner, whose music is a perfect match for her gifts, I hope to avoid her in future.

We also attended a ballet performance while we were in New York. We had given some thought to catching a Broadway performance, but there was nothing on Broadway any of us even mildly wanted to see, so we abandoned that idea in favor of seeing something else.

We chose a ballet performance largely because my mother does not have much opportunity to attend ballet performances in Minneapolis. We decided to attend the Sunday matinee performance of San Francisco Ballet at City Center, and we decided to attend more or less at the last minute, the tipping point being a special (and secret) two-for-one ticket code we learned about from one of my brother’s neighbors.

Only my parents and Josh and I attended the performance. No one else wanted to go.

The first two ballets on the program were by Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet. The third ballet was by Mark Morris. The final ballet—and, as it turned out, the only one worth seeing—was Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments”.

San Francisco Ballet is an odd company. Unlike the two major New York-based companies, San Francisco Ballet dancers do not have uniform, perfect dance bodies and they do not strive for a uniform, integrated style.

Many of the San Francisco female dancers had bad backs (a term of art in ballet jargon), a deficiency that impeded any sense of line and balance, as well as bad feet (again, a term of art), a deficiency that made them look like dancing platypuses in anything technically difficult, such as Balanchine. It is not surprising that New York companies took a pass on all these dancers.

If anything, the San Francisco male dancers were even odder. The body variances among the males were even more pronounced—several had laughably short legs, others had laughably short or laughably long torsos, and yet others were unaccountably beefy—and their technical proficiency was low. Male dancers now rule at New York City Ballet, and it was jarring for anyone accustomed to NYCB to watch the male contingent from San Francisco.

It was definitely a motley group of dancers, much more suitable for a modern dance troupe than for a classical ballet company.

The program booklet revealed that a huge portion of the dancers in the company was from outside the United States, which was demonstrated, in spades, as a jumble of contrasting dance styles was pranced, in succession, across the stage. Each dancer appeared to have received an entirely different kind of preparatory training. There was no uniformity of style such as may be seen in the New York companies.

Ultimately, it was all rather comical. It was also all rather depressing.

The best ballet on the program received the best performance. Tomasson, a former dancer with New York City Ballet, is a Balanchine acolyte, and he knows how to teach Balanchine style, at least up to a point. “The Four Temperaments” did not receive a distinguished performance, but at least it was a serious performance, and the ballet came across as a recognizable masterpiece. I have seen better and I have seen worse Balanchine performances by regional companies.

Tomasson is very popular in San Francisco, which is regrettable, because he needs to be replaced. There was nothing to be seen on stage Sunday afternoon that any major ballet company would want to showcase on a national tour.

Just as Josh has acquired the vague notion that opera = Karita Mattila, Josh has also acquired the notion that ballet = ”The Four Temperaments”. Josh has only seen three ballet repertory programs, and “The Four Temperaments” has been featured on two of those three programs.

Josh disliked “The Four Temperaments” the first time he saw the ballet—danced by New York City Ballet in February 2007—and he disliked it even more after seeing it danced by San Francisco Ballet.

“I thought you said I would grow to love this ballet” was the first thing he said to me after Sunday’s performance.

“Well, I thought you’d see lots of other, different Balanchine ballets before you saw this one again” was my response.

Sunday evening and Monday were the best parts of the weekend. We had completed our packing duties by midday Sunday, so we were able to devote Sunday evening and all day Monday to entertaining my nephew.

More accurately, he entertained us.

He enjoys doing lots of different things now. He’s a little one-man beehive of activity. I don’t know how his mother keeps up with him.

He still rides his scooter and his fire truck around the apartment, but not as much as he used to. He has learned that it is much faster and much more efficient simply to walk wherever he wants to go.

He now prefers to play with toys he can take apart and put back together, whether it be building blocks, puzzles or little gizmos designed to fascinate three-year-olds.

He likes playing with balls now, throwing and kicking them around, throwing them back and forth, and even trying to catch them, which he cannot do yet. He likes colorful balls of all sizes.

He’ll do a little coloring now and again, but only for a few minutes at a time. Coloring does not hold his interest for any sustained period of time.

He still likes stuffed animals, and he constantly moves his stuffed animals around the living room and arranges them to his satisfaction.

He likes having picture-book stories read to him, and he has his favorite stories, which he likes to hear over and over. He will follow along, and look and point at the pictures, and talk about the pictures.

He still likes it when everyone sits down on the floor and plays with him, and he still likes horseback rides, and he stills likes to be held and swung through the air.

More than anything, he keeps his eyes on what’s going on around him. He really does not miss a trick now. He knows everyone’s routine down to the minutest detail, and he always wants to know the reasons for any variances. He is full of unending curiosity. He constantly asks questions, of everyone, about everyone and everything.

He’s still a good eater—and he certainly got plenty to eat this weekend.

On Saturday morning, he had his cereal and banana slices, after which I made him scrambled eggs, which he ate with potatoes and toast and washed down with cranberry juice, orange juice and milk.

For an early lunch on Saturday, my mother made whitefish cooked in lemon, which she served with bowtie pasta and shredded vegetables. He lapped it all up.

On Saturday, my mother put a pot roast in the oven as soon as we returned from the opera, and he ate pot roast, cheddar potatoes, lima beans, tiny carrots and strawberry jello with fruit for his dinner. He got ice cream for dessert.

On Sunday morning, after he ate oatmeal with raisins, I made him apple pancakes, which he likes, and I served them with sweet apple sausage, delivered from Minneapolis, which he also likes.

For his lunch on Sunday, my mother prepared for him boiled chicken, macaroni-and-cheese, and peas, which he ate with fried apples, one of his favorite foods.

My mother put a ham in the oven before we departed for the ballet on Sunday afternoon, and he had baked ham, mashed potatoes, white corn, more lima beans (his favorite vegetable) and a fresh cranberry salad for his dinner. He got angel food cake for dessert.

On Sunday night, my mother prepared dough for raisin bread, and I baked raisin bread first thing Monday morning so that he could have raisin bread with his breakfast, along with bacon (which he eats now) and eggs.

He was given tuna and noodles for lunch on Monday, along with peas (which he eats several times a week) and applesauce.

He had roast chicken with stuffing, mashed potatoes, more tiny carrots, green beans, and apple salad for his dinner Monday night. He ate a raspberry tart for dessert.

He still gets a snack every afternoon when he wakes from his nap. On Saturday morning, my mother made gingerbread men for him, since gingerbread men are one of his favorite foods. He ate gingerbread men and poached pears for his post-nap snack all weekend. He always eats the feet of the gingerbread men first.

My middle brother and Josh and I were sorry to have to leave him on Monday evening, but my brother and I had no choice because we had to return to work (Josh is on mid-term break this week). Josh and I will miss not seeing my nephew again until Thanksgiving, by which time he will already have settled into his new home in Minneapolis. (My parents remained in New York this week to continue to help my older brother and his family prepare for the move. Tomorrow my parents will take the train to Boston to join Josh and me for the weekend. They will fly back to Minneapolis Sunday evening.)

Josh and I will miss no longer having family members on the East Coast with whom we can visit on occasional weekends. I sometimes think I would not have survived law school without having been able to spend every few weekends with my older brother and his family.

The prospect of such weekend visits will very soon be a thing of the past.


  1. Andrew:

    I'm sorry your trip to the Met was so disappointing. At least you got some entertainment out of it. It is amazing how the quality of the art there seems to be in decline. My offer to serve as your "hit man" against Summers stands, however.

    I hope you and your family have a happy time together this weekend.

    Here is an excerpt from the latest issue of “The Amphisbaena Whisperer” which resounds, in more ways than one, with déjà vu. Titled “The Ongoing Genius of Andrew Patmur,” by Marc Geekhood, the following stretch concerns the shared passion of two music writers for fellow music critic Alecks Moss, of “The P’ew Yorker Magazine.” I know you subscribe to the “Amphisbaena Whisperer,” Andrew, but you may have missed this one:

    “ . . . The most fascinating part of Moss’s book concerns the so-called “Weber Incident.”* The story begins on page 75:

    Back stage at the Bolshoi I was able to shake hands with this indescribable artist, who had become at the age of 19 a folk hero in his home town of Prague. Never had I seen a ballet dancer with such uncommon intelligence. That night Erek Myasa made the role of Crassus, for the first time in living memory, the true star of “Sparticus,” his astoundingly prodigious motions wiping completely from the mind not only the title role but even the legacy of the great Maris Liepa. Who could have guessed that a decade later this same supremely gifted young man would apply his formidable, physical strength in a vengeful effort to kill me on the streets of New York?

    “Mr. Patmur thought this was absolutely masterful. Such eloquent story telling! Clearly in awe, he knocked me on my knee with his knuckles and said, ‘Marc, that Moss is a hopeless talent.’

    “’You mean he’s hopelessly talented, right?’

    “’No, Marc, that’s not what I just said. A hopelessly talented person is someone whose talent is so great as to render it hopeless for anyone to equal that talent. But that’s a given, of course. A hopeless talent is someone whose talent is so great that even he himself will never be able to muster any more talent to surpass his own talent.’

    “I ruminated over this for a minute with some difficulty; then I asked, with some nervousness, ‘So, what is a hopelessly UNtalented person?’

    “Mr. Patmur sighed a bit as if I was challenging his patience, then he said, ‘Logic IS consistent, is it not? Think about it, my friend. A hopelessly UNtalented person is someone whose LACK of talent is so great as to make it hopeless for anyone ELSE to be so untalented.’

    “‘But, I said, that would mean that EVERYONE is more talented than a hoplessly untalented person, doesn’t it?’

    “‘Yes, now you see, we are all gods.’

    “'My, yes, we ARE gods, aren’t we?’

    “My goodness, such profundity!
    Such effortless surgical demarcation of nuance! And what polish of delivery!

    “Though I was injured in how Mr. Patmur exposed me as an ignoramus, it was worth it for me to be able to tap into the shear bottomlessness of it all, even if it was for just a minute. He reminds me of that brilliant doctor, Joe Cravner, on the Soap ‘Love of Loving’ who went over the house of Margo Klepps with that preposterous scratching Siamese cat which he has a tormented affair with for over a year.

    “The hopeless talent Mr. Moss writes on and on. Pages and years pass. Finally, on page 326, Mr. Patmur and I come upon this paragraph:

    I was covering Mr. Myasa’s performance in “Romeo and Juliet” at the Royal Ballet. My editor, Richard Sherry, came to me in the interval of the Second Act and told me that Myasa would ‘get even with me – that he was going to take my life (!)’ Dick was despondent, ‘He means it: he is going to SLAM you FLAT, man!’

    I was absolutely crestfallen. What had I done?

    “Moss then abruptly drops the subject. His ability to maintain suspense, move the spirit, the heart and the soul are mind-boggling. More pages of this thrilling page-turner pass by. Finally, we arrive on page 744:

    About nine years later I was standing on the corner of E. 53rd street and Broadway explaining to Oscar W. Felton how historian Bret Schnaut had been compelled the previous year to completely rewrite his 900-page manuscript on the life of Francis A. Nixon after reading one of my reviews of John Adams’ “Nixon in China” in which I’d glibly announced, “The President was a true bastard.” Well, as the French say, “the heart of wit is to know one’s place,” right? No sooner had I mentioned Schnaut’s change of title to “Francis A Nixon: Portrait of an Yclept Onanist” than I raised my head toward the heavens and – there he was! He was plummeting toward me like screaming lead, this azure-ringed tetragram of doom! Fortunately, he slammed onto the roof of the cab parked at the curb, not more than two feet way, engendering such unspeakable sight and sound! Had Myasi’s aim been more accurate, his chartreuse codpiece would have come ramming down my gaping mouth, extirpating as it were my uvula and asphyxiating me unto a certain death.

    “Mr. Patmur knocked on my knee again and said, “Cassidy! – What would have become of Kubelik had she NOT called “Taras Bulba” trash?

    “*The incident was only known by this name some twelve years after, when it was proven in court that Mr. Myasa had had no vendetta at all against Mr. Moss. As mentioned in the Foerster Report in 2007 in fact, Mr. Myasa had not ever even heard of “The P’ew Yorker,” and he had never remembered a meeting with Moss in Moscow. It was revealed that the disinformation concerning a physical threat against Mr. Moss had originated with a stagehand at Covent Garden. Though Mr. Myasa’s reputation had suffered posthumous damage, it was ultimately shown that the dancer was not entirely blameless in the case. Most agree, however, that it had been ill-advised for this legend of “uncommon intelligence” to rehearse “The Invitation to the Dance” on the tenth floor [Ed].”


  2. Dane:

    Thank you for the extended excerpt from “The Amphisbaena Whisperer”, which I enjoyed immensely. Alas, I am having problems with my subscription to this remarkable publication, no doubt owing to my recent address change. I had not read the excerpt until now, and I thank you for providing it. I would not have wanted to go to my grave without knowing about the unforgettable events described in the current issue.

    I can only marvel at Alecks Moss’s deft handling of “The Weber Incident”, planting the seed of suspense on page 75 and then propelling the reader breathlessly forward for almost 900 pages until revealing the final resolution of the drama.

    Pure Joseph Conrad, don’t you think?

    Or, perhaps more accurately, pure Rudy Vallee?

    A few months ago, I submitted to the “Whisperer”, unsolicited, a review of Arnold Schoenberg-Toynbee’s “Dissonance And Dreadnoughts: The Effect Of Atonality On The Naval Arms Race Between Germany And Britain, 1905-1914—A ‘Developing Variation’ Analysis”.

    The Schoenberg-Toynbee volume, as you know, is part of the “Chrome And Chromatics” series put out by The University Of Belize Press.

    My submission to “The Whisperer” was rejected. It was returned to me with a one-sentence admonition: “In futures, please justify your margins”.

    I, of course, became hopelessly confused, not knowing whether that “s” in “futures” was intentional or a typo.

    Because of the inscrutability of that “s”, my life has been more or less in limbo ever since.


  3. Andrew:

    I got my copy late yesterday.

    I am so sorry, Andrew, that AW rejected your story. Is it possible that the manuscripts editor was confused: there IS an article in this very issue entitled, “Dissonance and Dreadlocks”?

    I was afraid that AW didn’t have your Boston address, and that’s why I copied the article for you. However, I didn’t have time this morning to manually transcribe – forgive me those typos – the entire write-up (alas, AW has no website); so I can now take time during lunch to tell you about that part of the story regarding Oscar W. Felton’s sister, who was sitting within earshot of the Plaintiff’s table during the 2004 trial against the estate of Erek Myasa. Mellissa B. Gladdisscombs apparently knew that her brother had recorded on tape the entire “Weber Incident” with a hand-held mike. She had penned in her diary, then the property of Tigleth Pilesar, Alecks Moss’s attorney at the time, that her brother had told her about “the tape” and that Pilesar had instructed Felton to burn the tape because his eye-witness account was all that was required as evidence. On one day of trial, Gladdisscombs overheard Pilesar, “quite agitated,” asking his client why her brother had NOT disposed of the tape as he had requested. She suspected that the tape contained some kind of incriminating information about Moss – something about what Moss had said after the hapless Myasa’s terrible crash upon the taxi cab.

    “ . . . That was the same day of the famous “Cromwell” cross-exam. Documented for posterity on the local news, Vido Powers, Attorney for the Defense, approached Alecks Moss and asked, 'In the words of Cromwell, sir, I beseech thee in the Bowels of Christ . . . think it possible that thou may be mistaken?' Moss flew famously into a rage, screaming incomprehensible things about Cromwell being the murderer of the noble Irish and about Powers being some kind of Italian spy pilot . . .”

    The real clincher of the piece, Andrew, is what Gladdisscombs reported for the AW in the current issue. It was just timely. After all, this issue, dated October 24, commemorates the seventh anniversary of the “Weber Incident.” Ms. Gladdisscombs told the AW that as she followed Moss and Pilesar down the courthouse steps, she plainly heard the lawyer say to his client, “That’s just what we’d need, Alecks, another [damn] Stockhausen scandal!” “At one point in the discussion, Pilesar turned and pressed his body against Moss; then lowering his arms to his side he thrust his face into Moss’s face. He said ‘What do you WANT, pay-back or glory? You tell ME’. . . Gladdisscombs said that Moss replied, “pay-back,” but she noted that the sound of Moss’s voice was strangely enervated, as if Moss were being constricted in serpentine coils.”

    Whatever the case, Andrew, it will be interesting to see what happens if the missing diary turns up and if “the tape” ever becomes public.


  4. Andrew,

    Erratum: The current issue of AW commemorates the 13th anniversary of the Weber Insident (1995). Sorry.


  5. Dane:

    I am late getting back to you because I took this afternoon off.

    I left the office at noon and headed to the train station so that I could meet my parents’ train from New York.

    Josh drove our car downtown at midday and from the train station we all went over to Symphony Hall to hear this afternoon’s Boston Symphony concert. The concert was early—it began at 1:30 p.m.—and we were in the car, headed home, by 4:00 p.m.

    By the way, Dane, before I forget, we will get to hear a local performance of “Der Freischutz” this weekend. Josh is looking forward to “Der Freischutz” about 100 times more than he was looking forward to last week’s “Salome”. In fact, we all very much are looking forward to “Der Freischutz”. It will be our own “Weber Incident”.

    Yes, Dane, I was devastated when I received that rejection notice from the “Whisperer”. In fact, I briefly lost the will to live. However, Josh gave me a cookie, and I immediately felt better, and decided to carry on with my life.

    I truly am in a tizzy over this “Weber Incident”, and I regret, now more than ever, that I am not receiving my copy of the “Whisperer” in a timely manner. How else can I be expected to follow all the nuances of this story?

    I must ask, Dane: Do you believe Miss Gladdiscombs to be a reliable witness?

    I ask this because, if her story turns out to be untrue, there genuinely COULD be an entirely innocent explanation for many of the events at issue. Litigation brings out the disputatious nature in everyone, you know, and in this case financial motivations and strenuous efforts to preserve reputations only make all parties and all witnesses that much more suspect than usual.

    For instance, is it possible that Erek Myasa got so carried away with his emulation of Nijinsky that he simply forgot he was on the tenth floor? A simple explanation may be at the root of all these dismaying events, in which case the article in question could have been titled “Invitation To The Dunce”.

    Or is Richard Sherry behind all of this? I hear through back channels that Sherry is inflamed at the growing circulation of the “Whisperer”, which is taking readers from “The P’ew Yorker” at an alarming rate. Is it possible that Sherry has an article in the works that will answer all outstanding questions about “The Weber Incident”, destroy the reputation of the “Whisperer”, and put the “Whisperer” out of business once and for all? Sherry is very cunning, you know.

    And I must point out that Vido Powers—whose stepmother is Bernadette Peters—will stop at nothing to get his name in the papers. He is well-known in courtroom circles as a shameless grandstander. Everyone has been tired of his trial showboating for years.

    No matter how things turn out, I guess the best thing I can say about all this is that John Adams has announced that he has begun to write an opera about these events. His opera will, of course, be pro-Alecks Moss to an extreme, and ruthlessly anti-Erek Myasa. Quite naturally, the opera’s title is “Payback”.

    It is my understanding that Act II’s ballet—“The Head Detachment Of Vermin”—is already complete (but not yet orchestrated).


  6. Good morning, Andrew,

    I made a few phone calls because I was totally unaware of a forthcoming opera based upon the "Weber Incident." You are right, Andrew. "Payback" has been scheduled - can you believe it - for the 2011-12 season of the Houston Grand Opera. I suppose managment felt a need for a follow-up to "Die, Rhea!"

    Peter Sellers will direct.

    A spokesman for Mr. Sellers tells me that the title should always have quotation marks around it, as it refers to Moss's own "strangely enervated" utterance on the courthouse steps on January 16, 2004, as reported in "Whisperer."

    Another source indicates that the work is a courtroom opera and that Adams, having been highly impressed by Ades's "The Tempest," has scored the role of Alecks Moss for a countertenor.

    It is rumored that Adams has chosen Michael Maniaci to sing the role of Moss, since he is the only contemporary countertenor equipped with a modal voice; and the composer wanted a singer that was most suggestive of a castrato.

    It would seem that Adams is leaning to portray Moss as a heroic victim of society, manuevered by everyone.

    Producers have some other strange casting requests: The bass singing Tigleth Pileser must have "conspicuously oversized hands," an "important motif in the opera." The tenor selected for the role of Erek Myasa (who appears only in testimonial flashbacks) must also be able to dance "Sparticus," as one would expect; but Sellers is searching frantically for a dancer-singer with Savant Syndrome (?).

    As is no surprise, Vido Powers has been pestering Adams to write the role of his namesake as a speaking part, so that he can play himself in the opera. (Bernadett Peters, it seems, it being pursued for the role of Gladdisscombs, but she has complained, I understand, about the smallness of that part.)

    I AM worried about Sherry. He has hated "Whisperer" for decades, and there's no telling to what extent he will go to shut down this singular organ.


  7. Dane:

    I am pleased you have been able to confirm the details of John Adams's most recent project. My appetite is whetted.

    Does not O.J. Simpson meet the specific casting requirements for the role of Tigleth Pileser?

    And will Sylvester Stallone again be in the pit?


  8. Andrew,

    Note the following news release:

    "18 October (Hamburg) - This morning the estate of Karlheinz Stockhausen issued a warning to American composer John Adams and his associates that they would all be party to a civil lawsuit in the event that it is ever disclosed that the libretto of Adam's new opera "Payback" contains the slightest allusion to the German composer or to the 911 tragedy."

    I am so pleased that "Whisperer" now has a European circulation.

    I am also very pleased that Josh can hear a live performance of "Der Freischutz". He will love it.

    I hope the BSO concert went well for you all.

    Andrew, what would happen if "the tape" is made public before the premiere of "Payback"? Can you imagine the powder keg on which all the principals, real or musical facsimile, are now sitting? Could Richard Sherry have the tape, and could he be planning to use it as an instrument of blackmail?


  9. Dane:

    I have the most extraordinary news about the location of that tape!

    Can you guess who has it?

    The answer is John Adams, composer of “Payback”. He plans to incorporate the tape into his “Payback” score.

    I should have guessed, frankly. After all, Adams incorporated tape into “On The Transmigration Of Souls” and he incorporated tape into the conclusion of “Doctor Atomic”. How natural (and appropriate) that he would use tape in “Payback”, where the tape can even serve a plot function.

    Have you read the latest news stories about John Adams, stories in which he claims that he is harassed by TSA every time he flies? Adams believes that TSA is unhappy with his Klinghoffer opera and, as a result, has put his name on the list of fliers subject to additional screening.

    What a total moron! Does this idiot truly believe that officials at TSA are even familiar with his Klinghoffer opera? And does this idiot not realize that there are at least 100 ex-cons in the U.S. with the same name as his, which is why he is pulled over each time he flies?


  10. Andrew,

    Yes, I saw the news about Adams on the "Opera Chic" website yesterday. "Moron" would be polite!

    According to the Opera Chic article Adams also called 911"glamorous." Oh, oh, that statement sounds pretty indicting, doesn't it? Was the composer making a veiled reference to Gladdisscomb's "Whisperer" comment?

    There's supposed to be an interview with the composer in "The Guardian" today. If Adams spills the beans about the "the tape" being used as part of the "Payback" score . . . well, Andrew, I can't wait until Stockhausen's estate gets directly involved.

    Do you think, Andrew, that Adams plans to use "the tape" in conjuction with the Act II ballet "The Head Detachment of Vermin"? It is rumored that Myasa was decapitated when his head went through the windshield; and when the dancer's left common carotid artery burst Oscar Felton was splattered, quite sensationally, according to Gladdesscombs, with blood. (This last remark by Felton's sister was not mentioned in the current issue of "Whisperer.")

    Erek Myasa was about 6'5". I wonder if Adams is going to use a vertically challenged dancer to portray a "headless" Crassus strutting his stuff in the Roman Praetorium? Will Judge Clairman then come down and dance with him?

    Will Adams issue "The Clairman Dances" - a discarded portion of the ballet - on CD before the premiere of "Payback"?

    Can we expect some kind of Adams-Khachaturian-horror-sound-track kind of music on the CD?

    If he pulls all this off, Andrew he really WILL be famous, and not merely among officials of the Transportation Security Association.


  11. Andrew,

    That's "Transportation Security Administration."



  12. Dane:

    The Guardian interview is already up.

    Adams is a thorough oddball. Even taking that into account, it is dumbfounding that he would use the word “glamorous” to describe terrorist attacks. Adams said he was using “glamorous” in an ironic sense, in which case he needs to consult a dictionary to obtain a firmer grasp on the definitions of “glamour” and “irony”. The man is a total moron.

    I think Adams should abandon the “Payback” project and use that time to engage in a massive reading program in order to acquire the education he should have picked up forty years ago.

    When he emerges from isolation, Adams should spend the rest of his remaining years scoring Sylvester Stallone films. He would not find the work to be strenuous—he need only recycle what he has written before (which he already does, in any case).


  13. Andrew,

    I just read "The Guardian" article in full.


    Yes, I agree that Mr. Adams needs to do a lot of reading, so long as he is discriminating in such endeavors:


    The Lure is Scent
    The Trace is Lloyds
    The Bulk is 'ment
    The Rest is 'Roids


  14. Dane:

    Is it possible that The Reader's Digest is beyond John Adams's level of reading comprehension? He might want to begin his reading regimen with something a little less challenging.

    It never ceases to amaze me how dumb are the persons who work in the field of music.

    I always think I have seen and heard everything, and then I come upon something that, once again, makes my jaw drop.

    Please read this October 15, 2008, gem from The Boston Musical Intelligencer:

    "Never mind that Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony no. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”, 1893) is a warhorse, one of the most popular orchestral pieces of all time. It is an unquestioned masterpiece nevertheless, and certainly it is Dvorak’s finest symphony. (Of his earlier symphonies, only no. 8 is of comparable stature; all the others, notwithstanding many beautiful moments, suffer to varying degrees from long-windedness and too-great reliance on the spirit of Brahms or Wagner or both.) As did Tchaikovsky in his own last symphony, Dvorak achieved in his Ninth a pinnacle of strength, efficiency, and even economy for which he had striven throughout his career. In terms of harmonic originality, the “New World” breaks new ground; in terms of formal structure and overall shape, it is a model for its time surpassed, probably, only by Mahler’s epochal First Symphony (1888). The cyclic dimension of Franck’s Symphony in D minor (1888) seems contrived by comparison, and that of Brahms’s Third (1883) is tame. What Dvorak does in the Ninth is virtually unprecedented: themes that appear new in each movement are restated in each subsequent movement. In the second and third movements, the earlier themes reappear as momentary flashbacks, like partially concealed clues in a dream sequence; but in the finale these same themes are integrated and developed within the essential narrative process. One might think this is a cumbersome way to write a symphony, but everyone who knows the “New World” recognizes how effortlessly successful this synthesis is."

    Ignore the schoolgirl prose. Every single statement in that paragraph is risible--one could devote an entire paragraph to correcting the inaccuracies in each individual sentence--and yet the author purportedly has a doctorate in music.


  15. Andrew,

    That ‘THING’ – that pedagogic Chimera – is so abominable that if you had not identified it as originating from a legitimate, mainstream publication, I would have assumed that it was a rejected submission to the “Amphisbaena Whisperer”, written by a thirteen-year-old with ten CD's in his or her collection.

    It seems the author has calculated every clause to convey the ingredients of the most outrageous, four-course Halloween meal imaginable: The confident author’s write-off of the Dvorak D-minor would be his (or her) calculated, candy-corn “appetizer”, and the main course would be the "recycling", or vomiting-up, of the Brahms Third.

    I guess we’re doomed, Andrew.


  16. Dane, you probably think I just made that paragraph up, but I didn't.

    If you google "Boston Musical Intelligencer", you will see that the publication truly exists--and you will see that the paragraph I quoted was taken from an October 15, 2008, review of a Boston Philharmonic concert.

    My jaw dropped when I read that paragraph in the review.

    My jaw dropped again when I read the so-called qualifications of the writer.

    Actually, would not a review by a thirteen-year-old with a collection of ten compact discs have been more telling than the review in the "Intelligencer"?

    My assumption is that the name of the publication is to be accepted as an example of the use of irony.


  17. Andrew,

    Oh, I believe you, my friend. I'm afraid that MY jaw is dislocated forever.

    Does the writer of this thing have any idea that he would be shred into miniscule pieces among the company of the review staff at Gramophone?

    Has he or she ever HEARD of Gramophone?


  18. Dane:

    Sometimes I think that we live in a nation of morons, and it is hard not to get discouraged.

    However, as my father frequently points out to me, we do not live in a nation of morons. Instead, we live in a nation in which morons are simply given undue visibility.

    My father says that there was a sea change in public attitudes in the 1960’s, and that this sea change in attitudes showed its primary effect in the decade of the 1970’s, when talented persons began avoiding the fields of journalism and academia in favor of the professions.

    By 1980, the avoidance of the fields of journalism and academia by the talented was complete. The avoidance of those fields that began in the early 1970’s turned into an avalanche and had become an outright abandonment by the end of that decade.

    The result is to be seen daily in newspapers, magazines, electronic media and publishing, all of which are in near-terminal states of decay and may already have reached their final, decadent periods. These fields no longer feature people with brains (or taste, or judgment, or wisdom) to write and edit content.

    On the other side of the coin, according to my father, there was a wholesale upgrade in the quality of people entering the fields of medicine, law and business in the decade of the 1970’s, an upgrade that became visible by the middle of that decade in the quality of graduates produced and an upgrade that has continued over the course of the last thirty years, with no end in sight.

    One of the results of this great divide—confirmed by an astonishing series of Pew studies (from 2001, 2003 and 2006, I think)—is that educated Americans no longer watch television and educated Americans no longer read general-interest newspapers and magazines. Educated persons find the content to be moronic.

    Educated persons are now bombarded with moronic content all day, every day, and they have three possible techniques for dealing with it: ignore it; become discouraged; or make fun of it.

    Most persons use a combination of all three techniques.

    I have not yet decided whether to ignore the “Intelligencer” in future, become discouraged by it, or poke fun at it.

    Nonetheless, I now wish I had never encountered it.


  19. Dane:

    Before I forget . . .

    Josh brought to my attention an article in today’s Harvard Crimson.

    Apparently at Sunday’s “Der Freischutz” performance, there was a loud “bang” in the third act (which we missed—two acts was all we could take). It was caused by some equipment malfunction, and one of the results is that the English subtitles died for the rest of the performance.

    During Sunday’s performance, two old ladies sitting directly behind me would always start talking during the dialogue. They kept referring to Agathe as Agnes.

    I started to laugh uncontrollably.