Wednesday, October 05, 2011

In A Pinch

My grandmother was released from the hospital on Thursday.

By Wednesday, the swelling in her knee had largely abated and she was able to walk without pain. Tests administered at the hospital demonstrated that she had suffered no ligament or cartilage damage, and that there was no evidence of bone spurs.

The physician said my grandmother must have experienced a minor knee incident, nothing more, and that she would have been released from the hospital two days earlier were it not for her advanced age. Low-stress physical rehabilitation is the only medically-indicated course of treatment for my grandmother.

My mother spent every day last week with my grandmother, both at the hospital and back at the care facility. It was a wearying and depressing week for my mother.

On Friday night, we all gathered at my older brother’s house for dinner in order to wind up six very stressful days. My sister-in-law had prepared an excellent meal: chicken consomm√©; Caesar salad; grilled salmon with seasoned rice, steamed broccoli and grilled red and yellow peppers; and raspberry sherbet.

Since my mother was away from the house all day every day, the dog stayed with my older brother’s family last week. We did not want him to be without company and without companionship—dogs are pack animals—and we thought he would be happier spending the week with my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew rather than at home by himself. He is accustomed to spending time at my older brother’s house, and he had a good week.

On Saturday, my mother again spent the day with my grandmother at the care facility, and my father accompanied her.

My middle brother and Joshua and I decided to do something fun on Saturday morning: we took the kids to the aquarium.

As aquariums go, Sea Life Minnesota is pretty small potatoes, but it is probably exactly the right size for the attention spans of small children: one can see everything in ninety minutes or less.

My niece and nephew enjoyed seeing the sea creatures. They were most fascinated by the cownose stingrays, the green sea turtles, the colorful clownfish—and the sand tiger shark, which truly is frightening. It was a perfect morning out for them.

After our visit to the aquarium, we took the kids to lunch at Ruby Tuesday, where we ordered hamburgers—and, after lunch, we took the kids home for their naps.

We remained at my older brother’s house for the remainder of the day, helping my older brother with tasks around the house and yard—and NOT watching Minnesota get demolished at Michigan, 58-0.

On Saturday night, we again all ate dinner at my older brother’s house. We ate Italian white bean soup; chicken quarters baked in an apple-cranberry glaze, small new potatoes in butter, steamed green beans, steamed baby carrots, and a tangerine-black cherry-almond cream cheese salad; and butterscotch pudding.

After dinner, we brought the dog home for the first time since Monday morning. He appeared to be pleased to be back home.

On Sunday morning, we attended service for the first time in two weeks (on the previous Sunday morning, it was while we were preparing to leave for service that we had received the emergency telephone call from my grandmother’s care facility).

Our church has—once again—amended the start time for Sunday service. Just when we had become accustomed to the early 9:00 a.m. start, the church changed the start time for traditional service from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

We were always happy with the 11:00 a.m. start time, observed by our church for decades. An 11:00 a.m. start allowed us to eat a Sunday breakfast before service. With the change in service, we now eat a Sunday breakfast after service—with the result that the Sunday breakfast now serves as our Sunday lunch, too.

After our Sunday breakfast/lunch, my brothers and my niece and nephew (as well as the dog) went to my older brother’s house, while my parents, my sister-in-law and Josh and I went to Saint Paul to attend the Sunday matinee performance of Minnesota Opera’s new production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”.

“Cosi Fan Tutte” is among my favorite operas—of Mozart’s works for the stage, only “The Magic Flute” has more sublime music—and I never miss a chance to attend a performance.

Minnesota Opera had opened its checkbook for its new “Cosi Fan Tutte”. The physical production was much more detailed and much more elaborate than most Minnesota Opera productions, signaling that the company intends to keep this production—its first “Cosi” in twenty years—in the repertory.

A very traditional production set in the time and place Mozart and Da Ponte specified, Minnesota Opera’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” was beautifully designed, offering a series of striking and colorful and handsome stage images. The costumes were of a standard seldom encountered at Minnesota Opera, and the lighting design was exceptional—the design team had clearly devoted hours and hours and hours to technical rehearsals and the complicated lighting plan.

The director of Minnesota Opera’s new “Cosi” was Peter Rothstein, the artistic director of one of Minneapolis’s many repertory theater companies. “Cosi” was one of Rothstein’s first forays into the realm of opera, and he chose to direct “Cosi” as a naturalistic and realistic theater piece. Nothing was exaggerated, nothing was overplayed, nothing was too obvious. Rothstein’s meticulous staging was the best-directed “Cosi” I have ever seen (“Cosi” being a new production, there was a longer-than-usual rehearsal period). Rothstein’s “Cosi” was as stage-worthy as anything to be seen on The Guthrie boards.

Musically, the presentation was not as notable.

The conductor, Christopher Franklin (a graduate of Saint Paul’s Macalester College who now lives and works in Italy), conducted the score as if it were Rossini. The great sadness and melancholy of Mozart’s score were not revealed in Franklin’s performance. Franklin’s was a very glib interpretation of what is, fundamentally, a very profound work. Franklin understood the comedy of “Cosi” well enough, but he was unable to realize the genuine tragedy that lies just beneath the surface. The best thing I can say about Franklin’s work is that he kept things moving.

In the past, Minnesota Opera has often used the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for its Mozart presentations. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra was not called upon to play in the pit for the new “Cosi”—and not engaging the SPCO may have been a mistake. The contract musicians used by Minnesota Opera played cleanly but without any real distinction. The notes were there, but not the music behind the notes. Of glorious interplay between pit and stage there was none.

Much the same was true of the cast members, all young and all exceedingly handsome. Their acting and stage deportment, faultless to a “T”, trumped their singing. From a purely vocal standpoint, the performances were of a standard to be encountered at a fine but not particularly topnotch music conservatory: good but not distinguished voices, well-drilled but not guided with great insight.

Next month, we may hear “Cosi Fan Tutte” again. University Opera Theatre of the University Of Minnesota will present four performances of “Cosi” the week before Thanksgiving, and I suspect we will try to catch one of those performances. I do not expect the vocal quality of the upcoming student presentation to be significantly inferior to what we heard on Sunday afternoon.

On our way back to Edina after the opera performance, we stopped at Boston Market to pick up a carryout dinner. We bought chickens, mashed potatoes, stuffing and several vegetables, and took the food to my older brother’s house, where we all were able to sit down to a decent Sunday night dinner without expending any effort.

Boston Market will always do in a pinch.


  1. Hey Drew,
    I'm very happy to hear that your grandma is recovering well and can walk around now without pain! She is lucky to have a supportive family around her, I think. :o)

    I love Cosi fan tutte, too. It's too bad it doesn't get staged often here. When I'm feeling Cosi-withdrawal, though, I pop in the recording from Salzburg with Pilar Lorengar and Teresa Berganza as the two sisters (conducted by Solti). Do you have any favorite recording?

    Hope October is going well for you and Joshua! :o)

  2. I like the Karajan from the early 1950s, the Bohm from the early 1960s, and the Solti from the early 1970s. Those are the sets that come immediately to mind.

    I hope your October is going well, too.

    And I am still eagerly awaiting Part III of your Mormon experience!