'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

21 April 2012

Four Last Songs

Richard Georg Strauss: 11 June 1864 - 8 September 1949
For decades the song cycle of Richard Strauss known as 'Four Last Songs' has been at the summit of my idea of the most sublimely beautiful music ever written. Strauss died before these songs were premiered in London in 1950. It was not his intention to group the set of the three Hesse poems/songs together with that by Eichendorff, but this was the inspiration of his friend Ernst Roth to unite them as 'The Four Last Songs'. Roth was the chief editor of the musical publishers Boosey & Hawkes. Since Kirsten Flagstad first sang these, every soprano worth her salt wants one day to tackle these pieces when she thinks she is mature enough and ready. 
Many glancing here will know this work by heart, but I hope some novices will listen quietly to the four songs by different sopranos I have below and be overwhelmed.
This audio recording is by the divine lyric soprano Gundula Janowitz.
The lyrics are by Hermann Hesse
In dusky caverns I dreamed long of your trees and azure breezes, 
of your scents and birdsong.
Now you lie revealed in glitter and array, bathed in Light like a miracle before me.
You recognize me again, tenderly you beckon to me. 
Through all my limbs quivers your blissful presence.
Jessye Norman, who shines in everything she puts her voice and intellect to, live at the inaugural concert of the Salisbury Festival 1991 held at Salisbury Cathedral West Green.
The lyrics again by Hermann Hesse.
The garden is mourning
the rain sinks coolly into the flowers
Summer shudders
as it meets its end.
Leaf upon leaf drops golden
down from the lofty acacia.
Summer smiles, astonished and weak,
in the dying garden dream.
For a while still by the roses
it remains standing, yearning for peace.
Slowly it closes its large
eyes grown weary.
Beim Schlafengehen
The glorious Leontyne Price - Live in New York 1979
Words once again by Hermann Hesse.
Now that the day has made me so tired,
My dearest longings shall
Be accepted kindly by the starry night
Like a weary child.
Hands cease your activity,
Head forget all of your thoughts:
All my senses now
Will sink into slumber.
And my soul, unobserved,
Will float about on untrammelled wings
In the enchanted circle of the night,
Living a thousand fold more deeply.
Im Abendrot
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf has always been my favourite interpreter of these songs. Perhaps it is because hers was the first version I owned. This stunning live audio recording is with:-
The Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Conducted by George Szell at the Consertgebouw 19the June 1964
Lyrics this time by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff.
We've gone through joy and crisis
Together, hand in hand,
And now we rest from wandering
Above the silent land.
The valleys slope around us,
The air is growing dark,
And dreamily, into the haze,
There still ascends two larks.
Come here, and let them flutter,
The time for sleep is soon.
We would not want to lose our way
In this great solitude.
O vast and silent peace!
So deep in twilight ruddiness,
We are so wander-weary - 
Could this perchance be death?

Exploring The Four Last Songs

13 April 2012

Beautiful Physical Theatre

If it were not for friends on Facebook and then a search of Youtube, Vimeo etc I would not be made aware of some of the great productions and artistic creations throughout the world. One such piece of beautiful physical theatre is:-
At Swim Two Boys 

To coincide with the 10th anniversary of the publication of Jamie O'Neills Book, Earthfall revived their award-winning production of 'At Swim Two Boys' in Autumn 2011. The story tells of the developing love between two teenage boys and, as the space slowly fills with water, the boys' relationship unfolds, they go into the sea to swim ....
Staged entirely in water, and set against the backdrop of the Easter Rising in Ireland, this tender and visually beautiful production previously toured to sell-out audiences in Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and mainland Europe.
Find Book at Amazon
DV8 - Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men
Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men was DV8's first stage show to be professionally adapted for film. Loosely based on the story of serial killer Dennis Nilsen, it explores the interwoven notions of loneliness, desire and trust. Founded upon the conviction that societal homophobia often results in tragic consequences, the work grapples with the disturbing forces that drove Nilsen to kill for company. 

09 April 2012

Walt Whitman

1819 - 1892
 “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
Portrait of Walt Whitman by Thomas Eakins 
and these photographs by Eakins are believed to also be Walt Whitman.
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
              For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."from Song of Myself
Of course he was not always an old man.
Notes for the performance below .

 Once described obscene for its overt sexuality, Walt Whitman’s collection of poems in Leaves of Grass takes on new life through a naked, dance-inspired adaptation. Conceived and directed by Jeremy Bloom, Leaves of Grass features a diverse, unclothed cast of over 20 performers rhythmically chanting Whitman’s most groundbreaking poems including “Song of Myself,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” Experience Walt Whitman’s epic text as chamber theater meets dance theater meets congregation meets celebration – and join Whitman in proclaiming, “If I worship one thing more than another, it shall be the spread of my own body.”

'Leaves of Grass' naked 2010

Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection written by Walt Whitman and although the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death. Do buy yourself a copy and you will be the richer for having read it. Treasure it. As was with the case of the poems of Michelangelo in the work of Whitman the sex of some was changed from HIM to HER before publishing. Some was even self censorship. The discovery of early manuscripts have in both cases shown the original homoerotic intention.
Two Poems by Walt Whitman
Once I pass'd through a populous city imprinting my brain for future
use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions,
Yet now of all that city I remember only a man I casually met
there who detain'd me for love of me,
Day by day and night by night we were together--all else has long
been forgotten by me,
I remember I say only that man who passionately clung to me,
Again we wander, we love, we separate again,
Again he holds me by the hand, I must not go,
I see him close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous.

We two boys together clinging
One the other never leaving
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving,
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, 
Water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, 
Feebleness chasing, Fulfilling our foray.
Beautiful Photos for the Poetry of Walt Whitman
 by Anthony Gayton
The Lovers of Walt Whitman
Harry Stafford                              Bill Duckett                                     Peter Doyle

Walt Whitman, the father of modern American poetry, was the longtime lover of Peter Doyle, a tram conductor and son of a blacksmith. The couple first met on a Washington, DC streetcar in 1865, when Whitman was 45 and 6 ft. tall and Doyle was 21 and 5 ft. 8 in. Doyle had a lasting impact on Whitman’s work and as he was present at Lincoln’s assassination, he influenced Whitman’s writings about that event. Whitman was a friend of the President’s former secretary John Hay and had seen Lincoln in person many times. Pete also affected Whitman’s most popular and well known Lincoln poem “O Captain! My Captain!”  which unlike most of Whitman’s, is metered and rhymed. Doyle did, however, affect Whitman’s decision to excise three poems from the 1867 edition of “Leaves Of Grass” that expressed despair over Whitman’s earlier failed relationship with another Irishman, Fred Vaughan, who married after splitting from him. In a letter, Walt enthused, 
“I never dreamed that you made so much of having me with you, nor that you should feel so downcast at losing me.” 
Soon afterward, when Pete griped about his job, Walt wrote promising
“a good smacking kiss, many of them – taking in return many, many from my dear son – good loving ones too.” 
For  two decades, Pete and Walt continued to correspond, and Pete continued to visit regularly, but drifted apart and in 1876, Walt met another working class youth, an emotionally unstable young man of eighteen, Harry Stafford, an office clerk. Harry became Walt’s new “darling boy.”
 "Dear Harry, not a day or night passes but I think of you. . . . 
Dear son, how I wish you could come in now, even if but for an hour & take off your coat, & sit on my lap--"
Like Fred Vaughan before him, Harry would marry in 1884, but he and Walt would remain friends. Another possible lover was Bill Duckett (possibly the Thomas Eakin photo to the left) whom he met as a young teenage boy of 15 and lived in on the same street around 1880 and moved in with Whitman, living with him a number of years and serving him in various roles.
Walt had several strokes died of tuberculosis on March 26, 1892 aged 73.
I have looked for films of Walt Whitman and there is none. What neglect. 
Ryan Reed has the script!!!! See his pitch.

07 April 2012

New photos I love

Some new and some old but I have seen fit to capture them to remind me of great, interesting, inspiring and beautiful people and events.
Rufus Wainright bows to Queen              Sir Ian McKellen is proud
Stephen Hawking at 70 on set with the Big Bang Theory guys.
Ricky Martin and family - Carlos and the twins Matteo and Valentino
Looking Simply And Glamorously Divine
Some friends from Facebook etc.
Stylish erotic art of  Felix d'Eon
Alex Stoddard
My friend the beautiful tenor at home in Romania.  Bogdan Mihai 
David Pereira                     Pavel Stankevich          Eike von Stukenbrok
Three beautiful boys above who can twist it, bend it and do all things physically stunning. I have been following them for some time now.
      Australian model Andrej Pejic        Actor photographer etc. Marcell Schlutt
 The stunning work of photographer Mustafa Sabbagh
The fabulous David Hoyle actor and performance artist
 Two of my favourite photos of actor, dancer, photographer Anton Risan
And of course one can never have too much of my most inspirational artist, singer, actor etc 

05 April 2012

Cyril Auvity

He is French he is versatile, he is attractive and he has a beautiful voice, Originally a Physics graduate before completing his musical studies at Lille in 1999. He is fabulous and magnetic to watch on stage and even been glorified for his great butt. A young and highly praised tenor whom I have also seen referred to once as a counter-tenor (?). I have only just come across him and look forward to discovering more of this gem in the operatic world. Below are the 4 DVD's and one CD I have so far.
Four Opera DVDs I have with Cyril Auvity
'Persee' by Jean-Baptiste Lully
Cyril Auvity stars as the title character Perseus. I do not know the background in detail, but one can imagine sitting with the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, where it premiered in 1682. Perhaps the Sun King himself may have danced. I like to imagine that. Lully who was gay had a wonderful camp scene with the male strutting, smirking Medusa and gorgons having banter with an effeminate Mercury. At least in this beautiful production from Toronto. Auvity looks sexy in this opera and it is no wonder the various women are sighing for his love. So well worth buying the DVD.
'Salustia' by Giovanni Batitsta Pergolesi
I have a downloaded copy from a TV broadcast only and unfortunately the sound and vision are not synchronised. I await the day when it is released on DVD proper for me to buy. The production is stunning and there are some outstanding homoerotic scenes .
'Il Ritorno D'Ulisse In Patria' by Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monterverdi
Beautiful production and I own the DVD. Such wonderful singing and one of the three William Christie Monterverdi's and barefoot as well. Auvity is Telemachus the son of Ulysses and Penelope.
'Orfeo' by Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monterverdi
(amazing production but I can't find clip with Auvity) 
This is the first in a series of three Monterverdi operas mounted by the great conductor William Christie. The second being 'The Return of Ulysses to Patria' above. The last of the three just released on DVD is 'The Coronation of Poppea' with my favourites , the remarkable and divine Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic

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