Sunday, October 19, 2014

Handel's Partenope at the San Francisco Opera

…thanks to a senior rush ticket that placed me at an ideal spot in center orchestra…   

18 October 2014
At the San Francisco Opera House, about to hear an opera, I looked at the gold masks either side of the stage, the Mask of Tragedy and Mask of Comedy.  I noticed that in both masks the eyes were troubled.  Tragedy’s eyes were wide with horror.  Comedy’s eyes winced with pain.
       The San Francisco Giants won the pennant and the San Francisco Opera is presenting Handel’s comic opera Partenope (“par-TEN-opee”), and for me, Travis Ishikawa’s joyous final run around the base that won the Giants the pennant was precisely echoed in counter tenor David Daniel vocally running the line in Handel’s music. 
Some people find Handel not to their taste, and I imagine that they avoid attending Handel operas.  There are others who appear to come to hear Handel specifically because they will be credited with acute taste when they complain how much they dislike the opera they are hearing.  One must put up with their never varying remarks, or not enough tickets will be sold to assure future productions of Handel.
The woman who lectured before the opera understood how some cannot maintain interest in a 3 or 4 hour opera, and reminded us that in Handel’s day people often sat in boxes where they could draw curtains during that time, to converse, dine, play cards, or make love so they did not find the opera going on outside the box to be tedious. 
I don’t know if there are written records describing the physical direction and staging of his comic operas, but I must assume that he wanted his comic operas to be funny, and so I have to assume that we are cheated when the operas are not directed as Christopher Alden directed this production – the endless run of luscious arias, sung beautifully, punctuated with visual comedy that never interfered with great singing – with special surprises, as when in Act One someone sang an aria while hanging by his hands in mid-air.  The cast met physical as well as vocal challenges.  
Central in Act II was a bathroom, often open with someone sitting on the toilet.  (At the moment when a suitor is singing about his love for Partenope, she, in the bathroom, flushes the toilet.)  The longest applause of the evening was for Emilio (Alek Shrader) after one of his long slapstick episodes that began with his singing the most difficult section of an aria while balanced on his stomach in the transom over the bathroom door (as he had been locked in).
Besides many comical visual moments, there were all the usual Handel tricks – Partenope singing of a butterfly on the air with an aria that sounds like a butterfly on the air.
The lecturer before the opera is from Naples that in B.C. was called Partenope, and in A.D. became Naples, a contraction for Italian words meaning “New City.”
She described the formula for these kinds of operas – one aria each for various emotions or moods, no moods repeated immediately. 
Even the manner of singing – the show-off elaboration – could become comic, a reflection of the vanity of the character.  I am at the point in a James Baldwin novel where people are trading sexual partners and being uncertain who they love or don’t love, and that was precisely the subject of the opera, with the various moods of love from foolish to pining, but whimsical and sophisticated, with some wonderful slapstick.       
Just to overplay how whimsical the production was at times, in the last act someone tap-danced while singing an aria.
Nevertheless, only for those who love Handel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An Internal Climate Change

With a friendly game of seesaw, there is playful give-and-take, and dependence on a fulcrum of balance.  If such a reciprocal relationship existed between the parent Earth and its child, the human, an internal change of psychological climate would prevent poisoning the home planet.  It is not news to you that those who feed on the Earth must remain in a proper state of empathy with the Earth.   
Did you ever, when playing, jump off your end of a teeter-totter, to play a trick on your partner, only to have your end of the teeter-totter strike you under the chin?  Avoid such karmic retribution by singing these words set to the ancient Doxology common to many churches and bell towers which began with the words "Praise God in whom all blessings flow." I have done previous versions, but this one, with its dripping cloud, seems also to be praying for rain in California:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Ziegfield Plates

I have never determined what to do with these plates left behind when Florenz ("Flo") Ziegfield and his wife Billie Burke, caught in the Crash of 1929, abandoned many possessions when they lost their mansion in Chicago.
 An aunt of mine saved them from destruction and then they were passed on to me.  They are hand-painted, I believe, but with some scratches and some chipped edges that do not make them prime as antique objects.
 Yet I hate to think that the two 10-inch wide plates and the 17-1/2 inch platter will end up simply being tossed, considering that they once belonged to the impresario of the Ziegfield Follies and to perky Billy Burke, with a voice, like a chirping bird; as the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz,  she told Judy Garland how to get back home to Kansas by clicking her red shoes together.  I hope nostalgia will cause someone eventually to find some better fate for them.  Below the platter, cleared up scratches, and artist signature (which seems to be "R.K. Beck").

At this date, 15 September 2014, 7 Beck plates are on sale on eBay.  The owner had this information on the plates.  The size of the plates is different from mine -- perhaps a wider edge beyond the pictures.  Also, instead of the Buffalo Pottery stamp on the back, mine have this mysterious stamp "TST Latona" OR "Iatona"

The man with similar plates for sale says on eBay: 

For sale is a set of 6 plates & 1 oval platter.  Plates measure 9 1/8" wide.  Oval platter measures 15.25" long & 11" wide.

Each piece is signed by  Wildlife Artist, R.K. Beck.  He worked at Buffalo Pottery from 1909 to 1914.

These plates were commissioned by the Larkin Company with the Buffalo Pottery Company.  This was a soap manufacturer who produced these plates as a "soap premium".  They were a series of fish and game plates (Forest Series).  This listing is for the Wild Game Plates.  From my investigation I found that these were produced from approximately 1908 to 1918.

The plates feature both the male and female animals including elk, moose, deer, caribou.

It is stated that RK Beck had hand painted each plate and then signed them.  Truth be told, they were painted and then applied to the china piece and glazed over.

As with anything that is over 100 years old, all of these pieces are severely aged.  All show crazing, discoloration, bowed ceramic on the platter (it wobbles and doesn't sit flat) & scratches, but the colors are vibrant and the gold trim is still intact.  There is a slit on the back of 1 plate.  This is not a crack since it does not go through to the other side.  I believe that this was a manufacturer defect when the ceramic slip material dried and split prior to firing of the piece.  There is also 1 plate with an obvious crack.  Due to economic conditions way back when, my Grandfather had "repaired" this himself by gluing it back together.  I understand that this might be something that can be fixed and made more presentable.

I have attempted to show both the front and back of these pieces so that you can use the zoom feature to see close up views.  Email if you would like additional pictures since I can only have 12 pictures on ebay.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Examples from an Exhibit at the deYoung Museum, San Francisco: Modernism from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Information at the bottom.  
Remembering always that here and with other entries, click on any image that you want to enlarge:



Paul Harmon has identified this exhibit as Modernism from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.:  The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection (June 7, 2014 – October 12, 2014 in the deYoung's Herbst Special Exhibition Galleries) brings paintings by the great masters of the post-war world to San Francisco. The de Young will feature nearly 50 works by Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella, among others. The de Young is the exclusive venue for this exhibition, the first of the Meyerhoff Collection outside the greater Washington, DC, and Baltimore metro areas.  The Meyerhoff's are giving this art to the National Gallery.

At the Fresh & Best Cafe

I could think of this photo as a stage set for many recurring moments in my life where Jeffrey Klas and I sat at that same table (the "F & B" of "Fresh & Best" sometimes standing for other words when our imaginations revert to adolescence). 
The weather, hot or cold, is always an issue.  There is an umbrella available if it is too hot and sunny.  It is a common ritual for us, as the seasons change, to watch sunlight (the sun's snail-like movement is visible, we think) as withdraws its light and

shadows take over, if we are there close to evening, or, if in the other half of the day, the sun spreads its light, inch by inch, across the cement walk, and we note its progress, when all begins in morning shadow, until the sun creeps up and over us at our table, and warms us.  This intense action drama accompanies whatever conversation amuses we old and disabled companions.
      On this day a handsome young man kept moving around us so that I asked him if he was a dancer as he looked like a dancer and there are many dancers around there, but he was a photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle, troubling his equipment as he waited for some reason before he began his work to photograph something about the cafe, perhaps just to photograph its Vietnamese sandwiches, made by the three Vietnamese-American women, very young and sweet, who run the cafe.  The young man  did not sound as if he was there to photograph the ambiance of the place, so that we let him know of the energy that spills over from next door at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts as dancers and entertainers of all ages, going to and from classes, often carry their energy into the cafe, and the place buzzes with their involvement and enthusiasm  -- and on Sunday it is even more so, we told him, like being present at a big family reunion of creative (mostly African-American) people of all ages.  
     People-watching from the table on Alice Street, we seem to detect that many of our favorite kinds of people of the creative sort live on Alice Street, and I like to think it is because they knew they would find a humane magic there on a street that bore the name of the child-goddess for whom Lewis Carroll was inspired to write great books.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mimbres Pottery from the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection of Native American Art

The Weisel Family exhibit of Native American Art, currently a second floor corner of the deYoung (easily missed)  includes pottery from the culture in the Mimbres Valley from what the area of Mexico that  is now southwestern New Mexico; it created a millennium of pottery, but the drought forced the ancient culture to disperse, as with many ancient cultures in that part of the world.  (I cannot help thinking how drought in the U.S. Southwest also forced mass relocation.)  

 Their pottery went through a change from 750 to 1150 CE, as shown here.  The pots were often placed over the face of the deceased, perhaps simply the bowls on hand, but it is intriguing to wonder whether the images reflect scenes from common stories, individual flights of imagination, or reflected the personality of the deceased.  The bottom of the pieces was broken so that, as the docent said, the spirit could be released, or as the catalogue states, "the openings are broadly understood as symoblic portals between this world and that of the spirits."

"Mimbres" is the name of a small willow growing along the river that became known as the Mimbres River.

 I painted this one a bit:

I cleared the cracks from the rabbit's body:

Navajo Rugs from Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection

 Below, Navajo Serape, ca. 1860:

 Below:  Navajo Poncho Serape, ca. 1830:

Below:  Navajo Serape, ca 1855-1860:

 Below:  Navajo Serape, ca 1865-1875:

 Below:  Navajo Serape, ca. 1865:

 Below:  Navajo Wearing Blanket (third-phase chief blanket), ca. 1865:
 Below:  Wearing Blanket (sec on-phase chief blanket), ca. 1865:

 Below:  Navajo Blanket ca. 1870 (perhaps I scanned this one from a book):

Pots, Etc., from the Native American Art from the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection

 Above:  Acoma pot, ca 1900

Above:   Ca. 1175-1300

Above:  Sikyatki, ca 1450-1500

 Above:  Acoma, ca 1890-1910

Below:  Pot attributed to Nampeyo (Hopi-Tewa, ca 1860-1942).  First photo from a book.  

  Below, the spiral in the bowl is my addition:

Below:  Mask, Tsimshian, ca. 1800-1850 (photographed through glass):