Sunday, November 30, 2008

Opera as Hyperbole

Applications!!!! Here enjoy one of the essays I wrote!

We are drawn to the opera by the reflection of society that fills the mind as it fills the stage. We go for the music, we go for the glamour, but most of all we go for the stories. Everything about life is amplified at the opera, the stories are grander than our lives, yet we can see pieces of our lives on stage; and it is this, that draws us back again and again. Opera fills our lives with the drama that we secretly wish was our banality. When one thinks about it carefully, no one would really want to be any character on the stage. Too frequently they lead heart-wrenching lives ending in tragedy, and even the happiest ending is earned only by slogging through, deception and temporary heartbreak – no sane person would ever go through all that, no matter how enticingly romantic the scenario. But we do not think about it, at least not at first, because we are far too caught up in our envy of characters that lead such romantic lives.

It all started as an academic experiment in Italy, but it quickly became a national pastime. An evening at the opera house was a regular excursion. People went to see their favorite stars, listen to their favorite arias, gamble, eat dinner, watch the ballet, rub shoulders with the who’s who of society – not to mention enjoy a heated building. Going to the opera was not just about seeing an opera, since you frequently saw the same opera several times a season. The music provided a backdrop to the social scene that was unique to the opera. This changed in the Romantic era as the composer gained greater importance and the composer’s music was considered an extension of their genius. Going to the opera became what we are familiar with today: dark theaters, a performance of one piece, the attentively silent audience devoted to the piece. Opera’s role has certainly evolved, but it has never lost that luster and prestige, and it continues to be a place to look for the important figures in society.

In many ways this movement away from social atmosphere to a polite adulation of genius explains opera’s fall from the social heart to the demesne of the socialite. Fewer patrons mean more expensive tickets, forcing – or allowing – opera to become more and more exclusive, and leading to fewer patrons. There have been efforts again in the last 20 years to change this: opera singers are expected to have an excellent grasp of realistic stage acting, and directors’ artistic visions are gaining importance over those of musical directors’. Perhaps the best move that has been taken to remove the exclusive image of opera, reduce the cost, and entice new patrons to the art has been the Met’s live broadcast of its performances to movie theaters. Once past the barricades of social exclusivity, opera goers can once again be privy to the grand stories of opera.

Opera like all art-work is a chance for the artist to hold a mirror to society and reflect us all – the good, the bad, the tragic, but most importantly, the truth – for those who will look. The image is not a realistic one, but one seen through the lens of hyperbole. Political turmoil in Italy transforms into the struggles of the Hebrews exiled from their land; lover’s quarrels are amplified as the heroine’s last whispered breath passes like a kiss over her lover’s lips. Even now, we see the cool post-minimalist interpretation of the creation of the atomic bomb and the decisions of an American president. In short, the real becomes more than real; it becomes hyperbole.

What causes this hyperbolic representation of the world and life to resonate with the audience is the music. We have all experienced the transformative power of music, and opera uses that power to bend the audience to the composer’s will. We don’t mind that it takes Manon ten minutes of crawling across the Louisiana plains to die, because we are entranced by the music that binds it into a single, all-too-short moment. Her anguish is our anguish, and it is the music that makes it true. We experience the story in the character’s moment, not the audience’s. And this, I believe is the most magnificent power of music.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


There is all sorts of excitement in the city about Obama. The New York Times points out some of this feeling.

(will make link prettier when I get home)

I've pointed out to some of my friends that it's a bit like after the Sox won the championships; everyone has something to talk about. Strangers are willing to strike up conversations on the CTA. There is palpable excitement and comradery.

I mean there are a few minor inconveniences though. Two of the bus routes that I regularly take have been re-routed because of the blockade around Obama's house.

Also two days ago I was stuck On Michigan ave as all traffic was stopped for what seemed like no apparent reason. five minutes go by nothing. A police car goes by, we wait another 3 minutes. Then about seven police cars scream by, and I say to no one in particular with a bit of a's Obama. My speculation in confirmed as three black suburbans fly by followed by three more police cars followed by three more suburbans, followed by five more polices cars.
Wait for it.
We're still not allowed to move. But that's ok, because rush hour traffic on Michigan Ave. is pretty light ;). The thing is that everyone who was grumbling before stopped after they saw that it was Obama. Everyone was pretty happy to wait for his entourage.

I wonder how long it took that traffic to clear up...

I have to say though, all of that will pale in comparison to what will happen to airplane travelers when he flies in and out of O'Hare. That airport is notorious for delayed departures as it is. I was told that when Air Force One goes in and out, all other planes will have to remain grounded. I already avoid O'Hare.

still cool though.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

sigh of relief

I have a pianist.

for those of you who don't know I've been loosing some sleep over this.

To top it off we have a new kitty. He is asleep in my lap as we speak! or rather, as I type

I will give you kitty pictures later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

what sort of person?

So I haven't been falling asleep very well for the past week, last night was no different. So after going to bed at 10:30 I was puttering around at midnight. So I decided to give a crack at one of my grad school essay questions that I've sort of been looking at with raised eyebrow "how would you describe yourself as a human being?" I didn't really get to the second part of the question about what you like best and worst about yourself and it definitely is ramblely and off topic, but you take what you can get in the middle of the night.


I frequently find myself wishing that I could help fix other people's inter-personal problems. Just help them by going to the person who does not understand and shake them and say "what's your problem!". Barring that I feel that if I could only sit down and talk with them everything would get sorted out. Not that I could necessarily change their minds, but they would at least see the reason in my, and by extension, the person I'm helping's position. Inversely this would also help me understand their position which had preciously seemed so unreasonable to me.

This sums up a great part of who I am as a person: I seek understanding. I seek understanding for myself of others and understanding of myself for others. I am not particularly interested in agreement, this sometimes happens along the way, but it more frequently does not. I'm not in the business of changing minds, and I'm not interested in arguing, just interested in understanding the world.

I think that the most frequent mistake that is made with perception and understanding, is that we think that we are no longer affected by the forces we understand. That is simply not true. Just because we see the forces at work on ourselves, does not mean that the force in no longer acting upon us, it just means that we're aware of it.


so yes. brief rambleings of a not sleeping Embly.

I think I'm going to talk about Opera as hyperbole for one of my essays, I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


listening to Bach makes me incredibly happy, though it unfortunately wakes me up. I say unfortunately because I was completely ready to go to sleep an hour ago before I started listening to Bach.

I wanted to point out to my friend the piece that I thought would be excellent to walk down the aisle at a wedding to: Cantata 150 the terzetto, sung in trio with just one cello and bassoon. The words are about the Cedars in the tempest.

Then I had to make the point that Bach wrote the most heartbreaking music. I've heard people criticize Bach for being mechanical, but try to listen to Erbarme dich from the St. Matthew Passion without your heart breaking.

And then I needed to listen to his Missa in B minor.

I'm freaking out a very little bit about getting my recording for grad school done. My favorite pianist has not returned my e-mails. Time to move on to another person!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

the progress

Grad school update:
I have all of my recommendation materials together. All I have to do is buy stamps and put stamps on all my envelopes.
I have the list of where I'm applying. I'm not going to write going to write in on the blog but there are seven schools.

I also made pumpkin pie.

Also I went to a battle of the jug bands. It was amazing.

Friday, November 07, 2008


last night I had a dream where I was arguing about the meaning of the word "Gallino". Someone was arguing that it meant Eagle, they almost convinced me.
It is of course Rooster. Well Gallo is Rooster, Gallino is like saying little rooster I guess.

Which of course brings my to my point: Rooster is a strange word.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Ate pie for breakfast
saw the Newberry Consort
Listed information about three of the schools that I'm pretty certain I'm applying to
Pretty figured out the list of songs that I'll be auditioning with (all of these places are asking for 6, so much for "my five")
There are two versions of the list however, depending upon how many art songs they specify.
with 4 art songs:
1. Scarlatti piece (to be disclosed when I figure out what it is)
2. D'un Prison
3. Einerlei
4. Purcell or Barber (that's a little undecided due to potential period overlap/neglect)
5. Oh Quante Volte
6. Mozart Oratorio, probably Laudamus Te but I might switch it up with something from Exultate Jubilate

With out specifying number of art songs:
1. Willow
2. Vilja or Einerlei
3. D'un prison
4. Scarlatti
5. Oh Quante Volte
6. Mozart oratorio

So it's not quite ironed out, but it's getting there.

I've also started to answer one of the essay questions, one of those "Describe yourself as a human being" numbers, though I won't put it up here today, since it's really a draft of a draft.


I keep on telling people that I have designed my schedule so that I have very few singing commitments this month so that I can apply to grad school.
However I have done little to actually achieve this goal. (to be fair this is a bit of an exaggeration, I have done some things)
So. I am keeping myself accountable on this blog.
I'm going to try to post everyday (or at least everyday that is pertinent) about my application process this month. Most applications are due December 1 so I have exactly a month....