Friday, November 28, 2014

Alexander Nevsky, or the Good Wife

written, choreographed and directed
by Tamar Schumann,
Music by Sergei Prokofiev, 
Backdrops designed and painted
by Max Schumann and Dale Wittig
These pictures are from the first version of this show that was done in the Fall of 1987 in Vermont and Maine.  The story was loosely based on the life of the early 20th century Russian Poet, Marina Tsvetaeva.  The four performers were Susie Dennison, Jody Moore, David Thorne, and Dale Wittig.  The most memorable of these performances (though not the one pictured here) was done in the family room at the Dennison’s house in Temple, Maine, about a week before Susie’s father, George, died of cancer.  I like to think that he was able to enjoy it, despite the pain and the medication, seeing his progeny, both actual and spiritual, carrying on the family business in good form.

Poems for Akhmatova
by Marina Tsevtaeva
translated by Elaine Feinstein

Muse of lament, you are the most beautiful of
all muses, a crazy emanation of white night:
and you have sent a black snow storm over all Russia.
We are pierced with the arrows of your cries

so that we shy like horses at the muffled
many times uttered pledge — Ah! — Anna
Akhmatova — the name is a vast sigh
and it falls into depths without name

and we wear crowns only through stamping
the same earth as you, with the same sky over us.
Whoever shares the pain of your deathly power will
lie down immortal — upon his death bed.

In my melodious town the domes are burning
and the blind wanderer praises our shining Lord.
I give you my town of many bells,
Akhmatova, and with the gift: my heart.

I stand head in my hands thinking how
unimportant are the traps we set for one another.
I hold my head in my hands as I sing
in this late hour, in the late dawn.

Ah how violent is this wave which has
lifted me up on to its crest: I sing
of one that is unique among us
as the moon is alone in the sky,

that has flown into my heart like a raven,
has speared into the clouds
hook-nosed, with deathly anger: even
your favour is dangerous,

for you have spread out your night
over the pure gold of my Kremlin itself
and have tightened my throat with the pleasure
of singing as if with a strap.

Yes, I am happy, the dawn never
burnt with more purity, I am
happy to give everything to you
and to go away like a beggar,

for I was the first to give you —
whose voice deep darkness! has
constricted the movement of my breathing —
the name of the Tsarskoselsky Muse.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mermaid, Werewolf, Mud Bath and Milk Bath from Jack Smith’s Normal Love

In many ways the high point of Smith’s masterpiece, at least for the central character of the film (which is structured as her fantastic remembrance or onanistic fantasy,) the struggle between the handsome Werewolf and the reclusive Mermaid represents the consummation of her secret desires.  Being dumped in this very black mud may seem simply an act of defilement, unless one also remembers its therapeutic qualities.  The Mud Bath is both the counterpoint and complement to the Milk Bath.  Both are said to be good for the skin and intended to counter the effects of aging.  The youthful Werewolf might also be taken as a means of rejuvenation, embodied as he is by this charming (and seemingly stoned) Long Island socialite, Eliot Cukor.  Whatever discomfort Mario may have endured in its filming, it was likely lovingly recalled in his dotage.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Botticelli’s Drawings for Paradiso by Dante Alighieri

The illustrations shown in this post are most of those drawn for the final book of the Divine Comedy.  As befits their subject, Paradiso, they’re the most simple of Botticelli’s designs for this great book (and by great book I mean both Dante's text and the singular volume that Sandro and his collaborator, Niccolò, made for their patron, Lorenzo de’ Medici.)  In the poem, and likewise the pictures, Dante is led by Beatrice through the nine concentric spheres of Heaven: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Fixed Stars, and the Primum Mobile, and finally beyond to the Empyrean, the immaterial abode of God.