12 October 2010

paging opera

I was tired enough last night so that I figured the perfect way to occupy myself was the rhythmic reformatting required to post, at long postponed last, my opera life list, first mentioned here. So there it is at the top of the right-hand column, in the new “page” section. Only operas seen live counted. I excluded musicals but included operettas, though the lines there can get pretty blurry, as we all know. And I excluded oratorios, though I will probably go back and add them in; it seems too arbitrary to list Semele and Acis & Galatea but not Belshazzar or Jephtha. Such are the Solomon-like decisions one is called upon to make. I think I need to go back through the playbills anyway, because I realized while reformatting that I had apparently missed an entire season (2007, in case you’re wondering) – I kept thinking, wait, I saw Rosenkavalier more recently than that . . . wait, there was that Iphigenie with Susan Graham that was so great! . . . and that Macbeth with Hampson that was so bad. . . . which means I did not do as thorough a job as I had hoped sorting through my playbills.

I had them all in order up through probably the mid 1980s, and then, well, things happened, and it took me a while to sort through the piles scattered in all sorts of boxes and bags and suitcases and to try to figure out what I saw when (it’s surprising how many playbills leave the year off) and whether I had duplicates I needed to toss out (of course I did! but not all in the same place). I guess I still need to do another run-through.

What aggravated me about the playbill situation (well, actually, what aggravated me about me) was that I had intended for years to put them in order, and I could have started at any time to put them once again in order and then I would have had a smaller backlog to deal with. But I kept thinking I needed to do the whole thing, eventually, some day, and not just part, so I persisted in my haphazard storage system until the whole project grew so massive I had to deal with it or just give it up entirely.

Anyway, the list is therefore a work in progress, not just forwards, but backwards. I don’t know if it’s of interest to anyone but me, but that’s true of pretty much everything on here anyway. I’m so close to seeing all of Janacek’s major operas! The Excursions of Mr Broucek, anyone?

6 comments:

John Marcher said...

In alphabetical order by composer no less!

Impressive, and leaves me with a feeling of deep inadequecy since I threw all my programs and playbills into the recycling bin last summer after pondering a similar endeavor, which would have paled greatly in comparison.

pjwv said...

I guess I was wondering if my list was broader/narrower/comparable to the average opera-goers. . . a lot depends on where you're living and other chance elements -- Boston of course has a very spotty history with opera, and that's where I lived when I started attending.

My wise mother suggested I keep the playbills, and it was good advice. Occasionally helpful friends of a certain type will tell me I should just toss them all away, but I do enjoy looking through them, if only to see how subtly typography and ads and suchlike change over time. And these little booklets are all that's left of events that have taken up a large part of my life, except for memories; and sometimes I have no memory of seeing something, so there's only the booklet.

sfmike said...

Love that you keep playbills as talismans of time and experience, on the wise advice of your mother. I just throw mine away, trying to live in the present, as far away from a cluttered past as possible. Different survival strategies, obviously.

Am glad to see that you caught me in a few of my favorite supering gigs of the early 1990s: "The Fiery Angel," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Mefistofole." Your list looks a lot like mine, if I had one, though I've got a few curiosities from the old San Francisco Spring Opera series at the Curran Theatre like Thea Musgrave's "Mary, Queen of Scots."

Wish I had money to give you as a grant so you could go anywhere in the world on a well-planned whim to see interesting performances and write about them. But I don't have any money, so there.

pjwv said...

My third attempt to answer. . .

You were fabulous in The Fiery Angel!!!!

I am by nature an accumulator, but in the last few years I've become a bit of a tosser. The clutter bothers me more. But I doubt the playbills will be going. I have too much crap I could get rid of first.

Sibyl said...

I have been flummoxed in exactly the same way, as far as putting my playbills in order goes. Why do I persist in thinking it has to be all or nothing? I would like to be able to pitch them but cannot. Cannot to the degree that when a friend's aged mother was moving into a home a few years ago and couldn't decided what to do with her boxes of ballet and opera programs from 1939-1978, I took them in, because I couldn't bear to pitch HER playbills, either. Feel better about your situation yet?

pjwv said...

Hey, I would have taken in the wayward playbills as well! Of course, I have a basement. . . .

But it would be fascinating to look at and feel old playbills. Sort of a Joseph Cornell urge, I guess. Maybe it was the ballet programs that put that in my mind.

All I'd say is learn from my mistake: start putting them in order *right now*! and then get to the backlog when you can, some rainy weekend. . .