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Glimmerglass 2010: Tolomeo July 19, 2010

Posted by frostwolftfirerose in Cultural Janitorial Detail.

February 23.  My birthday.  So too is it G.F. Handel’s.  (And Dakota Fanning. And Kristin “Charlotte from Sex and the City” Davis.  And Agent Scully.  Not Gillian Anderson (Sagittarius).  But Dana Scully, the character.  Whose birthday, like mine is 2-23-64.)  thus far no Feb.23 person really is more famous than Handel – at least as far as people who actually lived as opposed to fictional characters.  So I guess I need to pay him some attention.

In any case, I didn’t really have any expectations about Tolomeo at Glimmerglass.  I saw Tosca opening weekend, and The Marriage of Figaro this past weekend, and was by turns elated (Tosca) and damning with faint praise (Figaro).  I didn’t know that this particular opera had never before been performed in the U.S.  I mean, Handel? Really? REALLY?  But I guess it was considered mostly unstageable.  After this delicious production, I think I can see why that was so.  It’s because so few people are in touch with the Divine Child within.

According to Joseph Dalton (my partner and T-U Critic), Lou Harrison used to describe Georg Friedrich as the “Divine Handel.”  Usually in connection with gay composers such as Virgin Thomsen, Tchaikovsky and A. Copland.  Outside of this reference, I don’t think I’ve heard of him described as gay.  But the 2-23 aspect I totally resonated with in Tolomeo.  From the very first image of the title character sitting behind a fishbowl with a single inert goldfish, and the slowly moving marlin/swordfish that flew in behind him and above. 

The images cascaded surprise after surprise, and though a couple of the characters were shown in delicious and selfish/evil glory, since this was a wedding comedy, ultimately their vendetti against Tolomeo and his beloved Seleuce were foiled.  I’ve seen several operas at Glimmerglass, usually hitting 2 or 3 a season.  (I’m going to miss The Tender Land by the aforementioned Copland alas.)  This is the first one I’ve been curious about the process of bringing it to the stage, and wishing I knew more.

There were so many delicious tidbits.  Elisa putting together a broken toy ship with a piece of gum.  The costumes of the characters–Seleuce in a ruined hoop skirt and Elisa with her bizarre hair/headpiece.  I loved that Alessandro was played by a woman, and that Tolomeo is a counter-tenor role.  Queer strength permeates this ostensibly hetero love story.  The 3 assistant fellows dressed in powered wigs and operating like the old-geezer character Tim Conway lovingly played on Carol Burnett.  I thought of ol’ C.B. a lot during the show actually.  Ah, wistful memories.

I guess I let myself identify too much with Handel and this imaginarium, because over the intermission I found myself really off-gepisst.  Perhaps I was also identifying a bit with William Golding whose bio was profiled in the Times Book Review.  He was described as being thin-skinned as regards criticism of his work, and I felt remarkably so about loving this production–though to be fair, I wasn’t exactly enamored of the music itself.  I loved the staging, the acting, the performance and spectacle elements all.  It was well-played, however.  Other audience members who J & I knew didn’t really “get” it, and I think a couple of them were judging their child selves and were being all Mrs. Grundy about the whimsicality of it all.  I felt judgments sliding off these fellows like rotting meat off a carcass.

Every once in awhile I have encountered people who would cut me off because I liked such and such.  One time I was part of a screenwriting group that suggested that if anyone liked Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me they should be drummed out.  I like that film.  I didn’t stay very long.  Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I felt there was a bit of that going on for some reason.

It’s really all right though.  I’m seeing that there is power in the whimsical and that a lot of stuff that is misunderstood is from the day after the day after tomorrow.  Like this production was.

I wonder if the director has a 2/5 energy going on, or at least some sort of Mercury-Neptune thing, if he himself isn’t a 2/23.  The birthday energy was everywhere apparent in that production.



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