No no no, not that guy -- although I'll be the first to admit I had thoughts of moose and squerrrrrel running through my head the whole time -- no, Boris Godunov. What, you haven't heard of it? Well, I'll tell you about it.
It ran over four hours. I hardly noticed that time had passed.
The titular role was portrayed by the great German bass René Pape (one of the few lead performers who had to learn Russian for this opera, since most of the other singers' names ended in -enko or -ov). He is my new secret boyfriend.
Boris played pretty hard to get about being the new tsar back at the turn of the 17th century, but after a lot of shouting, begging, and threatening, he finally caved. "All right, all right, I'll be the tsar and live in that big ol' palace and wear this fine bear skin robe," he said. At least, I think that's what he said. I don't speak Russian or German.
Turns out the reason he didn't want to be the tsar was because he had played some dirty tricks to get nominated -- like killing a child -- and now he was having a bummer day over it. A few other people were having a bummer day over it, too, like The World's Oldest 35-Year-Old-17-Year-Old, Grigoriy (alias the heir to the throne Tsarevich Dmitriy, and "The Pretender," but that will just confuse you so try to forget it). Grigoriy has convinced himself he was really Tsar Ivan the Terrible's son and somehow repressed the memory, I guess, although how you could repress a name like Dmitriy Terrible is just beyond me. So he was pretty much faking that he was the murdered child and started that whole "secretly a murdered royal" trend in Russia.
(Photo of Semenchuk and Antonenko stolen from these guys)
Grigoriy The Faker sneaks off to Lithuania and Poland to stir up trouble and find some rabble-rousers. He takes up with Princess Marina, who is actually one of The Judds, I think.
Grigoriy The Faker convinces Princess Judd that he's the legitimate heir to the Russian throne and that she will be the Tsarina when they get back to Moscow. Princess Judd just fell for the second-oldest pick-up line in the book, right after "is it hot in here or is it just you?"
We meet two crazy people in this story in Act I, and there are three or more brutal murders in Act IV. Serious, devastating stuff, right? But Act III totally confused me -- I'm pretty sure the feed was switched at the start of Act III and we were picking up some old "Falcon Crest" or "Dallas" re-runs, because it was all kissy-kissy declarations of love and lust and whaaaaa? Sexy flirting in Poland while there's blood and crazy in the Kremlin? What was THAT all about? But Act IV got right back to blood and crazy in a big way. Those Russians know a good epic tragedy when they write one.
Speaking of blood and crazy -- meanwhile, back at the Kremlin, Tsar Boris is several blini short of a пикник and his cool rock-and-roll hair is starting to look kind of Kathleen Turner on him.
Tsar Boris is as nutty as a fruitcake, he sees dead people everywhere he looks, and he's not long for this world.
(Original photo of René Pape stolen from these guys)
I'll stop here, without even elaborating about the marvelous singing -- three basses in one opera? WOW -- the spare but effective set design, the 600 costumes, Princess Judd necking with a priest, two live horses on the stage, the man in the tin foil hat, and the fact that Grigoriy looked just like My Gay Ex-Boyfriend. You can't make this stuff up, people. I could go on and ruin the story for you, but I won't. Click a link to read more, and be as surprised as I was to learn that not only was the brilliant story originally written by Alexander Pushkin, but it's also true. Darn those Russians, they have all the best stories.
Please try to attend one of The Metropolitan Opera's HD simulcasts at your local theater this year. (I'm planning to see two or three more.) I promise you won't regret it.
Evenings at this time of year would be boring without two things: Twitter and my friend Gubby. And wine. Okay three things. So, I love my husband Chas, who as I type this is watching his beloved Lakers, and I like Kobe Bryant a whole whole lot, but I'm sorry: watching the Lakers in October is like being white after Labor Day: it just isn't tasteful. I think that's how that goes.
So occasionally, after the kids are long asleep and Chas is happily ensconced in front of ESPN 3, I retreat to my computer, turn on some Amy Rigby or Chaise Lounge, and call Gubby. He's usually got something to rant about, and I listen patiently. Sometimes, like tonight, I post our conversation to Twitter, just to rile him. Tonight he had found some Swedish morning radio program on the internet, and he was instantly obsessed. I pounced.
The following is our conversation, as interpreted by me and plastered to Twitter. (Gubby is @ijefff on Twitter. He's funny. You should follow him. And rile him a little.
@ijefff: "They're doing weather and traffic! Don't need to speak Swedish to get that."
@ijefff: "They have a Facebook blog! I should friend it." Me: "I think you should."
@ijefff: "I wonder if I'm the first caller, if I can get a Swedish coozy cup?"
@ijefff: "In Sweden the deejays have faces made for radio, just like here."
@ijefff: "Hey! Swedish dope! TURN DOWN YOUR RADIO!"
@ijefff: "Oh, now they're calling somebody." Me: "Do they know they're probably gonna get a dude named Gunnar?"
@ijefff: "I'm gonna be really excited if they bring on Artie Lange."
Because it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (it's also National Pie Month, but that's another story), Enloe Medical Center asked our advertising agency to create TV spots for Operation Mammogram, a free breast exam clinic they and other community groups* are sponsoring. It's always nice to do work for a great cause. Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with this spot; credit goes to our video director Robb Ross, our boss Bob King, our Enloe liaison Sharon Cuglietta, and to the five breast cancer survivors who bravely danced in front of the camera.
Here is the one-minute web site version -- hope you like it!
A great irony about traveling to visit my brother the chef is that we eat so terribly during the journey. A lot of fast food and car crap was consumed (we had McDonald's food for lunch yesterday and Burger King for dinner; we are equal-opportunity masochists).
Upon reaching my brother's home, we are, of course treated to a broad array of culinary delicacies, most of which go completely over my head due to my not paying attention. The octopus salad, for instance. I ate some without knowing there was any octopus in it. I wondered why it seemed so cranky. And have you ever had a delicious white wine that tasted of peaches or pears, but smelled JUST LIKE CAT PEE? Now I have. And I am not kidding, not even a little bit.
One of the best things about my weekend visit was spending time with this guy:
I won't reveal his real name because he is now a successful surgeon, but he was part of my family growing up. That fact and this photo* would kill a solid medical practice; I'll protect his anonymity and call him McGeen.
McGeen and my brothers and I laughed nonstop 30 years ago, and nothing has changed after all of this time. My throat hurts from laughing so hard. My stomach muscles are sore. I rubbed out half of my eyelashes wiping away real tears. I have a whole new batch of crows feet.
I reminded McGeen about the time he and my brother Bocci made me eat cat tuna, and how I got him back by pouring honey all over him (an effective revenge tactic considering how many flies, bees and wasps there are in the country.) Our lively conversation barely touched on the ways we could have ended up grounded for life or in jail back then; maybe next time.
I'm e-mailing McGeen a link to this post, and now I will sit back and smile and remember those days, and wait for the cease and desist letter from his attorney.
*I was kind; I could have dug out the blowfish-face photo. McGeen knows what I mean.
Chas and I were married in February of 1998, in an evening wedding in his childhood home, with a very small group of close family and friends. It was important to us to keep it simple and casual and very "us"; I'm definitely not the Big White Wedding Dress type. So naturally I wore blue velvet.
I was down at the beach an hour and a half before the wedding, drinking coffee at Kaylani Coffee Company and watching the sun set. My hair was still a little damp as I stood before the judge. That's about as "me" as possible.
And then there was this.
Yeah, a church wedding was just not our style. More to the point, what church would agree to it?