Category Archives: art

An Operatic Apocalypse: The Drumf and the Rhinegold at Turn Park Art Space

Yesterday we took a day trip to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, lured by the chance to hear two of our favorite singers, Lucy Dhegrae and Ariadne Greif. Well, OK, also, we’d missed earlier performances of The Drumf and the Rhinegold, and it was way past time to make up for that cultural lack.

Greif reprised her role as Melania (a role she was born to perform), and Dhegrae took up the role of Marla. I bet, without much more information, you have an idea where this is headed, and you likely wouldn’t be wrong. But just in case, here’s the gist:

Having stolen the magical Rhinegold, which grants world domination to its owner, the sinister Drumf is now poised to become leader of the free world. The gold’s guardians, the beautiful Rhinemaidens Ivana, Marla and Melania, race against time to reclaim their gold from his grubby clutches. After the consecutive failures of Ivana and Marla, can Melania succeed in wresting the gold from Drumf before her time runs out?

For the creation of this uproarious 15-minute opera, we can thank composer Mátti Kovler; Tasha Gordon-Solmon, Kovler, and Gil Varod (book); and Gordon-Solmon, Kovler, Varod, Matthew Shifrin, and Toby Lightman (lyrics).

Each singer’s performance—Greif, Dhegrae, Casey Keenan (Ivana), and Matthew Shifrin (Rhinegold)—was delicious, fully inhabiting the opera’s subversive wit. Doug Fitch directed. The staging was ingenious, with audience, singers, and musicians moving in tandem as the opera proceeded through its three mini-acts. Alyona Gomberg, Tommy Nguyen and Misha Igoshin concocted the inspired costumes and set. The terrific musicians included Contemporaneous members Kate Dreyfuss (violin), Cameron West (French horn), and Fanny Wyrick-Flax (flute), as well as Evan Primo (bass) and several others whose names I wish I knew. These are musicians who take in stride everything thrown at them—including moving their music stands and instruments to new locations—without missing a beat.

Everyone in attendance left grinning like maniacs, with random bursts of laughter breaking out. This was aided and abetted by Greif. Without once breaking character, she swanned around, conveying essential information in her Slovenian accent (“I speak five languages, you know”) and directing photo shoots, like this:

And this:

And this:

The performance took place on the grounds of a quarry, now repurposed as Turn Park Art Space.

We took a turn around the grounds before heading home—a work in progress that’s already a feast for the eye everywhere you look.

Before the performance, we stopped in at No. 6 Depot for an early lunch, where we met up with one of our favorite composers, Shawn Jaeger. We’d spotted a bookstore, Shaker Mill Books, across the street, and Jaeger confirmed it was as good as it looked. Needless to say, that’s where we headed after lunch. J picked up a book about Dunkirk to add to her vast collection; I resisted temptation this time, but it wasn’t easy, and a return visit is on our bucket list.

 If you haven’t yet seen The Drumf and the Rhinegold, you must (as a friend of ours who, as it happens, just saw a stunning Ring in Budapest, is wont to say). Toward that end, a performance, complete with subtitles, is included in this post, below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Listening List

The Drumf and the Rhinegold, as performed on Halloween eve and Halloween, 2016

In an English Plague Village

Eyam Hall (from back garden)

Our book on the Peak District in England’s Midlands says of Eyam that “it will forever be known as the ‘plague village.’” As the story goes, the plague arrived in Eyam in 1665

In the house now known as the Plague Cottage . . . then occupied by a travelling tailor, who inadvertently introduced the plague to Eyam in a parcel of flea-infested cloth from London. The rector of Eyam, William Mompesson, persuaded most of the inhabitants to stay and seal off the village, even though many died from the disease. . . . [Simon Kirwan, Peak District Villages, pp. 44-45] Continue reading

In Sicilia: Imagination Unbound

Museo Regionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Belmonte-Riso, internal courtyard

Imagination encircles the world.
Albert Einstein

On our return trip from Siracusa to Palermo, we could see, off in the distance, a great flat-topped mountain, covered with snow. When, later, we consulted our map, we realized it must have been Mt. Etna. Continue reading

In Sicilia: First Days in Siracusa

Cattedrale di Siracusa

As we’d decided not to rent a car, we traveled cross-island to Siracusa via a big, comfortable bus. In Siracusa, we were once again lucky in our lodgings: a light-filled apartment with views of the Ortigia Harbor. First on our list was on-foot exploration, with the sole required stops to see the Burial of St. Lucy, by Caravaggio (1571-1610), and to visit the local market. Continue reading

In Sicilia: Cappella Palatina

Guy de Maupassant said of the Cappella Palatina that it was “the most beautiful that exists in the world, the most stupendous religious jewel cherished by human thought and executed by a master hand.” [Cappella Palatina Brochure] He wrote:

Upon entering our Gothic cathedrals, we experience a severe, almost sad, sensation. Their grandeur is imposing, their majesty astonishes, but does not seduce. Here, we are conquered, moved by that something, almost sensual, that color adds to the beauty of forms. [Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travelers, p.19] Continue reading