Saturday (the day after The Books ) i went to a performance of Tchiakovsky's Sleeping Beauty. There were far too many intermissions and the first act was almost unbearable. Too many bleedin fairies. Oh man, it was hard to tolerate. There wasn’t so much tchaikovsky in the first act as there was French ballet music. "So 19th century!" my mother said. funny, since i'd described it just that way minutes before. It was dated and annoying. If Tchaikovsky were alive i'd tell him to "RE WRITE THE FIRST ACT" Hell, i'd do it for him.
The following three acts were brilliant but essentially limp (and the slow conducting didn’t help) I kept waiting for some tchaikovskian sudden burst of passion, but it never came- it was all rather tame. At the same time, in all that fairly conventional music there were these wonderful harmonic surprises. These little twists that essentially sets the music out from the background. It says subtly "this is not normal 19th century music" ...but it is! but it isn’t!
Unexpectedly, there is a Wagner influence in Sleeping Beauty - the use of leitmotifs as well as some pretty significant passages of chromatic harmonic movement. While this probably didn’t impress many in the audience today, at the time it was first presented im sure some of it sounded quite new.
The dancing was fine and all that. ... But damnit, parents should not dress their children up in princess costumes and have them parading around the opera house. There were a million little girls there, and thats all fine in itself (why not bring your sons as well? gender shouldn’t matter, right?) but that they were all dressed up like princesses.... that annoyed me. I know this sounds typical, but honestly- what kind of message does that send to the girls? what kind of values does that instill? As far as im concerned, taking on the role of pretty pretty princesses, helpless maidens and all that socially constructed garbage will do nothing but re-enforce gender social types and sexist behavioral expectations- inevitably constructing another barrier along the path of living authentically.
Ok, maybe im a little too socially radical (or ridiculous). Not like im going to try and force dress codes or force them to live authentically. My concern is with the message, not the clothing, of course.
But the Tchaikovsky... ahem. tchaikovsky. The ballet was good at being a 19th century ballet. The music is a little inconsistent, and generally too fluffy. But lyrical! brilliantly lyrical! I prefer the nutcracker as a ballet. (the nutcracker is more tchaikovsky, less french ballet) but overall it was a very enjoyable afternoon.
(though i preferred the books concert)
Season wrap-up at the Met and NY Phil
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