teaching day 1 and opera

So, today was my first day with CITS (Composers In The Schools), a part of the UMKC Academy. Went to a local MS with a undergrad senior from UMKC to work with a 7th grade orchestra. It was an interesting experience.

Neither of us had taught there, and our only contact was a short e-mail over the weekend. So, it was really a "wing it" kind of day. We weren't sure what they had been doing, or what the teacher wanted to do this semester. So, what do you start with?

"Hi, my name is ___" of course. from there, it was easy...

kind of...

I went a route (and the other teacher went along for the improv ride quite well!) of finding what interests the students musically, then writing something. The primary teacher, of course, already had an outlined idea of the project. I had a feeling he might have. He jumped in, and, i whispered to the other teacher from UMKC "always trust their teacher to jump in and know exactly what they need. you start the lesson, he'll direct it where it might need to go to fit his plans."

Ah, i miss working in this situation. I spent a lot of time doing it in undergrad. It's...kinda nice

So, i planted the seed of working from music YOU like. As i told them, any composer has to write what s/he likes, otherwise the piece will NEVER get done. and that's the truth. if you don't like it, don't want to do the project, it won't happen...until, maybe, the last minute, if its an assignment of commission. Which leads me to the "never take a commission you don't want." lol.

They're assignment is to come up with an 8 bar sketch of a melody. They had previously worked on melody, harmony, some part-writing, and what makes up music, so it was a good step. I was thinking more along the lines of two or three 4 bar sketches, but that's because i still think too motivically. lol.

In other news, i finally watched this 1983 production of Die Tote Stadt. Honestly, the music was amazing, Korngold is a fantastic composer, but the staging was...well...

It was amazing. absolutely mind boggling. Completely surrealist. which, made some sense, as 90% of the opera is a vision by the main character...however...

it was too disjointed. I actually couldn't follow what was happening. I'm no novice to the stage nor to opera. I was raised a theater brat, know my way around designing just about everything (some things much better than others. sets, not my forte, but i know a good one when i see one). This...well...I really couldn't follow what was happening.

The characterizations were quite wild. First, Paul (the lead) is portrayed as a sociopathic schizophrenic. He has incredible mood swings, attempts suicide to begin the second tableau, kills his best friend, has sex with a woman in what appears to be a coffin he fashioned into the floor with a normal wooden door that holds his dead wife, turns a pious processional into a macabre display of half-death, and in the end, commits suicide...

now, i'm all for artistic interpretation, but, yeah...that's about 160 degrees off from how i'm reading the character. in the original, he gets in a fight with his friend, but doesn't come to blows, the sex definitely happens but there is no mention of a cellar style mausoleum, and he doesn't commit suicide, instead leaves Bruge with his friend.

Oh my, and his friend Frank. For some reason, he is portrayed first as a priest. then he is portrayed as a devil/vampire image, then as a bishop (still with his died red beard and thigh length red braid of hair). it is this bishop image he sees at the end as his friend asks him to leave the city...

To me, the entire ending is a 180 from the libretto. I read it as a man who has finally let go of the past through these violent visions. He's finally able to let his wife die and leaves the city with his friend, Frank, to see the world. Regain himself

Not kill himself. Paul is quite insane during the visions, there is no doubt, but it's a not a suicidal/homicidal insane. It's the crazy we all go through when we lose someone dear to us. yeah, there's a lot of "i can't go one" and "i don't want to live" but it's not like it was portrayed here. His manic. He is schizo, even in reality, completely off his rocker. He wants to die. he seeks death. and he seeks penance for looking at a woman, even at the end, when, in the original story, he finds redemption and the ability to live on his own.

That's the rub to me. they changed the end of the story. They changed it enough that it's just not Die Tote Stadt to me anymore. Now, it's about a crazy dude, seeing crazy shit, and killing himself, not a man working through all his problems, the loss of his wife, and finding a way to live. That's a pretty huge difference. big enough that i can't understand the artistic choices. so, you wanted to make it darker? the visions are already pretty terrifying (not quite Salome terrifying, but pretty bad).

I could go on and on about this, cause there are a lot of points of deviation that, to me, actually change the original meaning.

Let's say it this way. A lot of people complain about movies made from books, that things were changed, blah blah blah, and that it should be "a movie based upon the book" not just "the book as a movie." Well, this is an opera based on the opera Die Tote Stadt. By itself, as a work, it's remarkable. but it's not Die Tote Stadt.

oh, btw, they left out lines that didnt fit the mood. to me, that's telling. "Oh, i need to make this super dark, so, this portion of the opera, i'm gonna take it out." There's a point where artistic interpretation is a bit too far from what was meant. you lose the story. I lost this story entirely

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