Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met

The opera was first heard at the Met in 1889, sung in German and starring Lilli Lehmann. Arturo Toscanini conducted a new production in 1913 with the unbeatable trio of Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso, and Pasquale Amato.

Another production was unveiled on opening night 1940, featuring Zinka Milanov (who performed the role of Amelia 30 times through 1956) and Jussi Björling. Marian Anderson sang Ulrica eight times in 1955 and 1956, effectively ending the color barrier for African-American singers at the Met.

A new production in 1962 marked the company debut of Nello Santi, conducting Leonie Rysanek, Carlo Bergonzi (33 performances as Riccardo/Gustavo through 1983), and Robert Merrill (56 performances as Renato/Anckarström from 1955 to 1976).

In 1980, Giuseppe Patanè conducted a new staging by Elijah Moshinsky, with the leading roles sung by Katia Ricciarelli, Luciano Pavarotti (31 performances as Riccardo/Gustavo through 1997), and Louis Quilico. Pavarotti also starred in the 1990 premiere of Piero Faggioni’s production, opposite Aprile Millo, Elena Obraztsova, and Juan Pons, with James Levine on the podium.

Other notable appearances over the past decades include sopranos Martina Arroyo, Montserrat Caballé, Leontyne Price, and Deborah Voigt; mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar; tenors Jan Peerce, Richard Tucker, and Plácido Domingo; and baritones Sherrill Milnes and Leo Nucci. David Alden’s new production, conducted by Fabio Luisi, opens November 8, 2012.

The Metropolitan Opera (Video)

Un ballo in maschera(A Masked Ball), is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi with text by Antonio Somma. The libretto is loosely based on an 1833 play, Gustave III, by French playwright Eugène Scribe who wrote about the historical assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden.

The subject was well known and had been used by other composers, including Daniel Auber, for his 1833 opera, Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué and later by Saverio Mercadante for his Il reggente in 1843.

In 1792, the King of Sweden, Gustav III, was killed, the result of a political conspiracy against him. He was shot while attending a masked ball and died 13 days later from his wounds.

For the libretto, Scribe retained the names of some of the historical figures involved, the conspiracy, and the killing at the masked ball. The rest of the play – the characterizations, the romance, the fortune-telling, etc. – is Scribe’s invention and the opera is not historically accurate.

However, in order to become the Un ballo in maschera which we know today, Verdi’s opera (and his libretto) was forced to undergo a series of transformations, caused by a combination of censorship regulations in both Naples and Rome, as well as the political situation in France in January 1858.

Act I
Courtiers await an audience with King Gustavo III, including a group of conspirators led by Counts Horn and Ribbing. The king enters. He notices the name of Amelia, wife of his secretary and friend, Count Anckarström, on the guest list for a masked ball, and thinks about his secret love for her.

Left alone with Gustavo, Anckarström warns the king of a conspiracy against him, but Gustavo ignores the threat. The young page Oscar tells the king about the fortuneteller Madame Ulrica Arvidsson, who has been accused of witchcraft and is to be banished. Deciding to see for himself, the king arranges for his court to pay her an incognito visit.

In a building by the port, Madame Arvidsson invokes prophetic spirits and tells the sailor Cristiano that he will soon become wealthy and receive a promotion. The king, who has arrived in disguise, slips money and papers into Cristiano’s pockets. When the sailor discovers his good fortune, everybody praises Madame Arvidsson’s abilities.

Gustavo hides as she sends her visitors away to admit Amelia, who is tormented by her love for the king and asks for help. Madame Arvidsson tells her that she must gather a magic herb after dark. When Amelia leaves, Gustavo decides to follow her that night.

Oscar and members of the court enter, and the king asks Madame Arvidsson to read his palm. She tells him that he will die by the hand of a friend. Gustavo laughs at the prophecy and demands to know the name of the assassin.

Madame Arvidsson replies that it will be the first person that shakes his hand. When Anckarström rushes in Gustavo clasps his hand saying that the oracle has been disproved since Anckarström is his most loyal friend. Recognizing their king, the crowd cheers him as the conspirators grumble their discontent.

Act II
That night, Amelia, who has followed Madame Arvidsson’s advice to find the herb, expresses her hope that she will be freed of her love for the king. When Gustavo appears, she asks him to leave, but ultimately they admit their love for each other.

Amelia hides her face when Anckarström suddenly appears, warning the king that assassins are nearby. Gustavo makes Anckarström promise to escort the woman back to the city without lifting her veil, then escapes.

Finding Anckarström instead of their intended victim, the conspirators make ironic remarks about his veiled companion. When Amelia realizes that her husband will fight rather than break his promise to Gustavo, she drops her veil to save him.

The conspirators are amused and make fun of Anckarström for his embarrassing situation. Anckarström, shocked by the king’s betrayal and his wife’s seeming infidelity, asks Horn and Ribbing to come to his house the next morning.

In his apartment, Anckarström threatens to kill Amelia. She asks to see their young son before she dies. After she has left, Anckarström declares that is it the king he should seek vengeance on, not Amelia. Horn and Ribbing arrive, and Anckarström tells them that he will join the conspirators.

The men decide to draw lots to determine who will kill the king, and Anckarström forces his wife to choose from the slips of paper. When his own name comes up he is overjoyed. Oscar enters, bringing an invitation to the masked ball.

As the assassins welcome this chance to execute their plan, Amelia decides to warn the king. Gustavo, alone in his study, resolves to renounce his love and to send Amelia and Anckarström to Finland.

Oscar brings an anonymous letter warning him of the murder plot, but the king refuses to be intimidated and leaves for the masquerade. In the ballroom, Anckarström tries to learn from Oscar what costume the king is wearing.

The page answers evasively but finally reveals Gustavo’s disguise. Amelia and the king meet, and she repeats her warning. Refusing to leave, he declares his love one more time and tells her that he is sending her away with her husband.

As the lovers say goodbye, Anckarström shoots the king. The dying Gustavo forgives his murderer and admits that he loved Amelia but assures Anckarström that his wife is innocent. The crowd praises the king’s goodness and generosity.

“Libre te quiero”

Libre te quiero,
como arroyo que brinca
de peña en peña.
Pero no mía.

Grande te quiero,
como monte preñado
de primavera.
Pero no mía.

Buena te quiero,
como pan que no sabe
su masa buena.
Pero no mía.

Alta te quiero,
como chopo que al cielo
se despereza.
Pero no mía.

Blanca te quiero,
como flor de azahares
sobre la tierra.
Pero no mía.

Pero no mía
ni de Dios ni de nadie
ni tuya siquiera.

poema de Agustín García Calvo

“Last Socrates” makes final exit

el país – José Lera / Rocío Huerta

An essayist, poet, playwright, translator and philosopher, Agustín García Calvo was also, and above all, a controversial thinker – so much so that the Franco regime took away his university chair at Madrid’s Complutense University for supporting the student protests. Years later, the same center of learning would name him professor emeritus in classic philology.

But García Calvo, who passed away at a Zamora hospital of heart failure, was a thinker who never stopped opposing the system. Ever since protesters from all walks of life coalesced into the 15-M, or the “indignants” movement last year, the elderly professor showed up at Puerta del Sol every Thursday to “talk to the young people,” recalls Isabel Escudero, his sentimental partner for the last 36 years.

“My greatest consolation after his death is the amount of young people he left behind him and his thought. Living, breathing people, 15-M people, not people from the world of Culture with a capital C, who have always looked the other way.”

Until last week, García Calvo never missed the weekly chat he organized at Madrid’s Ateneo. At his last one, he spoke about physics and mathematics in a talk titled One Plus One Is Two. Escudero highlighted the “vigor and grace that he maintained right up until the last day, even when he was already ill.”

In July, the philosopher suffered a cardiac arrest that put him in a Madrid hospital. After that he moved back to his home town of Zamora, where he had a second cardiac arrest that caused his death.

García Calvo was born in 1926 in Zamora and studied classical philology at Salamanca University, becoming a high school teacher in 1951. In 1965, deprived of his university chair in Madrid together with other supporters of the anti-fascist movement, he went into exile in France, where he continued to teach at Lille University and Collège de France. In Paris he founded and coordinated a regular political and literary discussion at the café La boule d’or in the Latin Quarter.

Back in Spain in 1988, he launched a school of linguistics, logic and language arts in order to bring together disciplines that teaching had gradually confined to separate compartments within philology, mathematics and theater. The initiative lasted until 1991.

“That [project] failed, just like anything that may hurt you fails. Success only comes to that which hurts nobody, that which goes with the flow,” he said in a 2010 interview with EL PAÍS.

Among his most relevant work is the trilogy made up of Del lenguaje, De la construcción (Del lenguaje II) and Del aparato (Del lenguaje III), in which he developed his general theory on language. His Hablando de lo que habla. Estudios de lenguaje, a compilation of his articles, received the 1990 National Essay Award.

“Agustín was a very rigorous man, always very Socratic. I think he was the last Socrates,” says Escudero.

“He was an atypical man, unique and unmistakable, always far removed from all trends and on the fringe of official cultural life,” said Fernando Savater, another premier thinker who was a student of García-Calvo’s when he was teaching in Madrid.

The Reason Obama is President

Pravda – By Xavier Lerma

The reason America has the trillion dollar war monger Obama as president today is because of  immorality and materialism in America. President John Adams once said,

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” -October 11, 1798.

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible” – George Washington.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

The revisionist historians have tried to “cover up” God himself by not allowing recent generations to know that America was once a nation of religious people. Now, over half the people in America are not well informed and are willing to believe the spoon fed propaganda from the Democrats and Republicans.

The Democrats and Republicans are notorious for wanting to stay in power. Their worshipers get their education from TV and their friends. In the future, after it becomes obvious that their plan failed, these “useful idiots” will still blame Bush for the economy, overlook Obama as they overlooked Clinton’s mistakes or think their vote counts and they actually have freedom while approving of wars overseas. Such people are the product of America’s decaying society whose reality has been warped by drugs and other selfish pleasures. America has gradually become worse from the drugs, rock and roll of the 60′s and 70′s to the drugs and rap music of today. The communists won while Americans smoked pot.

The alienation of God in society began in the classroom. Today, blasphemies can easily be seen on TV and the cinema. Hollywood portrays the sane as the insane. The abnormal and perverted as normal. The unborn babies are seen as nothing. The silent holocaust continues. Is it any wonder America is in trouble?

The economy destroyed by white collar crimes were done by men of immoral character. They are not personally responsible for all of America’s failings but are a symptom of America’s spiritual illness most commonly referred to in previous centuries as “sin”. This is the connection that most fail to see. Where there is no God there is chaos.

We are seeing that now. Abortions financed through tax dollars now total 50 million babies killed. Their blood cries out to Heaven while Hollywood justifies abortion and some women call it a choice. Yes, a choice to kill infants without even taking the time to see what they have destroyed.

They willingly blind themselves to the truth. Or do their sins blind them? The other half of America stands against this evil tide with constant prayer while their public protests are not completely shown by the American media.

“Freedom of the press” means the media will be free to report what it wants you to know. ABC, CBS, NBC , MSNBC, CNN and even Fox are similar to the Communist Soviet Union’s “Pravda”.

You are now in  an atheistic society as the Soviet Union once was. Pravda online has become more news worthy now as Christianity flourishes. Patriarch Kirill  said:

“The world should see the Orthodox Russia’s great feat of rebuilding all that was destroyed”

Russia once was swept with an even more horrific terror across its land. There is no comparison in the past sufferings of Russia and the turmoil of America. However, it is interesting to note that the number of deaths are equal to Russia’s when including the aborted children in America.

When Alexander Solzhenitsyn came to America he warned the US in the 70′s:

“Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil” (speech to Harvard 1978).

The American press laughed at him and turned a deaf ear at his observations of America’s immorality and materialism. Solzhenitsyn also warned long ago of today’s socialism:

“A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.”

The danger is already here and the situation is much, much worse. Thus, Obama can try putting duct tape on a sinking ship but only when most Americans turn to God will the storm subside. Only then will America be able to fix the problem. Remember:

“Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” -William Penn (American hero of Liberty and religious freedom).

” We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.” – James Madison, 1778, to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia.

The Communists took over America after JFK was shot. American society then took a sharp nose dive into Hell. With the presidential elections rigged there was no stopping their agenda. Call it Marxism, Socialism, or Communism. It’s all the same.

They want you to depend on the government instead of God. Welcome to the USSA

Therefore, only prayer and penance will lead America once again to that guiding light that governed the founding Fathers. Prayers can turn the tide of evil in the US and its chaotic effect in the world. May God bless America.

Until then, only President Vladimir Putin can prevent America’s military Democracy from destroying the world.

Review: Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ a towering achievement

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

Hollywood’s most successful director turns on a dime and delivers his most restrained, interior film. A celebrated playwright shines an illuminating light on no more than a sliver of a great man’s life. A brilliant actor surpasses even himself and makes us see a celebrated figure in ways we hadn’t anticipated. This is the power and the surprise of “Lincoln.”

… There is nothing bravura or overly emotional about Spielberg’s direction here, but the impeccable filmmaking is no less impressive for being quiet and to the point. The director delivers selfless, pulled-back satisfactions: he’s there in service of the script and the acting, to enhance the spoken word rather than burnish his reputation.

The key speaker, obviously, is Day-Lewis. No one needs to be told at this late date what a consummate actor he is, but even those used to the way he disappears into roles will be startled by the marvelously relaxed way he morphs into this character and simply becomes Lincoln. While his heroic qualities are visible when they’re needed, Day-Lewis’ Lincoln is a deeply human individual, stooped and weary after four years of civil war but endowed with a palpable largeness of spirit and a genuine sense of humor.

… Care was taken with the physical details as well, especially the interior of the White House, where Lincoln’s office was re-created with complete accuracy, and where the president interacts with his family, trying to placate his ever-emotional wife Mary (a convincing Sally Field), distraught after the death of their young son Willie, as well as oldest son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is desperate to enlist in the Union Army against his parents’ wishes.

… Because the stakes are so high, and because he turns out to be a master strategist, the president himself inevitably gets personally involved in playing politics. He deals with key leaders like Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), a conservative Republican who is eager for peace talks with the South, and of course Jones’ Stevens, an irascible, vitriolic abolitionist (“the meanest man in Congress” according to Roy Blount Jr.) who is just getting warmed up when he calls an opponent a “fatuous nincompoop.”

One of the surprises and the pleasures of “Lincoln” is its portrait of the president as a man gifted at reconciling irreconcilable points of view, someone who wouldn’t hesitate to play both ends against the middle and even stretch the truth in the service of the greater good.

Kushner has said that he wrote “Lincoln” because, upset at today’s endemic lack of faith in governance, he wanted to tell a story that “shows that you can achieve miraculous, beautiful things through the democratic system.” It’s a lesson that couldn’t be more timely, or more thoroughly dramatic.