Joe Mabel > Travel writing > Letters from Romania 2001-2002 > Best and Worst, Redux

Best and Worst, Redux

21 Dec 2001

Figured I'd dash off one more of these before I head for Barcelona.

I went again to the Opera last night to see Orff's Carmina Burana external link. Excellent production, though not quite as dazzling an experience as the (Prokofiev) Romeo & Juliet I saw last month (but then few performances are!).

Someone apparently decided that Carmina Burana wasn't long enough for a whole program, so it was preceded by 2 short ballet pieces: the "Prelude" and the "Death of Isolde" from Wagner's Tristan & Isolde and Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The former was merely OK: technically excellent, but rather frosty. The second was wonderful, with Cristian Craciun in the title role, the same dancer who played Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet. Someone has to drag this guy to the West, at least for a season or two.

Carmina Burana was really great. About 80 singers were dressed as monks/nuns with "blank" masks on the backs of their habits so that when they turned their backs the impression was of faceless humans in habits. (The three vocal soloists were more conventionally gowned.) The staging used about 35 dancers, including at least seven soloists, several costume changes, etc. Once again, the mood was very well established by sets made from nothing much more elaborate than stones and cloth. Definitely the Tsui Hark approach to stage design, not the Steven Spielberg approach.

The opening and closing were appropriately awesome (in the un-devalued sense of that word). I could maybe have done without some folk-dancey segments (some ballerinas should not attempt to folk dance) but other parts were absolutely brilliant, including some amazing balletic renditions of drunkenness. And the singing was magnificent.

These have been productions so good that I could readily go see the same piece a second time, given the opportunity.

On the less happy side...

...there is no bad restaurant service like a bad Romanian restaurant service. Last night, after the Opera, it was already kind of late, too late to get anything froma market, so I figured I would just eat at my hotel. The relatively short version of what could be a long story:

I could have saved time by walking 10 or 15 minutes each way to a restaurant with its act together.

That and this next item may make me sound like a spoiled ugly American, but here goes anyway:

Today I had a light lunch at a nearby bakery. On the way a maybe 8-year-old beggar (why aren't these kids in school!) to whom I had given a little money one other time accosted me in the doorway looking obviously deliberately pitiful, and seemed affronted that I didn't have any money for him (I didn't have any loose change, etc.). Then, as I ate he stared in the window at me, knocking periodically on the window, practicing pitiful expressions.

Y'know, I often give money to beggars -- I had even been planning to give the kid my change on the way out -- but rehearsed looks of theatrical misery frankly piss me off. As does rapping on the window while I'm eating. I'm sure the kid is really poor (although not, from the looks of him, really hungry) but frankly I found myself thinking really nasty thoughts like, "I guess they probably beat you at home. Just as well, since if I beat you I'd get in trouble."

I know this is an evil thought, but it's mine. I suppose he is more to be pitied than scorned, but can't I do both?

I guess I don't feel that being a deserving object of pity gives one license to be theatrically miserable. Unless it's in a comic mode.

Despite that note of Scrooge-iness, I wish you all good holidays, happy solstice and may the sun return, all that stuff, I promise not to kick any beggars even if they piss me off, and I even promise to give some money to someone is isn't so goddamned willfully pitiful.


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Originally written: December 21, 2001
Last modified: November 9, 2001

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