From Lucretius and De Rerum Natura:
More often, on the contrary, it is religion breeds
Wickedness and that has given rise to wrongful deeds,
As when the leaders of the Greeks, those peerless peers, defiled
The Virgin altar with the blood of Agamemnon’s child.
Iphigenia. As soon as they bound the fillet round her hair
So that its ends streamed down her cheeks, the girl became aware
That waiting at the temple for her there would be no groom –
Instead she saw her father with a countenance of gloom
Attended by the priests who kept the blade well hid. The sight
Of people shedding tears to see her froze her tongue with fright.
She sank to the ground upon her knees. It did not mean a thing
For the princess now, that she had been the first to give the king
The name of Father. No, for shaking, the poor girl was carried
By the hands of men up to the altar, not that she be married
With solemn ceremony, to the accompanying strain
Of loud-sung bridal hymns, but as a maiden, pure of strain.
To be impurely slaughtered, at the age when she should wed,
Sorrowfully sacrifice slain at her father’s hand instead,
All this for fair and favorable winds to sail the fleet along!
So portent was religion in persuading to do wrong.
Like mists before the wind. Iphigenia was gone. So too the weekend; a weekend of opera.
First was the Met opera live in a local movie house. A Masked Ball (Un Ballo in Maschera) by Verdi: a love triangle based on the true story of the assassination of the King of Sweden who was either a hero or nasty tyrant. Probably deserved to die in my opinion. Then live from the Vancouver opera by way of sponsorship by Goldcorp The Pirate King by Gilbert & Sullivan. Long live Queen Victoria. And then tonight to too much brandy, Zelmira by Rossini on DVD from the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. A profound story of tyrants and dictators.
Superb performances by all. I liked Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Álvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Un Ballo. Sondra, in particular reminded me of my grandmother at forty and even seventy, and I emoted & wept at her love in the face of faithlessness, lust, and faithfulness. I doubt my grandmother was—but that is another story. For she was a sensuous women of many men and great forgiveness for the sins of youthful sex. She had seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and knew all the ways of the human heart.
Gilbert and Sullivan are my perpetual favorites. Giles Tomkins as Sergeant of Police was the best of the night. As an opera character, a true study of the timidity of those who enforce the whiles of the tyrant. Christopher Gaze as Major-General Stanley came next—a true study of the pomposity of the tyrant, and its essential emptiness.
For walking to the Queen Elizabeth Theater I had a difference of opinion with my opera companion who announced she was off to Cuba. I told her that I thought this an immoral and unethical act and I pleaded with her to rethink her decision. She refused, being like most Canadians, romantically impressed with Cuba and its color. I reminded her that the Island is no opera, but is a prison funded by illegal Canadian mining, aka Sheritt Mining and we should all stay away like the moral world did when South Africa was Apartheid. Thus incensed at the obdurate blindness of liberals, I drank whiskey before the opera.
Then the chatty young thing sitting behind me chatted incessantly through the overture, and shouted in excitement in the first song “There he is.” In a sudden rage at the Cuba-obsession of the romantically beguiled—those who support dictators, tyrants, and evil rulers through the inability to see—and the selfish perspectives of the privileged who care not for the comfort of others, but put their selfish notions above all else—hypocritical Canadians as one of the altered patter songs would have it, I snapped and turn on the spoilt thing behind me and told her to shut-up. I was reinforced in this snapping by the recollection of the slob who ate popcorn all through the second act of the Met opera. I heard it not, but my companion, a lady of calm attitude, finally snapped and told him to stop eating with slobbering lips.
She shut up for the rest of opera—thank goodness. Funny thing was the acts of those around me at the close of the curtains. An old skinny man hit me twice, gently, almost sexually, on the cheeks and muttered about things I could not understand. He shook his head in lust and despair and hit me again. Luckily I was by now sober and bethought myself—for I was tempted to fell him with a savage blow—for he is like all bullies—motivated by cruelty, power, lust, and insane desire for what is not rightfully his—a true devotee of opera. A true Canadian Imperialist prejudiced against people like me with foreign accents.
Thus we exited this emotion-filled evening into the clear, cold night of Vancouver and chatted with a couple from Pit Meadows seeking a pub. We directed them to the Railway Club on Dunsmuir—the best place to get drunk in Vancouver. We drank not, for she is sober yet obsessed by oppressed societies and feels not the pain of the oppressed and the nobility of their suffering—for she sees only the color of the locals—and like too many Canadians romanticizes the terror of dictators, racialists, and oppressors in the interests of profits and CIDA grants.