Monday, December 31, 2007

Hardly “Silent” but kinda “Heavenly”

I just happened upon recordings on youtube of two great Wagnerians giving their take on "Silent Night".

So, two Scandinavian farm gals (I'm just speaking figuratively; I know that Flagstad didn't grow up on a farm) who were the two supreme Wagnerians of the last century singing the most innig of all Christmas songs. How do they do?

It's really interesting to compare and contrast them. Flagstad's was a voice of dark honey (occasionally threatening more toward molasses) and Nilsson's was one of ice (that sometimes veered more toward laser beam). Flagstad's work emphasized the humanity of her characters; Nilsson's their imperiousness. There's a reason her Turandot was so celebrated. And why Flagstad's Isolde was so revered. And there's a reason why (in my opinion) Nilsson's Isolde was not her most successful role and why Flagstad never took on Turandot (apart from the fact that her top was never as secure as Nilsson's).

Those virtues are certainly to be heard in their singing of this Christmas favorite.

And so, without further ado, here are our two contestants:

In this corner, from Norway, weighing in at 250 pounds, Kirsten Flagstad:

And in this corner, weighing in at a trim 200 pounds, Sweden's Birgit Nilsson:

They're both some kind of wonderful, these gals, aren't they!?!?

Will we ever see their equal?

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Ritorna vincitor?

I have been gone from the blogosphere for so long that I wonder why I would even start reposting. I hope it has nothing to do with those annoying things called New Year's Resolution. Besides, it's not yet 2008, so I am getting in just under the wire.

I have an issue with putting my work out there and feeling like no one notices. I am not passive/aggressively asking people to write to me here and say, "Oh, no, we love your writing; don't stop!" In the nearly three months that I have been away from here exactly two people have asked me why I haven't been writing. Hardly an earth-shattering fan base.

I guess I could just say that my heart has not been in it. That doesn't mean that I have less to say than before . It's just that I hate putting my work—my writing, my singing, whatever—into a vacuum. And that I would rather withdraw than be ignored.

But why? But what does this really achieve? It just means that I don't have to deal with the pain of feeling ignored. It also means that I suffer daily from denying myself the opportunity (the right!) to do those things which I really love. And who suffers when I do that? One could say that everyone suffers. Only those who miss out on my work as a result never even know what they've been denied. So in fact, I am the only one who suffers. And I've been suffering from it.

Dawn Powell remains my favorite writer. Here is someone who constantly felt the exigencies of the real world closing in on her: an alcoholic husband, an autistic (though improperly diagnosed) son, financial difficulties, loss of home, her own serious drinking problem. But she never stopped writing. The lack of appreciation embittered her, to be sure, but she never stopped. And how much poorer so many would be now if she had simply given up.

It is the survivors who inspire me. Those who fight back, or at the very least persist, when the light is taken away and the pathway is obscured. So perhaps I can take a page from their book and crawl out from under my rock and put myself back out there. (This was an intentional Block That Metaphor sentence.)

In spite of the fact that I have done no singing this fall since my recital at the Donnell, in spite of the fact that this is the first fall in fifteen years in which I have not sung a single audition, in spite of my grief that I may never again sing in the high-profile venues that I once did, in spite of the fact that I have not written in my blog now in nearly three months, I have remained faithful this fall to one artistic pursuit: my children's writing. I took another course this fall at the New School and will take the winter course as well. I now have eight picture book manuscripts and one easy reader in various stages of completion. But in my case it is less the work itself that proveds daunting: it's putting it out there in front of other people. This means risking their rejection, their incomprehension, their unfavorable response, or worst of all, their failure to notice me. I hesitate—no, I actively resist—putting my work on display. I tell myself that those fears are too great for me to bear. But here's the truth: it is the coward's way out.

I write this all only as a means of giving myself a semi-public challenge. I have so many dreams that I have just let die because I believed all the naysayers. I say SCREW THAT. Who am I living for, anyway? If I really want to overcome my need for constant approval, then why the hell do I still care what other people think? I have so much to say. Why should I stop saying it now? What do I care for all the assholes that have dissed or insulted or rejected me in the past? And whom I could (and perhaps should) name by name. They have since continued garnering adulation themselves and have completely forgotten my existence or the pain they caused me. So by remaining silent I certainly don't Make Them Feel Really Bad. Am I doing penance for never having achieved perfection?

Okay, I'm done. I shouldn't even post this shit. The only reason I do it prod myself in a semi-public way to get back out there. Only once I do these three things can I remove this entry:

1. Send out my stories to at least five editors or agents.
2. Plan my recital that I will be giving in Hawaii in March.
3. Start the ball rolling on that performance project that simultaneously lures and terrifies me.

Okay, that's it for now. The use of the non-word "proactive" is one of my pet hates. Or maybe I am just daunted by the meaning of said non-word. If that is the case, here's hoping for a more "proactive" New Year.