Archive | June, 2014

a dark place, a painful place, holiness

30 Jun

Ms. Fraenkel had her son Ayala taken from the West Bank a little over a week ago. He is a teen ager. She lives in Nof Ayalon. No ones knows who has taken him and two others. No one knows if they are hurt; dead or alive. Ms. Fraenkel’s response in the NY Times today is telling, spiritual, and full of wonder,

‘I have a spiritual world, but it doesn’t lessen any pain and it doesn’t promise me anything because God doesn’t work for me,” she said. “It’s not some kind of trick that if I pray hard enough, he’ll just show up.’

Dark places is where holiness is birthed, formed. We become part of His holiness there. His blood. What are we to do then?

We have nothing to do. He is already there. That is the tell; here, now.

Here is where He is.



he fell; He Rose

27 Jun
He walked this path, out of the city

He walked this path, out of the city


23 Jun



there is No one, No



as alone as a twin, separated at birth from their other


there is -no memories, no moments, no image of your other; there is only aching sorrow of an unremembered, intense presence


there only is a pain, a hurt, a lacking.

an abyss of-sorrow remains.

 it is that which all the bitter hate of a world can not fill


try as I might yearly, daily, momentary


‘Tosca,’ and ‘Manon Lescaut’-J. Kent -sometimes the best applause is a boo

20 Jun

Three days past I saw Brown and Kent’s production of ‘Manon Lescaut’ with Oplais and Kaufmann.

I had never heard ‘Boos’ from a British audience till Mr. Kent and Mr. Brown went on stage at the encore. Clearly, the audience was unhappy. The ‘Vegas’ type sleaze design of ‘Manon’ did not go over well.

Last night 19 June I attended ‘Tosca’ also designed and directed by Mr. Kent. The audience loved the production which has been  on for some time at the ROH. Tradition in gowns and scenery ruled and made me reflect on the struggle to create and recreate in general and in particular. This traditional ‘Tosca’ took me back to Kent’s  ‘Manon.’ I began to ask myself, what do you create as an artist, a designer, a singer and actor? How should you create?

Do you play to your audience desires? To what you think they desire? Or do you push them to rethink with you?

Do you go ‘middle of the road’ classic or do you throw out history and re-focus anew on the text?

How do you see, treat, live with a text? What space do you give it and does it give you?

Jonathan Kent tired to take a text in ‘Manon Lescaut’ and rethink it. I believe he wanted to create a vision for the actors/singers,  orchestra, and especially the audience. Perhaps it doesn’t ‘work’ because it swings too far as a pendulum from ‘Tosca’ in ‘Manon.’ But at least it moves.  But this production of ‘Manon’ swings.  And as enjoyable as ‘Tosca’ was last night, it was not memorable. Kent’s ‘Manon Lescaut’ I will remember. Jonathan Kent tired. For me at the end of the day in this production, that is enough.

At a recent workshop in London director Debroah Warner spoke of  fear: ‘My great fear is to go in (into a show) and see what I expect.’

I want to see; create; see anew; and be recreated. This is what  I ‘go in’ to see and do. 

I don’t, I never see,  what I expect. No one really does. We glance over expectations. We have seen this already.

 I see when I am in, when I am all the way in.

 All in is all. There is nothing else. Kent went in with this production of ‘Manon.’ Sometimes the best applause is a boo. It means people saw. See.

a death in the bronx, they desrve better

19 Jun


‘A 14-year-old Bronx boy who may have been teased and robbed by a 14-year-old schoolmate stabbed him to death on Wednesday afternoon outside the school they attended, the police said.

The boys were students at Intermediate School 117 (Joseph H. Wade) in the Mount Hope neighborhood. The stabbing took place around 3 p.m. in front of the school building at the end of the school day, the police said’

So the story begins and ends. I used to live there; I worked there. It is still my ‘here and now,’ in a lot of ways. My there. I had my first day of teaching  in that building, Wade JHS, in the 1970s. It was hard then; hard now; it will be hard in another twenty.

My first day at Wade I entered as a subsittue teacher. The principal greeted me (I didn’t quite realize at the time how unusual this was at the time; APs took care of sub teachers, not principals) and asked ‘Osewalt eh? Are you related to Lee?’

I got this a lot and said no. I had learned to keep it simple in responding to Lee Harvey Oswalt questions. I didn’t even say, no, it is spellt differently. I just said no.

‘This school has two famous graduates. Laura Nyro and Lee Harvey Oswalt.’ I looked at him a little more closely. He was wearing red suspenders and had a gun strapped to his left hand side. This was really unusual. I really like Larua Nyro’s singing. But this seemed very strange.

‘I like you. You are just starting out. I am going to give you a full Spanish program till the end of the year. Teacher out. Pregnancy leave.’

I started to explain that I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

He said, ‘Trust me. Take the program.’

I did. I needed the money.

He was right. I walked into the classroom. students were all working at their desks getting ready for the Spanish Regents. They were all Asians. A girl picked up her head. Other heads followed.

‘You our teacher?’


‘You speak Spanish?’


Her head and the others went down. They never spoke to me again, except to ask for a pass to the bathroom. It was the easiest June in the toughest school setting I have ever had.

June in schools is where and when things die. School year ends; teachers are done; they are ‘seeing the beach’; students are angry. Exams; summer school.  Girls and guys want to settle scores,  accounts, before the last day. June is a school’s hardest month.

But someone, a child, doesn’t have to die.

Those kids should have had a real Spanish teacher. Not me. They deserved better. They still do.

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, the Royal Opera House June 2014

18 Jun

From The Independent review by Michael Church 19 June 2014


‘Flamboyantly designed by Paul Brown, Jonathan Kent’s production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut could not be more different from Laurent Pelly’s daintily stylised Belle Epoque version of Massenet’s take on the story which we saw in the same house four months ago.

The curtain rises on a downmarket hotel-plus-bar peopled by a bunch of teenagers led by an exuberant Edmondo (Benjamin Hulett) in party mode; Manon (Kristine Opolais) is deposited from a people-carrier, while Geronte (Maurizio Muraro) and Lescaut (Christopher Maltman) radiate a very modern sleaziness; Jonas Kaufmann’s Des Grieux has a grace redolent of bygone days.

From the moment Kaufmann and Opolais embark – with infinite delicacy – on their emotional journey, it becomes clear that this is a vocal marriage made in heaven. His warmly burnished sound is balanced by the exquisitely-nuanced purity of hers, and they are supported by a performance in the pit, under Antonio Pappano, of rare refinement.

But Kent (my emphasis) presents Manon’s Parisian high-life in contradiction to both music and plot. Puccini’s fashionable courtesan becomes a soft-porn star reigning amid vulgar bling; the chaste beauty of Opolais’s singing is undermined by the voyeuristic sexuality she is directed to portray, and her exiling becomes reality tv on a seedy waterfront. Only in the final act (on a ruined flyover), with her farewell aria and the subsequent duet, does the magnificent desolation of the music come centre-stage.’

So, last night at the Royal Opera House, the singers were cheered at the encore; the director Kent and designer Brown booed. In attending over a hundred theatre, music, dance, opera, concerts here in the UK this past year and a half, I have never heard ‘boos.’ Ever. Brits are too polite to boo. Why did the audience hate it-this design so much? I think because Mr. Church’s review in The Independent gets it exactly right: it distracts from the music and story. The woman I was with hated it; the woman next to her hated it. The production by swinging too far to ‘sleazy’ undercut the music.

What a shame that older men try so hard to be different, themselves and their work,  from other productions that their imaginations are trapped and constrained. Even an imagination can grow, become, tired and reactive, small and reaching.

But Kaufmann and Opolais voices!!  Their voice. Close your eyes & soar. Go, hear, live.

Last night, Boos at the Royal Opera House, for Kent ‘Manon’ director-Why? ‘Too sleazy’

18 Jun

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Gorky’s ‘Waterfall’ from the Tate Modern

12 Jun

I love abstract art. When Priscilla and I had our 25th wedding anniversary, we commissioned a friend, Ellice, to make a portrait of us, not realistic, but abstract. Ellice did the portrait in threads, white and red, red and black. On a white background neddles hung from the art. Why? Our lives were, are, not finished.  Ellice’s portrait captured us in our flow, our waters, our colours. Neither are these waters, Gorky’s, his colours, complete. It overflows; they fall. Fall into me.

Caravaggio – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

11 Jun


at St. Luke’s in Kentish Town we met a ‘fellow’ Bronxite

9 Jun