Friday, February 18, 2011

My Love Affair with Curly-haired Operatic Heroines

Fleming as Armida @ the MET
We're seeing Armida at the MET tonight.  We saw Tosca a few weeks ago.  The common theme that runs between these librettos, that carry them really, into the hearts and minds of the viewers is the protaganista, the woman.  These are the characters that many females aspire to be, and men avoid scorning.
Mucha's Salome

I have always been fascinated by these strong, deceitful, curly-haired powerhouses (and so has my husband, thankfully ;o).  For him, I think it started with the beautiful firecrackers on his Bensonhurst block growing up, as he refers to them, the 'real Brooklyn hitters'. For me, it's a little more complicated.

You can see a patchwork of it in the art I've always admired.  I particularly gravitated to Mucha paintings as a kid and then, as I got older those paintings in the main hall of the European wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that seem to all depict swarthy curvaceous muses. And then later still, I fell for the operatic divas. The rare women I saw represented in any media, who sort of looked like me.

Regnault's Salome @ the MET
But if you go further back, for me it goes a little deeper and it really started with the biblical stories I was so defiant against in grade school.  As an independent-thinking, rebellious, heathenous young girl in an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva, I bucked and revolted against the hypocrisy I saw so apparent in the classes taught by Rabbis.  I was a pain in the ass.  I hissed and argued.  Yet in my moments of silence in these formative classrooms, I came to identify with the strong female characters in the stories we read--- the heroines.  These are the kindred spirits who made me feel that I belonged in that world that felt so alien and shepherded me towards adulthood as a woman, a Jewess and a game changer.

Life is a circuitous path--- I seem to say that often nowadays.  The Orthodox yeshiva world I couldn't understand or fit into, that I resented so much in my youth, now comes to inform the person I am today in very eccentric and eclectic ways.  And I wouldn't change a thing.

So we are going to see Armida tonight, I hear Fleming is fantastic in the role. And by the way, my Hebrew name is Abigail---look her up, she's a pretty fierce chick.