Thursday, April 12, 2007
Theater, Opera and Missles
The ritual that sort of defined or set the scene for what was going on in ancient Greek theater was when the priest of Dionysius would sacrafice a goat on the alter and place its guts in the horizon line between the performers and the audience that has gathered to watch a world play out before them. I see a connection between this ritual and Aristotle’s notion of Catharsis. Unlike all things modern, ancient Catharsis is not modeled after sex, in which everything slowly builds up in stages up to a “climax”, and then quickly dissipates.
This is because ancient cathartic purgings are primarily modeled after the relationship between what is divine and what is at the mercy of what is divine…which is everything else, and cannot be located, notated and pinpointed at one act of pent-up release...a release of desires "to reach out and touch someone", so to speak. To break the consuming alienation and darkness. To reconcile ourselves to the hold that death has upon us. The cathartis of a Greek tragedy is sort of drawn out throught the entirety of the play.
Interstate 95 does seem to go on forever...
What sets the scene for modern opera, is - first of all - not a ritual or religous sacrafice, but is literary. The picture of it is the picture of a modern doctor standing over a horizontally laying patient on an OPERAting room table, reading from a book. Writing is top-down. Modern instruments are horizontal. The vertically-standing harp is relegated over to the corner of the stage as a trace of a former lost time and a former lost relationship to the body. Oh this lost and lonely body, floating and frollicking in the Wilderness of "Where's-My-Cogito?"! Compensatorily, modern opera takes after sex…builds up to that great climax and quickly finds its peace and reconciliation with itself.
The ferocity with which one fed-up woman is matched only by the verve by which modern men uphold their laws concieved in a Cogito-Land that defines their very existence! "I think, therefore I am." The woman objects: "I throw my soda at you, therefore I exist!" I propose that both must be pretty alienated. So what? I aslo propose that there exists another hidden probem that too often seems to go unnoticed; hidden to us because we lay (not stand) immersed in it. To cure her alienation the alienated Doctor of modern Law throws more less-than-helpful "missles" at the poor unsuspecting woman. The "rule of law" places ultimate authority in the hands of no living being or person with whom we may converse, but in those of this slightly-nebulous "Law" entity. And the law gives a certain abstracted cogito-definition of "missle" - into which a Mcdonalds soda somehow manages to be squashed - from which no living voice has the right to stray! Only to say, "Throw her in jail!"
As a reflection of this modern compensation for its own loss of relation to the life of the body, the audience (specifically, the rich white folks up in the private suites, as opposed to the poor peasants down on the floor part of the “house”) is off on its own sexual escapades throughout the show. That’s why they go the the opera.
I wonder what the judge does for the entertainment that the black woman couln't afford before he ever threw her in jail.
Incidentally, there are no animal guts, no blood stains, or anything of the sort, on the floor marking the relation between stage and house. Just some wood flooring or something…or a void…however you want to think of it. The curtain, however, which did not exist in ancient theater is exists largely to hide the operation of all the huge machinery in a modern theater, is red.
Feeling like her life has escaped gone on an exodus, this woman now sits in a void, stares at the bars of her cell, and endures (maybe) the wonderous friendliness of her jailmates, the "justice" system, and her own lonliness (which of course means a lack of the sexual fulfillment that "fills" the house of modern opera/tions). The modern machine has left her bleeding with desire to be with her distant children and to fulfill her now-impossible desires.
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