2/10/98ce
–55 West 13th Street, Manhattan, New York, noon

It’s a Tuesday morning and last night I saw the inside of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the first time in my life. I saw the Met production of Die Zauberflote by Mozart.

Lincoln Center is really beautiful.  The main entranceway holds a grand staircase placed between two very large canvasses by Marc Chagall, bright colors and swirled lines.  The interior of the Opera House is all golds and red velvet.  I did a sketch at intermission of the stage lay out.  Our seats were pretty far back and high up but the view was perfect.  The performers are un-mic’ed and yet their voices and the music carry so beautifully through the hall.  The place is intimate despite its size.  It has five rows of box seats up the left and right sides of the stage.  Everything is covered in red velvet.

The seats are equipped with Met Titles which appear on a small digitized computer screen placed in a railing before each seat.  the titles provide simultaneous translation of the Opera.  They can be turned on and off and will pick up at any given line as the production proceeds.  Gracefully designed devices.  You cannot “read” the screens on either side of you because of the angle of placement, however if you lean forward you can see in the dark theatre the seat by seat staggered glow of gold letters on screens before the seats below you. Marvelous technology which makes the production much more enjoyable for audience-members who do not speak German or Italian or etc.

“Die Zauberflote” means “The Magic Flute.”  Ignoring the racist positioning of the White European in a position of superiority over the Moor and the general glorification of white over black features, light over dark which is established in the piece, the opera is a light-hearted romance about love and human longing for companionship.  Papageno the clown and his Papagena provide the comic climax in the pa-pa-pa-pa scene which I saw first in the film “Amadeus.”  There are high arpeggiated sequences by the Queen of Night who handled them with flair, and long tender arias by both Pamina and Tamino, the leads.  There are also noble arias by the baritone who plays the King, Sarasanto.  There are even roles for three young boys who play guiding angels to the hero, Tamino.

The racism in the opera isn’t about current ideas of race hatred, it is simply the ignorance and attitudes of an era gone by – lyrics by Papageno glorifying the beauty of the white, blonde-haired Pamina and several about the ugliness of the Black Moor.  It is frustrating that such lines will exist in the context of a Meisterwork by a man like Mozart for so long.  Frustrating to me at least whose face is brown and more like the black-faced white man who portrayed the Moor, than the blonde-blue eyed woman who played the princess.

The experience was a good first one for me at the Lincoln Center and with the Metropolitan Opera.  The tickets were expensive ($66) and we were treated to them and to dinner – at the Italian restaurant Fiorello, just opposite the theatre on Broadway – by Alex and Sally, a lovely elderly couple who are friends of R. who works in my office.  It was a good time.  But I find socializing difficult.  I had the seared tuna in capers, onions, roasted peppers and sundried tomate.  (boring though it sounds nice … It was tasty but predictable).

Quickly now to last Wednesday to cover the lecture entitled “Lawyers of Political Prisoners in the United States,” at the Benjamin Cardozo Law School and pulled together by Michael Kasner and BALLSA (maybe it’s black and latin-american law students association??).   A panel discussion hosted by Kathleen Cleaver and featuring Johnnie Cochran, Lennox Hinds, Leonard Weinglass and others.  A powerfully inspiring lecture by a group of lawyers who care about people.  It was meaningful on many levels.

Got straight dope on the cases of Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu Jamal, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, geronimo ji Jaga and others.  Some heavy statistics:  there are now 600,000 lawyers in the US.  Of these 90% work for 10% of the wealth.  “That leaves 10% for the rest of us.”  Maybe 600 work in areas like political prisoners rights and etc.  Stats about Mumia’s case that are still overwhelmingly frustrating to accept.

A letter from Assata Shakur to “his Holiness,” Pope John Paul II on his visit to Cuba in response to a request of the Pope by the New Jersey State Police to help them extradite Assata Shakur  Too much.  Lennox Hinds was fantastic.  He spoke so eloquently of ethics.  It was truly inspiring and the lecture was packed with people.

I need a haircut, gotta take a

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