Friday, September 21, 2007

Great Western Art

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Yesterday was amazing. I got free tickets to go see the final rehearsal of Lucia di Lammermoor at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Then, after my daily stay in the library’s basement, I went to a discussion group on Aeschylus Oresteia. When there I got a call and free tickets to go see A Chorus Line on Broadway. Wow!!

I tried hard to think of what the common culturist lesson was in these pieces. They are very different. Lucia di Lammermoor depicts an over-the-top struggle of love against an arranged marriage and includes a famous “mad scene” before bodies populate the stage. A Chorus Line focuses on the lives of much more believable individuals who are struggling to get work in a – you guessed it – chorus line. And the Oresteia concerns the birth of justice in a dilemma in which one must avenge their father’s murder, but the mother killed the father. Finding a commonality between all of these was hard.

One can see the concerns as increasingly petty. The Greek Oresteia concerns huge issues, fate, the death of the age of the Gods, the Birth of justice, male versus female. The Opera had huge love, and the Chorus line was just about average individuals. But, saying this is a progression or a declension is hard. The Opera had unsurpassed music and virtuosity, but its theme was trite. No one falls in love and kills themselves like that. I learned more from the low brow musical. Its all down hill from Greek plays in terms of death and depth. But the musical about the common man speaks to me. One could not say progress or declension is a theme across the ages of Western theater.

Morality was another angle I considered. In the Orestia, Orestes, must revenge his fathers death. But his father killed his sister so that the Trojan War would go well. He was also trapped in a lose – lose situation. A strong sense of duty motivates the characters. The Opera characters rebel out of selfish love and the Chorus Line folk only think of their own passion when it comes to job choice. But, then again, our being able to do what makes sense to us is a virtue. If there is a commonality, it is people raging against their situations and trying to live according to truths – be they individual or duty centered. From a long Western perspective, the individualistic passionate dancers are not less than the murdering Greek’s or the Opera’s characters who are also dedication to love.

Pride. The culturist meaning I came up with is pride in our artistic accomplishments. We have a long and variegated history of theater in the West. These are enigmatic, entertaining, and inspiring pieces. Others have their ritual prayers and stereotypical crafts – gotta love those – but our artistic striving from the Greeks to Broadway has produced some gems to be proud of. These are consciously contrived expressions of the individual vision with high levels of artistic mastery. Those who say the Western tradition is just about materialism and acquisition, should know about the Western creation of the individual and enshrinement of his conscience. They should know that we are proud of the material wealth our capitalists and scientists have brought to the world. But those of you who still have doubts about our greatness, should really go see some fabulous theater today!!
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