Monday, May 22, 2006

Beauty, Handsomeness, Goodness and Mortality



In 2004, the San Francisco Opera produced a fine version of "Billy Budd," an opera from the 1950s composed by Benjamin Britten with a libretto by E.M. Forster that includes the phrase "beauty, handsomeness, goodness" being addressed to the angelic Billy by the demonic Claggart.



I was among a couple of dozen supernumeraries (who are simply non-singing extras in opera-land), and we were referred to throughout rehearsals by the staging staff as "Super Seamen," which gave us a few giggles. I couldn't resist the opportunity to design a T-shirt based on the double entendre, though it takes some courage to wear it. However, today is my birthday, and it seemed a perfect time to sport the thing.



When I was learning to read at about age 6, the only story that stuck with me as an actual story was about a boy who couldn't decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. He longed to own a grocery store like his father but he also wanted to be a fireman like the guys down the city block. The entire tale was about his despair in trying to make a decision.



He finally became a grocer like his father, married and had children, but was still vaguely dissatisfied. At the end of the tale, he moved to the country and opened a grocery store there, and guess what also happened. The small town had a volunteer fire department.



I'm not sure why this "you can have your cake and eat it too" story resonated so strongly with me, but I realized today that I'm actually living the tale for real. Trying to make a living as a performer/artist is a brutal business, which only the truly lucky and gifted do well, but I get to be an amateur actor on a great stage. Journalism as a profession doesn't strike me as all that appealing, with editors and owners shaping one's stories, and not even being able to write one's own headlines or pick one's own photos.



Thanks to this photoblog, I get to be a "citizen journalist," and it's immensely fulfilling. Since I honestly believed at this time last year that I would not be alive to to see 2006, time has become so rich it's amazing. Now that I know my chances of living for quite a few more birthdays is real, there's an extra seasoning to each day too.



Katherine Braziatis, above, was a great, beloved supernumerary at the opera for many years. She battled breast cancer a few years back and won, and then drove head-on into a huge truck in her hometown of Ada, Oklahoma last week, which killed her instantly. Though I don't need any more reminders to treasure each day, this was yet another wake-up call. "La Forza del Destino" is more than just a great Verdi opera.

10 comments:

Kimo Crossman said...

Michael-

Happy Birthday!

Can I buy you a cocktail or dinner?

-k

Anonymous said...

happy birthday! happy birthday! (yours is one day after my half birthday.) remind me to tell you about the kid's book that made a huge impression on me and which i find myself thinking of at odd times. might sound a bit negative to describe on this happy occasion. there was another one our across the street neighbors had, about the easter bunny sleeping late, which i loved greatly and unreasonably.
many x's
ellen

Trevor Murphy said...

Awesome shirt! I bet Opera SF could do nicely if they stocked 'em at a merch booth. And, of course, happy birthday!

Houston said...

Happy birthday, a day late. Enjoyed your post. Blessed are we who find joy in life and work.

AlbGlinka said...

It does take some ravery to wear that T-shirt, as much as I love it. I have worn it on laundry day, which gets me some interesting looks at the laundromat.

So sad about Katherine. Enjoyed reading your tribute to her on the Spearhead site.

AlbGlinka said...

Ahh, I meant to type "bravery!"

Perhaps "ravery" is correct as well...

Kit Stolz said...

Many happy returns of the day, Mike (as Pooh used to say in another children's book that's not just for children). Keep up the good work.

You raise an interesting topic. What could we learn about ourselves, based on our favorite kids' books?

My was: "Harold and the Purple Crayon." Maybe because I always liked the idea of an imagination which can create worlds...

Mike said...

I just noticed your blogger name. Wanted to say hello. I'm SFMike22, 22 being my favorite number. I've been a long time reader, keep up the good blogging. Love the photo content...

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Grace said...

I just randomly found this page while searching for Billy Budd, and I died laughing at your awesome shirt!!! I totally want one!!! :D