Friday, March 26, 2010

Magpie Entry #7

“The Flower You Threw to Me…”

Good morning, class. Welcome to “History of Spain 101.”
Our class will begin by covering the pre-war era – and when we’re dealing with Spain and speaking of pre-war, we’re really speaking of the era before the Spanish-American War.
I thought that a good way to start off is with a certain musical work, an opera, something that, even if you don’t much like opera, I’m sure you’re all familiar with. The reason I’m using it for this class is that the particular musical work I have in mind says a lot about the customs, traditions and moral attitudes of the country of Spain at that time.



It’s a story of an army man who was not just putting in his time before being released back into civilian society, but of a young career soldier who believed he had a great future in the Spanish Army.



When he wore the uniform and saluted his flag, he stood for centuries of tradition; he was constantly reminded of the glory days of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Army of Spain was the most powerful and prestigious in Europe.



Let’s say his name was Don Jose. He was of course a young man of good family, all-important in those days, a capable, serious junior officer whose unblemished record unfortunately became – well, blemished. And all because of his love for a woman.



She was a Spanish Gypsy. The story of the Gypsies is the story of a persecuted minority. For centuries they had known discrimination, and this helped to create the emotions – of tragedy, sadness, joy and love – found in their music and dance.



All of which ultimately led to the well-known flamenco of today.



The soldier named Don Jose had fallen hard for a beautiful, tempestuous Gypsy girl who had danced for him; he was even ready to leave his promising military career to be with her.
The punishment for this was severe; he was jailed. While he was behind bars a strange thing happened.



As he stood at the window of his cell she threw a flower to him. He caught it and was fascinated by the flower’s fragrance. Though the flower, as flowers do, wilted and became dry, the fragrance remained, and it was to keep alive for him the memory of the beautiful girl for whom he had sacrificed so much.



Later, an operatic composer, Georges Bizet, was attracted by this romantic tale and composed a work that was to become a masterpiece, one of the most famous operas of all time. Among its best-known arias was one that had to do with the moment when the Gypsy girl threw the flower to the prisoner. (You’ve been able to figure out by now which opera we’re talking about?)
Here’s the scene:
Aria: “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee dans ma prison me’etait restee.”



“The flower you threw to me stayed with me in prison. It withered and dried, but it kept all the while its sweet fragrance, and I became intoxicated – because during the night I saw you!
“At times I took to cursing you, to cry out that I detested you. Why did destiny put you there, in my path?
“But then I realized that this was a kind of blasphemy because the only real feeling I had was a strong desire, a kind of desperate hope – to see you again, oh Carmen! to see you again!”

47 comments:

willow said...

What a wonderful operatic take on the daffodil! (Carmen's one of my favorite operas, btw.)

rallentanda said...

I don't know if this was your intention but I found this post hilarious.Simplification taken to an absurd extreme.The 'dumbing down' that has infiltrated all of our institutions is great material for our next Monty Python Messiah!

Derrick said...

What an excellent synopsis! And attractively illustrated. I'm sure many people would find a way into opera if the storyline was presented in this way.

Madame DeFarge said...

Oh, the ease with which men are reduced to mush by the advances of floozies.

Sandy said...

Bravo! Is it too late for me to learn to love opera? I think not!

Thank you for another beautifully illustrated story.

Berowne said...

Hey, slow down there, rallentanda!
Bit of linguistic humor there. :-)
If you enjoyed the post, for whatever reason, I am glad to hear it. Thanks.

Berowne said...

willow: "What a wonderful operatic take on the daffodil!"

What a wonderful comment -- thanks.

Berowne said...

Derrick: "What an excellent synopsis! And attractively illustrated."

I'm always pleased to get one of Derrick's generous responses.

Berowne said...

Mme DeFarge: "Oh, the ease with which men are reduced to mush by the advances of floozies."

Story of my life. :-)

Berowne said...

And thank you for your valuable comment, Sandy.

Dedene said...

Lovely post! Carmen is one of the most beautiful operas.

Berowne said...

Dedene: "Lovely post! Carmen is one of the most beautiful operas."

Very glad to hear from you, Dedene; thanks.

joanny said...

Berowne:

I loved your take of this most wonderful Opera -- it is my favorite as I see other comments expressed the same sentiment--- I have the C/D music score that I play now and then - and enjoyed the picture imagery you choose to accompany your writing.
Thanks as always for a good read.
Joanny

Berowne said...

"Berowne: Thanks as always for a good read."

And thanks as always for a good comment, joanny.

R. Burnett Baker said...

I knew flowers could sing. I just didn't know that daffodils sang opera!

You make reading smart and fun!

Rick

Berowne said...

Rick: "You make reading smart and fun!"

What a great comment. Thanks, Rick.

joanny said...

Berowne:

Came back for a second read and look SEE..
I heart those tango shoes she is wearing Recently took up the tango and purchased a couple of dancing shoes happy to say I have the same pair, Now if only--sign-- if only I could dance as well as she--
Joanny

Pearl said...

Berowne, my only experience with opera was having played in the pit for der fleidermous (excuse my spelling -- I have a hangover :-)

I have learned something today!

Pearl

Berowne said...

Joanny: "I heart those tango shoes she is wearing."

They must really get a workout in flamenco.

Berowne said...

Pearl: "I have learned something today!"

Glad to hear it, Pearl. Thanks for the visit.

Katherine said...

Thank you for the History Lesson Berowne. I am not familiar with Opera but after having read this wonderful post .. I am going to get familiar!!! Thank You

Suz said...

It's all been said and i agree....wonderful

ds said...

Proof of bloggy synchronicity (sound of castanets): while scrounging about for an alternate post to the one that was not working this afternoon--a problem you do not have--I spent some time with Federico Garcia Lorca in his book "Poem of the Deep Song." Deep Song being the Anadlusian/gypsy folk music out of which flamenco sprang (short version)...And here you are with "Carmen"! Great synopsis of a great opera. Thank you.(end castanets)

Berowne said...

What great responses from Katherine, Suz and ds. Thanks so much.

Sun Dance Hill said...

Splendid! Ah, Carmen - you awaken fond memories. Excellent take on the photo prompt, really enjoyed this, thanks!

Berowne said...

Sun Dance Hill: "Excellent take on the photo prompt, really enjoyed this, thanks!"

Really enjoyed your comment, S. D.

Peter Goulding said...

As usual Berowne, you approach the subject from a most unusual angle. Was the flower really a daffodil or are you using poetic licence?

Catalyst said...

Berowne, you have made a story from a beautiful aria!

Angie Muresan said...

Very funny indeed. Brilliant take on the prompt.

steviewren said...

This was a unexpected direction for the photo prompt. Bravo!

Eric S. said...

I love the history lesson and the romance of the tail. I suppose I should examine opera a bit more closely.

Pat said...

I'll never forget the excitement of seeing Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones with a black cast led by Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen. I still have the LP.
Thrilling - I hope Bizet would have approved.

Berowne said...

Peter Goulding: "Was the flower really a daffodil or are you using poetic licence?"

It was just a flower. Though originally I had planned to use a British flower because I thought I could pick a dilly.

(Sorry.)

Berowne said...

Catalyst: "Berowne, you have made a story from a beautiful aria!"

Thanks. Usually it's the other way around.:-)

Berowne said...

Eric S.: "I love the history lesson and the romance of the tail."

At first I thought this might be just a typo, but then I realized that "romance of the tail" pretty well describes the opera "Carmen." :-)

Berowne said...

My thanks also to Angie Muresan, steviewren and Pat for their much-appreciated comments.

Enchanted Oak said...

Your story was engaging and beautifully illustrated. I'm a philistine about opera, but you taught me something here, and I wish I were in the class you are addressing. Play the aria for me!

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, well done! Love the illustrations too ! And congratulations on the BON!

amy said...

A colorful, circuitous journey; thank you for a fun read!

You've a creative blog here ... congrats, too, on your BON!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

I have never related the daffodil to Carmen before! I always thought Carmen was a blood red rose, now I've had sunshine dropped all over!

All I can say is WOW, your weaving history and military and opera is so enjoyable, as well as the photos you inserted. Kept me reading and smiling and wondering--did he make this all up? I loved it and will check out WOW too!

Berowne said...

Enchanted Oak: "Play the aria for me!"

Better yet, I'll SING it for you!

Hello, hello... That's funny, she hung up. :-)

spacedlaw said...

One of my favourite operas as a kid (Carmen's part falls in my voice register). I have to add that Bizet's opera could happen because Prosper Mérimée wrote the story.

Berowne said...

Pat Transplanted: "I loved it and will check out WOW too!"

Glad to hear it, thanx.

Berowne said...

spacedlaw: "I have to add that Bizet's opera could happen because Prosper Mérimée wrote the story."

A good point that I'm glad you added. Thanks.

Berowne said...

And thanks too to Vicki Lane and amy for their Bon mots. :-)

croneandbearit said...

and yes, love trumps everything. I can say that with authority as I took my own Don Juan (Devoted Spouse) to the opera and bless his heart he only fidgeted a bit. :)

Tortuga said...

I had actually never heard that story. What a neat tale. I am, sadly, not versed in opera and was lost until the last line gave away the woman's name. I've heard of Carmen, but only in a fleeting amount. My husband, however, would probably have guessed it right off. Thank you for sharing that very interesting story!

 
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