Tuesday, June 7, 2011

[For Writer's Island, ABC Wednesday and Sunday Scribblings]
“U” is for “Unblemished.”
(As in an unblemished record.)
Good morning.
Our European History class will begin by studying the country of Spain, and we’ll start with the era before the Spanish-American War.
Take notes; this will be an important part of the final exam.
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 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 powerful 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 take the next step, 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, incomparable 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!”


JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

very interesting story! I love it!


Meryl said...

Great post. Just loved it. Sad and wonderful what love can wreak!

Roger Owen Green said...

unfortunate couple, but lovely telling of the tale.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Jane and Chris said...

Love the opera, full of passion....and really nice dresses!!
Jane x

photowannabe said...

Wow, I'm happy I attended school this morning. I am fascinated by your pictures to explain the Opera Carmen. Thank you so much.

Tumblewords: said...

Excellent remastering. This area has an ongoing attitude of discrimination toward the local Gypsies. Some things just breathe on.

Kay L. Davies said...

Your teaching and film skills come together perfectly in this post, Berowne. You inform and entertain in such a way as to make the reader want to know more; to want to continue to be entertained.
Deftly done.
Beautifully put together with words and illustrations. I would make only one change — the photo of the young soldier should be on the left, so he faces into the story, rather than into the margin. (I'm an old printer, what can I say?)
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Berowne said...

"I would make only one change — the photo of the young soldier should be on the left, so he faces into the story, rather than into the margin."
You're absolutely right, Kay. I worked for years as a professional cinematographer, so I am well aware of such things. It's good to get solid pro comment; thanks.

Leslie said...

I wish I could take a class from you - you really have a way with words, eve if we know the story.

Rinkly Rimes said...

You always manage to be original and informative at the same time. And any reminder of 'Carmen' is a good one.

{krista} said...

Ah, the things men will do for a woman...

Kate said...

Your discourse on Carmen was beautifully done! Appeciated all the historical information. Re. your comment on my blog with the crepe cart. People here pronounce it both ways, depends on your language skills. My mother spoke French so I use the French pronunciation. Get some strange looks sometime, tho.

Elizabeth said...

A wonderful post about a wonderful opera, Berowne. x

Berowne said...

kris: "Ah, the things men will do for a woman..."
A line like that just cries out for a quote:
"When you see a gent
Paying all kinds of rent
For a flat that could flatten the Taj Mahal.
Call it hell, call it heaven,
It's a probable twelve to seven
That he's only doing it for some doll!"
("Guys and Dolls")

Maryhocam said...

I loved the post. I know the aria but not the story of the opera. Love can be so difficult:-)

Berowne said...

My sincere thanks to hocam, Elizabeth, Kate, kris, Rinkly R., Leslie, Tumblewords, photowannabe, Janex, Roger O G, Meryl and JJRod'z for some most encouraging comments. :-)

lucychili said...

interesting thanks =)

Everyday Goddess said...

very enlightening for me, i'm glad to know more about the opera.

the gypsy worked it's magic on us both! :)

Amanda said...

I'm not really a big fan of opera but this post I liked!

Anonymous said...

Another jam-packed..colourful..and musical post Berowne..Jae Rose

annell4 said...

I liked this post very much!

Cyn Bagley said...

Nice job - and Carmen is one of those operas that is still fun to watch. Did you know that it has been parodied as well? (Benny Hill)

Kodjo Deynoo said...

I see a lot of originality in your work, kudos to you

Berowne said...

Cym B.: "Did you know that it has been parodied as well? (by Benny Hill)"
What has not been? :-)

Berowne said...

Kodjo D.: "I see a lot of originality in your work, kudos to you."
Kudos from Kodjo -- who could ask for more? Thanks.

Berowne said...

I'm also grateful for some fine comments from annell, Amanda, Everyday G. and lucychili.

Enchanted Oak said...

My operatic ignorance is exceeded only by my enthusiasm for a good tale. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My mother's favorite opera was "Carmen," so knew what you were onto. It's true about the gypsies, or Roma - they were one of many groups targeted for genocide by the Nazis.

Thanks, as always, for a solid prompt response and another great history lesson. The images were fine, too! Amy

Berowne said...

Amy: "Thanks, as always, for a solid prompt response and another great history lesson."
I always look forward to a comment from Amy--thanks.

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