Monday, March 28, 2016

Tales of Hoffmann: Signor Formica

Over the holiday weekend, I had time to finish a Hoffmann tale! "Signor Formica" is pretty interesting, but not from the usual perspectives.

And no, it's not about countertops.

"Signor Formica" tells a purportedly true adventure of Baroque-era painter Salvator Rosa, who was also a printmaker and poet, and had a remarkable life full of adventure. (That's a self-portrait above.) The story begins approximately in 1649, when Rosa returns to Rome after various adventures in Naples, including rumors of being involved with a group of banditti.

Rosa encounters some strange folk, including the unscrupulous Dr. Splendiano Accoramboni (called the "Pyramid Doctor" for his peculiar headwear), who treats ill artists in hopes of reaping paintings as payment...and only to let them die. Rosa manages to survive and send the doctor on his way, then befriends Antonio, a young barber/surgeon who's also an aspiring painter. Rosa praises a painting of Antonio's that depicts the Magdalen in a new and interesting way, and divines that it's a girl that Antonio is in love with. And of course, she's the ward of a forbidding old man, Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia, a pretentious dandy who fancies himself a great composer and singer, but who is truly execrable. And Signore Pasquale has two great friends, a dwarf named Pitichinacchio and the aforementioned Pyramid Doctor.

The rest of the story goes into how Rosa cons and tricks Capuzzi and his friends, gets the lovers together, and how justice serves all.

It's not supernatural at all, but it's a good read. There's some meditating on art that doesn't overwhelm the story, and lots of funny action with plot and counterplot with Rosa and Antonio on one size and Capuzzi and his friends on the other. And while reading this, I kept thinking what a great comic opera or operetta it would make. And there's scenes set in the opera house that just call out for a talented composer to have fun composing bad music. (The "Signor Formica" of the title is an opera singer who seems to set out especially to communicate with, or embarrass, Capuzzi, and is one of the big players of the story.)

To wrap up, this is hardly the core of D&C material, but it's still a fun read that begs for a spirited adaptation somewhere along the line. It's also an intriguing early entry into the "fictional adventures of a real-life person" genre that we see so often today. So, not for everyone, but for those in need of a chuckle or two, check it out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Quick Personal Note

I haven't been posting much lately. It's a busy season at work and it's taking a lot out of me this year, and when I am home and have time to read I've been reading slowly. And on my laptop I've had problems with a persistent browser hijacker that crashes my Firefox and also tries to hijack Chrome. Grrr. I'm experimenting with various possible ways of handling it. Right now I just zapped all my extensions on FF and seeing how that works out. I have a sneaking suspicion that one of my browser extensions may be the problem.

When I do go out, I don't want to think about anything and just enjoy myself. I recently saw a performance by the Orlando-based troupe Phantasmagoria, called "Wicked Little Tales," in which they interpreted various stories (including "The Raven," Dickens' "Captain Murderer," and others, culminating in a chillingly dark rendition of "The Jabberwock"). It was an excellent evening and I strongly recommend them if they're in your town, or if you're in Orlando.

I'm going to take it easy for the rest of month, blog-wise. I'll continue reading and sampling things and if I get something good and can get my browser to work long enough to let me post it, I'll get it up. But don't be surprised if you don't hear anything from me for a couple of weeks....

Monday, March 7, 2016

March at the Phantom Opera House!

Tonight we're all dolled up in our vintage and bohemian finery...we're going to the opera!

The show is that old warhorse "Carmen," but it's effectively done, as you can see here...

"Carmen," despite its overfamiliarity, has a ton of great music, and when done right has a load of atmosphere. It can also be seen as a precursor to film noir, with its tale of a good man led astray by a heartless, manipulative woman. The song above sets things in motion...she warns them all that she's a danger, but still tempts and coaxes Don Jose to self-destruction.

Just think...where would actresses like Lizabeth Scott and Peggy Cummins be without Carmen?

Show's over...let's go back to my place for a bite, shall we?