“The rain it raineth every day”

Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch
Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch
–William Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night,” Act V, Scene 1, line 415.

Now, before you accuse me of being random in this blog, consider this:

The Bard himself wrote a play named after January 6th, and there is not a single reference to Epiphany or Christmas in the entire play. Not one! Talk about random.

“Twelfth Night” is an upstairs, downstairs play.

Upstairs, there is a bizarre love triangle. The Duke of Illyria, Count Orsino, longs to court the Lady Olivia. But she mourns for her dead brother, refusing all suitors.

Viola masquerading as Cesario
Viola masquerading as Cesario
The shipwrecked Viola puts on men’s clothing and masquerades as Cesario to work as Count Orsino’s messenger. Viola promptly falls in love with the lovelorn Duke.

When Orsino sends Cesario to beg Lady Olivia to consider his suit, Olivia falls in love with Cesario!

Meanwhile, downstairs (where we witness the drinking of much wine): Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby Belch has recruited Sir Andrew Aguecheek to woo niece Olivia. But Sir Andrew cannot manage a coherent sentence even with the lady’s maid, Maria.

Aguecheek is so exquisitely funny that he makes Sir John Falstaff look like cookie-cutter, central-casting comic relief by comparison.

Continue reading ““The rain it raineth every day””

Beltway Battle #1: Check

Freeman to the hoop
Freeman to the hoop

Hoyas 73, Eagles 49.

Ed Tapscott, head coach of the Washington Wizards
Ed Tapscott, head coach of the Washington Wizards
They clubbed them.

A little history: The last time the Eagles beat the Hoyas was December 15, 1982. Eddie Tapscott was the A.U. head coach.

Also this post has an added bonus, thanks to the synergy of the P&BD experience:

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent (i.e., tomorrow)

St. Peter tells us today: “Conduct yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (II Peter 3:12)

Continue reading “Beltway Battle #1: Check”

Quasi in Cielo

Running ten miles in 78 minutes and five seconds is by no means the most impressive thing I managed to do today. It is not even the second-most impressive thing. Of course, first prize goes to my offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in spite of my utter unworthiness to do so. Second prize involves listening to a great deal of Italian at the invitation of some friends. The Ten Miler was nonetheless pretty sweet.

The most fun part of the race was exchanging early-Sunday-morning greetings with fellow Christians. There is a team that wears shirts which read “Jesus is Lord” on the back. I have seen these guys (and women) in many Washington road races. There are other teams with Scripture verses on the back of their shirts. Whenever I pass one of them, I always say, “Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ!” The response is always something like “Praise Him!” or “He’s the One,” or just a smile between heavy breaths.

Final Scene of La Traviata
Final Scene of La Traviata
I ran a decent race—a little faster than last year. But, after saying Mass, the most impressive thing I managed to do today was to stay awake through every minute of a matinee of La Traviata. The thing is, it was not hard.

I did NOT have beer bottles in my jacket pocket which were then shattered by the soprano arias (See the stupidest beer commercial of all time.) Nor did I put my pocket-radio earphones into my ears to listen to the football game. (I did not have to: My mom texted me every time somebody scored.)

I freely acknowledge that I am sorry that I missed the game. I heard the first quarter on the radio on the way up to the Kennedy Center, and things were not looking good. Sam was ticked-off. Sonny was despondent. Obviously, there was a great change for the better later in the game. Who could expect anything less these days?

But I am not that sorry I missed the victory. Let me tell you what ran through my mind from 2:00 to 5:00 o’clock this afternoon: How have I managed to live 38 years of my life without La Traviata?

Verdi Square in Manhattan
Verdi Square in Manhattan
I thought I had been having a pretty full life. Certainly, the Lord has been good to me. But something has been missing. What have I been thinking? I have been going about my business as if nothing were fundamentally wrong. I never realized the urgency of being acquainted with La Traviata. A friend even gave me the DVD of the Zefferelli movie version two or three years ago; I never bothered to watch it. Biggest mistake of my life.

One of my companions this afternoon classed the opera as one of Verdi’s “popular” works. I do not care. I do not care that it is the Walt Disney World of operas, the one opera everyone has heard of. It is absolutely wonderful, from beginning to end. I was completely enchanted.

I would love to give you a full digest of the entire moving spectacle. I would love to explore all the themes, which include: mortality, bourgeousie social pressure, hedonism, masculine honor, fatherhood, fortune-telling, and bull-fighting. But let me leave it at this for now: Violetta is one of the most beautiful characters I have ever encountered.

She is a bad person, a “woman who strayed” (which is what “la traviata” means). The true love of a pure, innocent man transforms her into a noble, self-sacrificing soul. Their love is stronger than social propriety. Everyone else underestimates what Alfredo and Violetta mean to each other. The jealousy which makes the story tragic is so intense and so violent because the love which inspires it has the power to redeem. The music expresses it all.

I used to wonder if Verdi really deserved to have his own square at 72nd and Broadway in New York City. Yes, he is a great musician. Otello is incredibly powerful, but we have Shakespeare primarily to thank for that. Verdi’s Requiem is admirably intense, but again he is capitalizing on something that preceded him. But now that I have seen La Traviata, I concede Verdi his square in New York. I concede him much more. He is a genius. La Traviata is a work of consummate solidarity with humanity.

Plus, the Skins beat the Eagles! The Skins are going to win the division! The Skins are going to the Super Bowl!

As Alfredo sings at the beginning of Act II, it’s as if we were in heaven.