Educating Mankind with Beethoven and the Muses

Thalia.jpg
Thalia, the Muse of comedy

I remember a teacher on a mission impossible: He tried to fascinate us for the saga of Prometheus, the bad boy of the Titans in Greek mythology: First Prometheus deceived Zeus, the top Titan, by stealing the meat meant to be a sacrificial offering and gave it to mankind of whom Prometheus saw himself as the protector. Zeus deprived mankind then of the use of fire, but Prometheus stole the divine fire and again gave it to man. As a punishment Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock in the Caucasus and every now and then eagle shows up and gnaws at his liver. As terrific as Prometheus fate is, I wasn’t interested AT ALL at the age of 15 or 16.

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In the end the joker loses out to love

Play your hand! Charles Thibo

Do you play poker? I don’t. But I love to play a Luxembourg card game called “66”. You play it with the Nine, the Joker, the Dame, the King, the Ten and the Ace and the idea is to be the first to make 66 points. I learned it from my father when I was a boy and we would play until late at night to the despair of my mother who would have prefered me going to bed early. Nowadays I am teaching the game to my daughter and yes, she wins more and more often.

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A scandalous ballet with a barbaric signature

Sacre Printemps
Vitality-fertility. © Charles Thibo

The adulation of nature. Blasphemy! The sacrifice of a young woman. Horror! Music with broken harmonies, dissonance? A scandal! Paris was in uproar in 1913 after Igor Stravinsky had presented the ballet “The Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre du Printemps), the premiere almost provoked a riot in the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. “This ‘stuff’ certainly should be played on some barbaric instruments”, a critic wrote, not fully aware that he actually grasped an important aspect of the composer’s general idea: To express the idea of primitive and therefore true vitality, he wrote large parts of the piece in a fictive “barbaric style”.

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A ghost summons to Candela’s Dance of Fear

“Love, the Magician” produced by the Victor Ullate Ballet © Stephen Martinez

Love – what a strange sensation! What a delightful mystery! What a dangerous endeavor! What a perfect subject for an Andalusian ballet. Between 1914 and 1915, the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla wrote “El Amor Brujo” (Love, The Magician). A short piece, barely lasting an hour, originally scored for a mezzo-soprano voice, actors and a chamber orchestra.

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