Two (almost) Crazy Women
Saturday, August 19, 2017
|Dorothea (Dory) Hayley|
I became aware that actors can act (something that is not
always self-evident when I had the pleasure of taking portraits of British
actress (I am old fashioned) Juliet Stevenson in 1990 when she came to
Vancouver to promote her film Truly Madly
Deeply. I asked her to look into my lens and to express three different
emotions that I would click, rapidly, one at a time.
In my longish life as a portrait photographer I have only
photographed two women who bordered on the insane. They only acted the part. They were opera singers. One was Elizabeth Futral
who posed for me as Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and the other was Dorothea Haley
who played the part for my camera of the jilted 19th century
Australian Miss Donnithorne for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Miss Donnithorne's
Both played the part to perfection to my camera.
If you have no idea who Miss Eliza Emily Donnithorne is (the opera is brand new) you
might want to know that it is almost certain that she was the inspiration for
Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham in his Great
Opera singers can act and more so now that operas are
often filmed with closeups. Opera singers who sing in operas that are not
staged (called concert operas) as is the case for Dorothea (Dory) Haley’s performance tomorrow Sunday
at 7pm at the Mount Seymour United Church, more info here
, have to especially
act. There are no sets to put viewer/listeners into the mood.
I have been told by Haley (whom I photographed on Thursday
in my little studio) that she has a most elaborate costume for the part. And
another one, too, as she is also singing another jilted woman part Haydn’s Arianna a
Crazy Over Love
Friday, August 18, 2017
Guest Blog by Soprano Dory Hayley
Joy in Abandonment
Artistic Co-Director, Blueridge Chamber Music Festival
The third concert of the Blueridge Chamber Music Festival
features two classic stories of abandonment and betrayal. We started out with
Peter Maxwell Davies’ deliciously creepy chamber opera, Miss Donnithorne’s
Maggot, which I had been dying for years to sing. Rather than rounding out the
program with instrumental works, Alejandro Ochoa and I decided to pair it with
Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos because of their similar thematic material. We
commissioned costumes from the inimitable Diane Park and made the concert the
central “catastrophic event” of our “Red Wedding” themed 2017 season.
When I got around to learning the music several months
later, though, I thought to myself, oh dear: this program is a bit problematic
from a feminist perspective….
Haydn’s scene tells the story of Ariadne, who is left in
charge of her father Minos’ impenetrable labyrinth. When Theseus comes to slay
the Minotaur of the labyrinth, Ariadne falls in love with him, and helps him
navigate the maze with a ball of string. They escape together by sea. But in
Haydn’s piece, Ariadne awakes on the island of Naxos to find that Theseus has
abandoned her and sailed away.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ chamber opera tells the story
of a real woman who lived in Australia in the mid-19th century and became a
model for Dickens’ Miss Havisham. Miss Donnithorne is engaged to be married to
a naval officer, but he disappears on the day of the wedding. She is so
distraught that she lives for the rest of her life indoors, in her wedding
dress, with the mouldering wedding cake laid out on the table.
At first glance, these are two portraits of powerless
victims, their lives rendered meaningless by the loss of their male partners.
But as I delved deeper into the scores, I realized that both women react to a
traumatic loss with remarkable strength.
Ariadne never really loses composure in the face of
abandonment. Her noble, measured music remains solidly in the middle register
of the voice throughout. Both her arias are in major keys, and even the heated
final allegro ends with an optimistic major cadence. Perhaps this hints at the
fact that Ariadne does not mourn the loss of Theseus for long. She ends up
marrying Dionysus and having eleven children, and her wedding crown becomes the
constellation Corona Borealis.
Miss Donnithorne, on the other hand, doesn’t move on,
ever. She commits herself 100% to her life of abandonment. Her lover himself
has become nothing more than an object…what really interests her is the
atmosphere of suspension in time, and the symbols of her fixation: the moon,
the sea, and especially the wedding cake. For me, the key to the opera is a
line near the end: “I did not think that love might last so long.”
Through her dogged commitment to madness and solitude she
has turned a flimsy youthful affection into a powerful and devoted act of
performance art. Miss Donnithorne bears her fate with anger and petulance, but
also with rigour and zeal. She’s ruining her own life and relishing every
moment of it. It’s incredible fun to play this character, because you don’t
have to feel sorry for her. You just ride her wave of joy in her own
La Tormenta de Santa Rosa
Thursday, August 17, 2017
|Rosa 'Sombreul' August 17 2017|
As my birthday on August 31 approaches I become melancholy. Today
while driving our brand new Chevrolet Cruze I told Rosemary, “I have no idea
how many years we had our Malibu (which gave up the ghost on December 23 2016)
but if we keep this car for five years I will be 80. Will I be driving at that
age if I am alive?” Rosemary chose to remain silent.
Every approaching birthday always take me back to the first ones
that I remember in my Buenos Aires. We lived in a house with a very long but
narrow garden. My mother would draw a donkey (to put the tail on it) and hang a
piñata. My uncle Tony would come to take the photograph (which is one of the
few instances where I can see my father in a photograph). Sometimes my birthday
party (and I have hated cake since then) had to be postponed. August 30 is the
anniversary of Santa Rosa de Lima. On her day or near it there was usually a
terrific storm called “La Tormenta de Santa Rosa”
|Alex - top; fifth from left with cone hat|
All those smiling children in the photographs are now gone, dead or disappeared. My
birthday no longer has that relevance.
In Vancouver August 31 brings the winds of fall and our
garden goes into a slow decline. The roses are far and in between.
But there is beauty in the garden in the realization that
all things die but that they, and us, have a will to keep on while they and we
|My father at top, Alex centre bottom with the smirk|
Who knows at age 80 I may be driving the Cruze. My friend
Barbara Cook (New Zealand born) is 92 and drives a van. She has an honest-to-good
Two With Poise & Elegance
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
|Katarina Nesic & Zander Constant|
In December 1995 I photographed Evelyn Hart and dance was
never the same for me. Before that I was ignorant of the art form. Since then
my ignorance has dissipated a tad. I have also witnesses lots of dance.
While I may not be a dance critic or have proper training I have seen enough
dancers to know which are the good ones.
My appreciation for dance had an early beginning in a way in
something not quite related to dance. When I was in my late teens in Mexico
City I enjoyed going to watch frontón (jai-alai) at the Frontón México. There
were some players of this ultra fast game who the fans called fenómenos. In
Spanish it sort of means someone who has a talent that is beyond what we know
of talent. Could it be the devil himself who is involved?
The same word was shouted in the bullring of Plaza México. I
was a fan of bullfighting. Any Spaniard or Mexican interested in el “arte
taurino” will tell you (in spite of the fact that North Americans consider it a
sport, a terribly cruel sport) that the exceptional bullfighter dances with
grace while faced with danger.
Bullfighters such as Malonete were called fenómenos.
What do bullfighters and jai-alai players have to do with
dancers, be they ballet, modern or other types of dancing?
I believe that you can find easily good dancers who have
precise skills. But this is not enough. You have to have something that I call
presence. As an example Marlon Brando in a tight T-shirt was an actor with
When I watch dancers in Vancouver I look for this
skill/presence. I like to look for it among the young dancers of the Arts
Umbrella Dance Company. Every couple of years I take note of one or two that
makes my grade (even though it is my amateur grade!).
The two you see here, Zander Constant and Katarina Nesic are
dancers I have watched grow up through the years as my granddaughter Lauren, 16, has been dancing at Arts Umbrella for 8 years.
Of Nesic I can only say that she dances exquisitely with a
grace that stands out above her peers. Part of her presence is the fact that she
is blonde but has what must be almost jet-black eyes. If she happens to look at you it
is Superman using X-rays.
Zander normally wears glasses. If you notice him in a line-up
outside the Vancouver Playhouse you might suspect he is an ungainly teenager at
loss. But if you see him dance, as I have through the years, and without
glasses he is a Clark Kent suddenly becoming a Superman to match his friend Nesic!
Nesic still has a year to go at Arts Umbrella. Constant
has graduated from the program and the smart powers-that-be at Ballet BC have
selected him to be in the company as an apprentice.
The two showed up at my house on Wednesday and we sat for a
bit to eat. Talking to these two (she is 18, he is 19) is very much like
talking to polite, informed, enthusiastic adults.
It was not too long ago that Arts Umbrella Artistic Director,
Artemis Gordon told me that the dance program of her school (that in my opinion
is a dance company) cleared (some) of the streets of would be delinquents! I
By the time dance students reach that age of about 16 they
have a schedule of dance that is so long and busy that they must attend one of two schools that offer a special program that clears the afternoon for
dance rehearsals. One is Magee Secondary and the other is King Edward
Secondary. They begin early in the morning and skip physical education. A bus
takes them to Granville Island or the other location on 7th Avenue
at Quebec for the remainder of the day.
The result of this intense program is an individual with
poise, grace, manners and a self-assuredness that is almost scary. And these individuals when they graduate go to dance in the best dance companies in Europe and beyond.
Constant and Nesic posed for me together. Then I asked Nesic
(who does not need to wear any makeup) to apply makeup to Constant and
particularly under the eyes.
It was so much fun to watch this and taking their
photographs was easy. Why?
Because they are dancers. And they are fenómenos.
Guillermina Santa Bárbara Cheers Me Up
Monday, August 14, 2017
On December 24, 1964 my ship the Argentine Merchant Marine Río
Aguapey docked in New Orleans. I was the only passenger and I was being sent
back home to Veracruz after two years of service in the Argentine Navy.
With no family or friends (my shipboard young officer
friends were all quite drunk by the evening) I decided I was going to explore
Bourbon Street. I passed several noisy jazz bars playing Dixieland (not one of
my favourite moments of jazz) and headed to a strip bar. I had never seen a
stripper or a burlesque dancer take her clothes off.
Since I was an unoriginal idiot I purchased a bourbon
(what else?) and sat down to watch. The first dancer showed up on stage and
connected a jukebox. Then she made the motions much like a robot of taking her
clothes off with no expression on her face. Perhaps the only good thing going
for her was that she was not chewing gum.
As the evening progressed (I nursed
the one drink) I became more and more melancholy. A young woman approached me and sat down. She
told me her name was Guillermina Santa
Bárbara. She said she was from Puerto Rico. She had noticed my sad face and
wanted to cheer me up. We talked in Spanish (natch!) and I felt better. Perhaps my Nochebuena was not completely ruined. I have to this day no
idea if she simply was a good soul or was after my money. I was penniless. But
she gave me a 8x10 glossy.
I went back to the Río Aguapey. It was dark and silent. I
went to the bridge to find Captain Guillermo Migliorini drinking coffee. He was
a kind man and asked me how my venture to the city had been. I told him that I
had met a woman who was his namesake. We both smiled at the coincidence.
And I went to bed.
Mona Lisa - Overdrive
Sunday, August 13, 2017
|Bronwen - Mona Lisa|
She was waiting in
the car and she didn’t like it. She didn’t like waiting anyway, but the wiz she’d
done made it really hard. She had to remind herself not to grit her teeth,
because whatever Gerald had done to them, they were still sore. She was sore
all over, now she thought about it. Probably the wiz hadn’t been such a great
Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson
The name of the
dense lump of cybernetic hardware that Bobby Newmark's consciousness is jacked
into is a direct reference to the short story "The Aleph" by
Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. The titular Aleph is a point in space
which contains all other points, and if one were to gaze into the Aleph one
would be able to see or experience the entirety of existence.
Mona Lisa Overdrive – Wikipedia
With no work and more time, there is ample opportunity to
be a thinking human. And because I am a thinking human I tend to associate one
thing with another that not might have any obvious connection. For more of that,
look up who Bunny Watson is. Bunny Watson has been my inspiration since I began
this blog back in January 2006.
The scanned Fuji FP-3000B Instant Film peel (what you get
when you peel the print off) and now sadly discontinued I put away in my memory
after I filed it.
Today I thought about it. I looked for it and then I made
the connection of what in the picture was familiar to me. I would call this
some sort of contemporary Mona Lisa. I photographed Bronwen (my Mona Lisa) in
my former Chevrolet Malibu which was in our garage.
She is in a car which immediately in my imagination took
me to William Gibson’s final novel of the cyberpunk sprawl trilogy
(Neuromancer, Count Zero) Mona Lisa Overdrive.
It didn’t take long to find a paragraph of one of Gibson’s
protagonists named Mona in a car. A further connection is that Gibson's novel is somewhat influenced by Jorge Luís Borges' El Aleph who is my favourite Argentine author.