Romeo and Juliet and queers in the military
We saw Berlioz’s symphonie dramatique “Romeo and Juliette” today at Disney Hall. Wow. The LA Phil, the LA Master Chorale, Charles Dutoit, mezzo-soprano Lauren McNeese, tenor Jean-Paul Fouchecourt, and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu.
Well, to be honest much of the symphony seemed very slow to me. I can’t find any translation of the libretto (the symphony doesn’t follow exactly Shakespeare’s play) and the YouTube music clips I find are nowhere near as powerful as the performance we just saw. I tried very hard to follow along and (along with one or two of the musicians) occasionally fell asleep. But then, somewhere around the time of Juliette’s funeral I was swept up into the music. I leaned forward and began striking my hands on my knees keeping time with the music, waving and bobbing my head like a madman. It was great! I forgave the looooong and too sweet love scene. (Love for me as a fifteen year old was nervous and active and passionate and glorious. In Berlioz’ version R and J in love are all literary and spiritual, contemplative and sublime. Perhaps sublime just never made it to Diamond Bar, California.)
Then came the wondrous bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu singing Friar Lawrence’s explanatory aria. As the Capulet’s and the Montague’s looked on (played by the entirety of the Los Angeles Master Chorale) Lemalu sang:
“Je vais dévoiler le mystère!
Ce cadavre, c’était l’époux
De Juliette. Voyez-vous
Ce corps étendu sur la terre?
C’était la femme, hélas, de Roméo.
C’est moi qui les ai mariés.”
And then much more.
Having no French I’ll tell you what I recall. “Whose are these cadavers? They are Romeo’s wife and Juliette’s husband. I married them. I desired to mend the wound that separates the two families.”
I’m tearing up already and then he sings: “Observe these dead lovers! The hate you have for each other made them die. From this example of fearless young lovers you must purge your hate.” Now I’ve got tears running down both cheeks. I’m cheering with body language, and dancing excitedly.
From this example of fearless young lovers you must learn to purge your hate.
Through the remainder of the spectacle Dutoit and the Phil put on my mind considered the notion of marriage. Firstly in relation to David and me, who aren’t married – although we’ve traded rings. Secondly I thought of the recent reprehensible politics of marriage regarding us queers.
Next I think of our soldiers, I mean OUR soldiers – the ones who still must hide. Their love and even the possibility of love.
With this I cry even more. I’m starting again now.
In Mark Swed’s review of the Friday concert he notes that “This Finale is one of music’s most inspirational calls for peace, and Dutoit made sure there was enough choral and orchestral emphasis to cause a momentary pang of guilt in politicians who wage war, in the unlikely case one might wander into Disney.” Swed and others see statements about war, the only war I can see is the one for human values we wage. The battle against um (gosh I don’t want to go all expletive about the fucking hateful religious bastards and bitches) the adversaries of freedom in our land.
Artist David Wojnarowicz’ thoughts on queers being loved from “Being Queer in America: A Journey of Disintegration”
Music takes me wonderful and unexpected places.