Friday, September 21, 2007

Readings for a New Opera 4

I bought a ticket to the opening night of Appomattox as soon as San Francisco Opera started accepted single-ticket orders. The fall opera reviews had not yet been assigned by SFCV, and I wanted to see the opening regardless. By the time the assignments rolled around, I had plans to attend the Sibelius Festival in Los Angeles, and it looked as though I'd be heading south on October 6, the day after the premiere, so I took Appomattox off my list of operas I'd like to review.

As things have turned out, I inherited the Appomattox assignment from the original writer. I will use the reviewer's ticket and my partner will use the ticket I purchased. (For some reason, SFO is giving reviewers a single seat. I understand this when it's Music@Menlo, which performs in venues seating 200 and 350, but War Memorial Opera House, with its 3200 seats, is an order of magnitude bigger. Color me puzzled.)

I have not studied American history in any organized fashion since I was in high school, a shocking number of years ago, so you can guess the state of my knowledge of the Civil War. I asked around and cruised the downtown San Francisco Borders Books, then purchased these at Cody's in Berkeley:
  • The Civil War, by Bruce Catton. I've now finished this concise and extremely readable history of the war. The length makes the tale it tells no less moving, and perhaps even heightens the intensity. I liked it very much, and yet I'm all too aware that it was published in 1960 and is thus nearly 50 years behind current research into the turmoil.

  • Battle Cry of Freedom, by James McPherson. Unlike Catton, McPherson is a professional historian, and brings all of the historian's tools to bear in this 900-page 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner. He spends 50 pages just providing an overview of the economic and social state of the United States in mid-century; the footnotes could provide me with years of reading. (A vast survey of the 19th century transportation revolution: just my thing.) I'm only 20 pages in, but loving it so far.

  • Memoirs, by Ulysses S. Grant. A friend reminded me that I could read very directly about one important participant's experience of the war and Appomattox. I plan to at least skim this before the day.

  • The Civil War, by Ken Burns. Okay, not a reading. I missed this in its PBS incarnation; thank goodness for Netflix.
I'll still be at the Sibelius Festival, by the way - but I'll be filing my Appomattox review from Santa Monica.


M. C- said...

> Color me puzzled.

count the number of journalists there for a major opening like appomattox, multiply by $225 per orch seat, and that's the amount of ticket revenue they'd be losing if they gave out all pairs.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You're undoubtedly right. 100 journalists vs. the 10 who normally covering an opening?

Anonymous said...

Today's NY Times article on the new Glass opera is headlined "If Grant Had Been Singing at Appomattox," though the Thurber piece is never mentioned in the text.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Ask Steve about it on his blog: