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November 01, 1964 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1964-11-01
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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- Z ..

(Continued from preceding page)
But when I breathe with the birds,
The spirit of wrath becomes the
spirit of blessing,
And the dead begin from their dark
to sing in my sleep.
In the title poem, "The Far Field,"
Death is recognized, confronted and be-
comes a stimulus
I am renewed by death. though of
my death.
The dry scent of a dying garden in
September,
The wind fanning the ash of a low
fire,
for the poet sees things of higher value--
a prime reality above the "lesser realities"
of pain and death:
What I love is near at hand,
Always, in earth and air.
All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular
bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen
snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened
pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain
slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree:
The pure serene of memory in one
man,-
A rippling widening from a single
stone
Winding around the waters of the
world.
This last image, a finitude of Self that
ripples out to touch infinitude, affirms
the Self as the center while at the same
time, acknowledges a constant relation-
ship to things outside it.
The second section, "Love Poems," is
not particularly exciting in the face of
the last two sections. One poem in the
third, "Mixed Sequence," strikes me:
"Elegy." It reminds me of an earlier
poem in "Words for the Wind," "Elegy
for Jane " I became aware of the beauty
of both in that they both say so much
about love and compassion not by being
drippy and sentimental, but by being
tough, flat, harshly ironic and just plain
funny.
Like Dylan Thomas' "In Memory of
Ann Jones," "Elegy" tells of the life,
death and funeral of another gnarled old
woman. And wonderfully like it too, the
imagery is rich and violent:
Her face like a rain-beaten stone on
the day she rolled off
yet powerful and meaningful exactly be-
cause it is juxtaposed with humor; humor
that in its absurdity, makes the poem
human and alive:
With the dark hearse, and enough
flowers for an alderman,-
And so she was, in her way, Aunt
Tilly.
The dead woman is transformed into a
symbol of life and love, though Roethke
pulls a poetic "fast one" by slipping back
to the traditional form of the elegy: the
celebration of the hero's eternal life in
another sphere.
Terror of cops, bill collectors, be-
trayers of the poor,-
I see you in some celestial super-
market,
Moving serenely among the leeks and
cabbages,
Probing the squash,
Bearing down, with two steady eyes,
On the quaking butcher.
"Sequence, Sometimes Metaphysical,"
is the final section of "The Far Sield."
As illustrations, the first and last poems
indicate both its range and entire book's
greatness.
John Keats thought the act of love
a sort of Little Death, the one that pre-
ceeded the big one, the one existential-
ists bravely call the "void." Up to this
section, Roethke has detailed love well
enough,-in it, he breaks from the bond-
age of Self. from the barriers of the real
world, and seeks an alternative to the
void: union with God.
Plain, ugly, Death is hard to accept.
For "he big, bouncine, masculine "I" that
Theodnro Roethke was, it certainly must

have been even harder. The recognition
of Death the denial of Self, a knowledge
of an alternative to Self and the extin-
guishing of S-if, are the subjects of "In
A Dark Time." It begins in terror-the
darkness of the night, of the soul:
In a dark time, the eye begins to
see:
yet the eye only "begins" to see, this is
only the start of agony. What the eye
sees is Death, the Self, the other Self,
and the human condition,-and there is
torture because that condition has not
been transcended. The second part of

... oH t

the poem begins from this chaos, this
flux of identity:
What's madness but nobility of the
soul
At odds with circumstance? The days'
on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweat-
ing wall.
That place among the rocks-is it a
cave
Or winding path? The edge is what
I have.
This is the hell of the "Inferno," the
barrenness, the sterility, of "The Waste
Land," the tight-rope of reason in a
Kafka novel. The "steady stream of cor-
respondences" that follow in the third
part are both symbols of dissolution of
the Self and reminders of the invisible,
the divine, world. Birds sing, the moon
is ragged, all sense of time is lost; the
poet is led full circle in the purgation of
Self. The natural Self dies in the fires
of the supernatural:
A man goes far to find out what he
is-_
Death of the self in a long tearless
night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural
light.
In the concluding section of the poem,
the weight and now, ugliness of the Self,
becomes too much to bear. Light, sym-
bolically, becomes more frightening as
thet darkness thickens:
Dark, dark my light, and darker my
desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened
fly
Keeps buzzing at the sill.
And here I hear Emily Dickinson and her
beautiful poem about a last moment and
its seeming triviality when a fly inter-
rupts and "buzzes," yet even more, I
hear Roethke's identification/disgust
with a tiny, annoying, filthy thing. This
is the moment before the void, the height
of fear. But there is no annihilation,
the moment passes and knowledge' comes:
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the
mind,
And the one is One, free in the tear-
ing wind.
The last poem, "Once More, The
Round," recalls the dances, the gaiety
W.B. Yeats began when he assumed his
stance as a tragic poet. Theodore Roeth-
ke in his final poem, does not deny Death,
nor does he hide behind his God. He
acknowledges and affirms and is, in fact,
"free in the tearing wind,"- a man who
must still face the world. What greater
courage than to take in non-being, to af-
firm life in spite of all:

Now I adore my life
With the Bird, the abiding Leaf,
With the Fish, the questing Snail,
And the Eye altering all;
And I dance with William Blake
For love, for Love's sake;
And everything comes to One,
As we dance on, dance on, dance on.
G. Abbott White
GIORDANO: "Andrea Chenier" with
Antonietta Stella, soprano; Franco
Corelli, tenor; Mario Sereni, baritone
and Paolo Montarsolo, bass. Rome
Opera House Chorus and Orchestra.
Gabriele Santini, conductor. Angel
Stereo CL 3645.
"ANDREA CHENIER," like Giordano's
"Fedora," is an opera of the heart,
not the mind. Emotions primarily ruled
the composer, for Giordano was neither
a logician nor a skillful musician. But his
opera with its panoramic view of the
French Revolution beckons to the arm-
chair historian; its surge of passion over-
weighs its musical shortcomings, feeble
climaxes, tonic chords, unresolved har-
monic ideas. Here is the riddle of "An-
drea Chenier:" not a work of the first
rank, yet galvanic in its power over opera
audiences. Why? Because Giordano un-
derstood, better than any Italian com-
poser except Verdi, the impact of irony
upon music drama, and for all his inept-
ness as a musician, Giordano knew how
to use pathos to strike straight to the
listeners heart.
Listening to the four recorded per-
formances (three in the domestic cata-
logue and one import), it becomes in-
creasingly evident that much of Gior-
dano's music is more purely incidental,
more dependent on stage spectacle, whol-
ly less well able than most verrisimo
operas to hold its own without stage ac-
tion to support it. Given the visual
images, the music builds up tension ef-
fectively, but coming out of a speaker
system, it is less than exciting. None of
the recently recorded performances (An-
gel, London, Cetra) can be considered
truly artistically rewarding and drama-
tically exciting, and judging by them
alone, one would concede even less merit
to Giordano than he actually deserves.
On paper and at the Met the names
of the performers on the new Angel re-
cording would bring loud cheers, but lis-
tening to the performances at close quar-
ters with a score, one finds less and less
to cheer about. We find Franco Corelli
flexing his clarion vocal muscles in an
almost non-stop display of volume. He
is often insensitive to the composer's
markings, and yet he is not quite as of-

fensive in this as Mario del Monaco in
the London recording, who tends to
shout much of the time. Compare the
treatment dealt by both tenors in the
improvviso in the lines uttered to Mad-
dalena "Sol l'occhio vostro," marked
pianissimo: Corelli valiantly attempts to
follow the composer's markings, but Del
Monaco yells at her as robustly as at
anyone else. Of course this sort of ap-
proach leads to some spreading and
sprawling around notes and far too few
cleanly focused, expressive phrases.
Chenier, after all, is a poet, and for a
better likeness of a tenor as the poet we
have to turn to Benjamino Gigli's inter-
pretation of "Andrea Chenier" on Odeon
record. He fills the character with
lyricism, and yet is riot wanting in the
dramatic sections as in "Si fui soldato,"
in Act III. Andrea's final aria is treated
in a genuinely poetical manner-to the
degree that this is possible for an Italian
tenor. On the other hand, Corelli's and
Del Monaco's emotionally overwrought
and stentorian assaults on "Come un bel
di di maggio" would hardly qualify this
aria as a "gem of lyricism."
By any reckoning, Gerard's first aria
"Son sessantanni, o vecchio che tu servi,"
is melodically undistinguished; at the
same time any baritone worth his salt
can make something of it when he sees
the old figure of his father staggering
under the heavy burden to give him
his cue. None of the three baritones
makes much of this scene. Bastianini
(London) seems the least satisfactory of
the lot; he renders the piece in a full
undifferentiated tone without musicality
of expression. Gino Bechi on Odeon is
a bit dry sounding, though dramtically he
is much more apt than the former. An-
gel's Mario Sereni has the right type of
voice and he colors it effectively to ren-
der this scene more meaningful.
Few baritone arias of the repertoire
are more moving than the famed "Nem-
ico della patria," prize song of the opera
for Gerard. Serious from the outset it is
unrelieved in its somber brooding and
deep tragedy-a far cry in this case from
the sentimental pathos of most veristic
arias. Bechi and Sereni are impressive
in this in their different ways. Sereni's
searing voice and vehemence seem dra-
matically right, though Bechi's closer
scrutinizing of the text lends much poig-
nance to his rendition. I found Bastianini
musically uninspired and vocally uneven
in this aria. Only a peformance by Tito
Gobbi would have rendered the character
of Gerard in its proper colors.
I thought that I would never see the
day when Maria Caniglia would be out-
done in respect to overloud and inartistic
singing, but the day has arrived. Two of
this decade's "celebrities" in the role of
Maddalena have accomplished the feat.
Antonietta Stella (Angel) and Renata
Tebaldi (London); both do more than
their share of full-toned, inexpressive
singing, imperfectly shaped phrases and
sudden squalls. Neither of these singers
has the ability or the will to scale down
her voice for the first act, in order to
suggest the youth and innocence of the
girl; their matronly full tones hardly
suggest the quality required and expected
for Maddalena's "corset aria," a charm-
ing, girlish lament over the discomforts
women suffer in order to be fashionable.
In later acts, neither soprano suggests
Maddalena as the gentle aristocrat who
has acquired dignity and resolution
through suffering.
However, there are one or two magical
passages: when in the Act II duet Te-
baldi sings "Spero in voi," she is truly
beautiful; in the big soprano aria "La
mamma morta," her singing is rather
patchy with some excellent passages. An-
tonietta Stella has always been a puz-
zling singer-her tone tends to become
monotonous in color, and her under-
standing and approach to recitative
passages seem to be of a rather rudimen-
tary nature. These same faults are also
evident in this, her latest recorded effort.
Neither of these ladies is as exciting as
Maria Caniglia in this role.
The new recording is characteristic of

Angel's best stereo efforts. The London
recording is also available in stereo. The
conductors, Gabriele Santini on Angel
and Gianandrea Gavazzeni on London
have no particular style, but are satis-
factory. If stereo is a must, I would
recommend the Angel recording on its
all around better performance; but if
one is interested in Giordano's "Andrea
Chenier" rather than in Mario del Mon-
aco, Franco Corelli, Renati Tebaldi et al.,
the Odeon set should be the choice.
O Ranieri di Sorbello
THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

Vol. VI, No. 3

' alay'
1P 4
MAGA~ZI,

Sunday, November 1, 1964

Page Eight

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