Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In The Big City: Dark Sisters, presented by the Pittsburgh Opera

Last night, I had the opportunity to see the Pittsburgh Opera's presentation of Nico Muhly's modern opera, Dark Sisters.  It has taken me several hours to try to process my feelings about it, and I am still not sure how well I am going to be able to convey them.

The opera is about a group of people who belong to the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as FLDS.  The are a polygamous family; one husband, 5 wives, and countless children.  The opera opens with the group's ranch having been raided by government officials.  All the children have been removed, and we see each wife crying out for her children.  The husband, who serves as the prophet, tells the women he is leaving to ponder God's will, as the women are left behind to seek perfect obedience which will lead to perfect faith.

32 the prophet receives a revelation

One of the wives, Eliza, is beginning to doubt the validity of the group's beliefs; when she learns her teenage daughter has been promised to a middle aged man in marriage, she begins to think the prophet is a false prophet.  Most of the other wives are perfectly obedient and accepting of the religious dogma; only Ruth, who suffers from mental illness, does not follow blindly.  Eventually the husband returns home, as we see the wives deal with the jealousy of sharing the person they love the most, in the most intimate way possible.

The second act opens with the wives being interviewed for a national news show.  The women try to emphasize that they only care about the children, and that they are happy and free in their choices.  Suddenly Eliza reveals on national television that she was a child bride, and that she is not free.  As the show closes, we learn that Eliza has sought freedom by leaving the sect, while Ruth has also sought freedom, by committing suicide.

0369 Eliza says goodbye

This was an incredibly complex show; the music is complex, the moral themes at play are complex, and the emotions evoked are complex.  I was surprised, first off, to find frequent moments of levity and dark humor in the show.  I think they were perfectly timed, and absolutely necessary.  They helped counterbalance the starkness of the reality of subject matter.

In terms of the topics, as I already said, I am fascinated by the FLDS.  It saddens me to see the women enslaved by the bounds of their religion.  The increase in child brides is tantamount to human trafficking.  I feel for the women who have no choices.  But some women do feel they have a choice, and they are willingly choosing their faith.  This is where the matter becomes sticky for me.  At what point does this stop being a human rights issue, and start becoming an issue of religious freedom?  Are the two things mutually exclusive?  I was glad I went into this experience well read on the topic of the FLDS.  It made me appreciate the extreme attention to detail in the music and staging.  The show was on point with everything I have ever learned about the FLDS life.  And the constant muttering of "keep sweet", meaning to put on a happy face and be a perfect wife, was almost eerie.

Although not my first live opera, this was my first experience with a modern opera.  As a chamber opera, the experience was much more intimate.  It was in a smaller setting, and the minimalist set helped draw the audience into the characters and story.  The music was complex and rich, but what really made the show, for me, was the amount of feeling the performers portrayed from an acting standpoint.  I felt the anguish of these women.  The moment that struck me was when Eliza revealed her child bride status on television, and the wives began to insist she was lying.  Oh, the looks on their faces, it just made that moment so real, so frightening.

I highly recommend the show to anyone well versed in opera, or particularly interested in the topics of polygamy and the FLDS religion.  This was a much different experience than any other cultural event I have ever attended, and now, more than 12 hours later, I find myself feeling like the show makes the concepts of right and wrong much less clear cut.

0220 the sisters hold on to each other

I received tickets to this show compliments of the Pittsburgh Opera in exchange for my honest review.  All views presented here are 100% original and honest.  All pictures were provided by the Pittsburgh Opera and used with permission.

In addition, the Pittsburgh Opera provided me with tickets to give away to a reader.  Congratulations to Samantha Miller for winning those tickets.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Across the Snowy Places

This has been one of the coldest, wickedest winters of recent memory.  Certainly the worst since I moved to Kittanning.  I find that most nights, we are perfectly content to snuggle in the bed with the dogs, and read or watch movies.  Who would want to go out in these frigid temperatures.  Why, at this very moment, I am writing this post to help avoid going out into the cold to start my car and let it warm up.  Schools have missed a million days, pictures of negative temps on dashboards or phone apps flood my Facebook feed, and pretty much everyone is grumpy.  Which may make what I am about to say a very unpopular statement:

I am kind of in love with winter.

Long Shadows

Now, do not get me wrong.  I hate driving in snow.  It makes me a nervous wreck.  I worry about Hubby's daily commute to and from work.  I avoid driving in snow when possible. And I do not especially like the chapped skin, the piercing cold, the higher heating bills, the gross salt on my car, and pants, and shoes.

But those moments when we are cuddled together, under mountains of blankets, looking out at a vast white canvas of land, those moments when the sun paints gorgeous colors across the woods those moments when all it takes to warm me is a kiss and a cup of coffee, well, how could I not be in love with those moments?

So whether today is a snow day full of cocoa and blankets, or a day when you are out braving the negative temperature, let this playlist remind you of the breathtaking beauty that winter can hold.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: N is for Nineties

My senior picture, oh the hair.
I miss the 90s.  There, I said it.  Do not get me wrong, I would not want to go through high school or puberty ever again, that ish was hellacious.  But everything else about that time was, in my opinion, amazing.  I was relishing my teenage years, I could eat whatever the heck I wanted with pretty much no consequences.  The bigger my hair was, the better my day was going to be. When I finally started straightening my hair, you know it was adorned with little barrettes. We had only recently gotten cable, and I loved watching 90210 and Melrose.  I was reading VC Andrews, Stephen King and Danielle Steel.  I was wearing flannel, overalls, and showing my belly button in a discrete, classy way.  I wanted to date Jordan Catalano.  I knew that Rose had plenty of room on that piece of wood for Jack.  The time was, in a word, iconic.

By far, the most iconic thing about this time was the music.  I know everyone has songs that mentally transport them to their youth, but I feel the 90s was extra rich, musically.  You saw the surge of grunge, the birth of indie rock, the mainstream acceptance of rap and hip hop.  There were so many amazing musical moments in this decade, that a tiny little playlist can hardly do it justice.  I have boiled it down to my very favorites, ones that shuttle me back to specific moments in my youth.  So put on your doc martins and baby doll dresses, grab that jean jacket and have a listen.  See if this doesn't make you want to watch Reality Bites.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Giveaway: Dark Sisters, presented by the Pittsburgh Opera

Loyal readers of this blog know that I have not posted much lately, and I have not done a giveaway in forever, but this week presented an opportunity that I could not wait to share!

Have you ever become totally fascinated with a topic?  I do not mean merely interested, I mean fascinated.  You devour every book, movie, documentary, web page, television series, or news article related to the topic.  It consumes your mind during moments of idleness.  You try to immerse yourself in the topic, to experience it from all angles.  This happens to me a lot.  And lately, my fascination has been with polygamy.

About 5 years ago, I stumbled upon a television series that was a fictionalized account of a polygamist family.  I instantly became hooked.  When the series ended, my interest in the topic dropped.  Then a reality show about polygamy became popular, and once again I was hooked.  Only this time, the topic had staying power.  I found myself spending hours searching online about polygamist cultures.  I have read numerous books written by former polygamists, and I have watched several documentaries.  I sought out any type of media on the topic.  The only thing I was missing was something musically oriented.

Photo: SOOOOO EXCITED! The first orchestra rehearsal for Nico Muhly's DARK SISTERS is in a few minutes, right here in Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Can't wait to hear it! Live orchestra music in our offices is pretty awesome.

Which is why I totally geeked out when I learned that the Pittsburgh Opera was presenting Nico Muhly’s opera Dark Sisters.

Exploring issues of suppressed individuality and subservient women’s roles, the opera uses episodes from the media – most recently the 2004 raid on FLDS leader Warren Jeffs’s compound in West Texas – to tell the story of the women’s suffering, and how one woman tries to escape. Premiered in 2012, DARK SISTERS revolves around sister-wife Eliza, who has a profound self-discovery after the world comes to the gates of her family’s complex, run by The Prophet. During an appearance on national television to defend her way of life, Eliza makes a dramatic confession, and her world falls into chaos. Resolving to make her own way in the world, she faces the consequences of leaving everything she has ever known.

Doesn't that sound amazing?  I learned that this particular opera often sells out, so I really doubted I would get to see the chance to see it.    So when the Pittsburgh Opera presented me with a chance to see the show and review it, I was ecstatic.  When I found out I was also going to be able to giveaway 2 tickets for my readers to see the opera, I was over the moon.

This is a wonderful opportunity to experience opera.  This is a modern opera, sung in English.

Entry to the giveaway is easy, using the form below.  I simply want to know, what topic fascinates you?

Additional entries are also available.  Participants must be 18 or older.  Tickets will be available at will-call with photo ID. The performance is at 8 PM on Friday, January 31 at the CAPA Theater, 111 Ft. Duquesne Blvd. Winner will be notified Wednesday January 29 via email.

What are you waiting for?  Enter now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: M is for Melancholy, Baby

IMG_2089 edit
In general, I am a pretty happy person.  I laugh all the time, I smile a lot, and I can start a conversation with darn near anyone.  I am laid back and easy going.  I think happiness is one of the greatest things ever.  However, I fully believe that in order to fully appreciate happiness, you need to experience sadness.  For years after graduate school, I was terribly lonely.  I lived alone, in a strange city.  The only people I knew were the people I worked with, and most of them were married with families.  I did not have many friends, and other than the occasional date, I did not have anyone keeping me company, other than my cat.  In short, I spent many years being pretty melancholy.

Even though I am no longer lonely, because I have a husband whom I adore, as well as wonderful friends and family, pesky but adorable pets, and I job that makes me super happy, I still appreciate the beauty that can be found inside melancholy.  Some of the greatest stories in the world have dark, melancholic tones.  Some of the places I deem most beautiful are places that others see as stark and sad.  And the music, oh the music; I adore a piece of music that can move me to tears.

Life is never all good or all bad, all light or all darkness, all joy or all despair.  It is by experiencing both ends of the spectrum that we truly feel, and truly live.  So, as I sit here with a life full of abundant happiness, I reflect on the sadness I have endured in my own life, the struggles of the others around me, and the beauty that can be found therein.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: L is for Library Ladies

UntitledAbout six weeks ago, I started working at a local library.  And I fell in love with my job.  This comes as no surprise, I have been an active library patron since childhood.  As a kid, my parents took my to the large, beautiful library in our county seat.  I loved it there, I wanted to live there.  I spent a lot of my summer days at that library.  When school was in session, I loved the days the Bookmobile would come to school.  In college and grad school, I spend hours upon hours in the libraries.  When I moved to Pittsburgh, I did not change my voter registration for many years, but I immediately got a library card.  So, yeah I kind of love libraries.

You know how some kids play school, or house, or doctor?  I played library.  I taped little pockets into the backs of my books, and made registry cards so people could check out the books.  Not even joking.

The best part of my new job is it combines so many things I love:  books, social media, technology, pop culture, community outreach.  It is pretty much the perfect job for me.  I still cannot believe I get paid to do this stuff!  And the ladies I work with are so awesome.  They are supportive and encouraging, and I love going to work each day.

So, the heart of this book worm is going pitter pat with love over the fact that I now get to be a library lady.  Because I do not have a Library Science degree, I am technically not a librarian, but who knows what the future holds.  In the mean time, enjoy this bookish playlist for all my library ladies out there.