The Novelty Advantage

October 2, 2022

That last week’s opening night of the Metropolitan Opera presented Medea (an Italian revision of Cherubini’s Médée) reminds me of a wonderful story that Hugo Weisgall told. Leonard Bernstein had a brilliant success at La Scala conducting the work with Maria Callas in the title role. As a result, the theater gave him a generous contract that was cancelled after he conducted Puccini’s La Boheme. He was lamenting this fact to some colleagues, saying that he couldn’t understand the change of attitude by the opera company and the public. To which Virgil Thomson suggested: “Lenny, they KNOW La Boheme.”

It Was Good

May 14, 2022

Nine years ago today, I was on my last visit to Catalonia before I moved here permanently. I took this photo from my lunch table in old Girona. It remains a favorite moment.

Today I took a long walk in the vast Nature Park of Garraf of 31,679 acres (12,820 hectares), from an entrance to it that is just 8/10 of a mile from my house (1.3 km), hence about that distance from the sea (though parts of the park go much closer to the sea). I am overwhelmed by the variety of this vast park, which I have never even begun to exhaust. What a blessing to have it nearby!
Meadows remain, where I imagine grazing animals in the past.
Herbs such as rosemary and thyme abound. There are some wooded areas with Aleppo pines and holm oaks. Other trees include wild olive, fig, and arbutus. The margalló, a Mediterranean fan palm, is the most characteristic plant of the area and a protected species. In the valley bottoms the vegetation is more typical of evergreen oak woodland and features evergreen oaks, madder, boxwood, lentiscus honeysuckle, and viburnum.
I took some pretty rough steep paths that are easier to ascend than to descend!
I saw no wild animals larger than these ants—though I heard plenty of birds, singing wonderfully, and those domestic horses pictured below—but watching these ants for a few moments, when it was just them and me, was very nice!

In the past, I have seen wild boars exiting the park and crossing the road with nonchalance, and the terrain also includes rabbits, Mediterranean tortoises, quails, Bonelli’s eagles, falcons, and other birds of prey. But those were all evidently feeling shy where I was today.
Ancient dry-stone walls are everywhere in this part of the world.

Some of the old properties remain in the hands of the families.
Shepherds needed, and had, stone huts as shelters from the elements.
After an hour or two, a seat is welcome.

The way home


February 12, 2021

Lately, books that I read with pleasure in the 1970s have figured prominently in my reading. Yesterday it was this book that I took up, which is interesting but not one of my favorites. In fact, Lewis later disowned aspects of it. (He felt that he misused the term Romanticism, on which the book is largely based.) But, as we all know, he and Tolkien loved imaginary lands and their maps. The endpapers of this book thus include this map of the pilgrim’s progress (or, rather regress) through Romanticism.


December 24, 2020

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