Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

A moment’s pause..

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..to take in the fact that its past the middle of summer!

TV commercials have already turned to the ‘back to school’ tide, and offer exuberant examples of the full fall color palette..

kids in school back packs..

beaming, and ready for a return to the classroom!

..thinking that I’ve missed summer altogether, in this moment’s pause I realize that I’ve made a few summer discoveries –an author: Charles Ferguson; I’m a sucker for biographies on historical figures, and wandering through the DC second hand wonderland of Second Story Books, I happened across Naked To Mine Enemies, an epic breadth, describing the life, and context of the power of Thomas Wolsey, Chancellor of England, and Cardinal in the Roman church; instrument of Henry VIII, Wolsey’s sharp mind made him an unsavory model to the nobility of the time, and a turn in their hereditary affairs; Wolsey was a meteor, in social distinction, hurtling upwards from the ‘nothing’ birth of a commoner, to stand, unbowed, before all the greatest titles in the land, as advisor to the single greatest power in England.. a king, who used this relentless pick axe of intellect to crack the last walls, standing as restraint against his authority.. wars with France were out maneuvered by Wolsey; the ‘great matter’ of the king’s first marriage, and desire for divorce, was the wedge which split the issue of papal authority, and sovereign rule; Wolsey could not maneuver this outcome to his designs; the King did for himself, breaking with Rome to establish the church of England, with the monarch of England, perpetually, as its Head..

..the moral shudder, at the ravaging shifts in the concepts of power –man’s; God’s; people’s; ruler’s; economy- is particularly fascinating, explosive, and exploitative, in this period of Tudor times..

The book itself –a ‘real’ book (now the ‘treat’, as Kindle puts the texture of print into a realm of redundant pleasure), a 1958 printing, aged, and a little musty- lets me reminisce on my childhood uses of summer; new books, adventures of reading that created images and revelations to wallow and wander through, as deep daylight beat down hot, making the tarmac of the city, tacky and pliant at once..

..there would always be the discovery of some new music in summer as well –well, at least new to me..

This summer I’ve discovered Robert Aldridge, and his opera, Elmer Gantry..

Mid-century, American robust, full of eclectic references of various styles, although nothing of mimicry; a ‘big tent’ musical landscape at once unique, big boned, inflammatory, romantic and ominous, built as scaffolding through a sharp edged story of usury, idolatry, fanaticism, glory and religious carnage..

..unsettling that the core of the piece pulses with resonant zealotry, and the theater of current revival politics..

Absorbed in the opera, I forgot the film –itself a searing presentation of ‘old time religion’, greed and graft, portrayed by two actors of monumental talent and fearlessness: Jean Simmons and Burt Lancaster..

Listening to the opera.. I heard the poetry of the libretto, by Herschel Garfein, sculpted out of mid-fifties plain wit, mob sense, and fervent purposes..

The ending is incendiary, taunt, and the kind of coup de theatre that does justice to Broadway, and Sinclair Lewis.

..but in its meat, this Elmer Gantry is full of craft and inventive melody that is, indeed, propulsive, and effective Broadway.. leading me to consider that musical theater’s hope for that boulevard, is in its vein of things ‘operatic’..

-leading to a different slant on the argument, of ‘musical theater vs. opera’; another thing read and digested this summer, written in the New York Times by Anthony Tommasini: Opera? Musical? Please Respect The Difference

..and now I’m smiling..

-because this is summer.. having the time to rope one thought to another, follow one course, then slip into a diagonally opposing one, only to nap in between impulses, knowing that the sun will hang out longer, and the days’ ..duties ..will.. dawdle.. into..

whatever..

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