Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ono Yoko

(road  top  small  mind   one  road  smooth or flat  secure)

I've been watching Yoko Ono's interviews and happened to come across the above words on my Chinese FB friend's post.  I thought it sums up my feeling about Yoko and also anyone's life. 

I watched her on David Frost's show for the first time and saw young and free-spirited Yoko, and when she said, I'm mad at you, David, I think it's because he has invited a belligerent man and woman purposely to create heated discussion with John and Yoko.  I saw Frost's shoulders tightened when he replied no to Yoko.   How much courage she had to muster up to that point in her life and before the television camera as an artist who is deeply rooted in totally different culture. Most of us try to avoid confrontation almost at any cost, especially women.  I felt pain watching her on Dick Cavett's show.  A lot must have happened between those shows, I thought. She seems not herself.  John keeps talking, and Cavett's eyes swim past Yoko and hardly look Yoko directly into her eyes. She no longer quips much or challenges the interviewer.  She is mostly quiet. 

But I also watched her video オノ・ヨーコへの質問 1/3 – 3/3  for the first time.  What a relief!  This sums up my thought 路上小心一路平安

The photo is my mini rose that has survived.  It is related to my recent water-bill mishap, but what a joy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Madame Butterfly Forever: Miura Tamaki (1884-1946)

Miura Tamaki and Giacomo Puccini 

She met Puccini in 1920 at Teatro Constanti, Rome when she performed Madame Butterfly. He came to see her with his wife and was so impressed with her performance.  He told her she was true ciocio san of his dream.   Because of the Madame Butterfly debut at the Milano Scalla was a big failure, and Puttini was very angry about it, he disallowed the Milano Scalla to perform Madame Butterfly ever.  So, she never performed Madame Butterfly there.  She visited Puccini's lakeside house many times.  He requested her to sing Japanese songs. She did, and he integrated those songs she sang into his composition later.  

I didn't like Madame Butterfly before, but I understand now how exquisite her performance must have been.  She knew the pain of love and Meiji women.  

As a typical of the Meiji era, she was pressured to marriage.  Her father pushed a military doctor for her husband and told her if she married him she could continue her music activities.  So, she married him without falling in love.  

Her role as an music educator and performer prospered, so she wasn't a dedicated wife to her husband as ordinary wives were then.  So, one day her husband gave her ultimatum that he was assigned to the Sendai unit, northeast, and wanted her to go with him.  That meant death to her because the only music school was in Tokyo where she taught and learned.  

She explained to her husband that her passion and mission of her musical career was not only for her personal purpose but for elevating Japan's culture before the world.  He understood and they divorced. Probably because of it, she wrote, what we refer to today, feminist essays.  I've read only a bit, but I could see her deep personal thought on women and our choice or no choice.  

In the essay I read, she often used the word, dignity.  It conveys her utmost feeling of the time while the journalists then were scandalizing her for every move she made.

Sometime after her divorce, a Tokyo University medical student and distant relative of her appeared and proposed her.  He understood her passion and mission.  He suggested that he would take a post in Singapore which would give him quite large sum of money after one year of service which would enable them to travel to Germany and both to study there for three or four years.  

They married against many oppositions including her father.  He traveled to Singapore, and in secret, she traveled to see him after six months.  Upon his return to Japan, it took more years for them to realize their dream, but they did travel to Berlin at last in 1914.  

But the political situation made them leave  Germany not long after their arrival, and they moved to England.  In London, He went to study medicine, and she stayed home.  She wrote to Sir Henry Wood three times, and got an audition.  

I'm just writing like this, but you understand how tenacious she was.  She learned some German in two month voyage from Yokohama to Berlin from her husband, and she was in London not too long.  So, she couldn't speak English yet.  Anyway, the most famous conductor in London then was impressed with her voice and performance.  She got a part right away to sing in front of high society people, and then at huge Albert Hall.  She made a success out of all her performances.

The Meiji women were oppressed, no doubt about it.  Her mother divorced her husband eventually also.  He made many troubles related women which was typical things for men then.  Women had no choice.  After her divorce, her mother was living alone, and later, Tamaki invited her to live with her. 

Mother made all Tamaki's kimono, so Mother was accomplished kimono maker.  Many women made their own kimono, but I'm sure not many could cut most expensive silk with design that must match exactly.  Mother also let her daughter go so that Tamaki could pursue her dream in Berlin.  So, when Tamaki sang Madame Butterfly, her thought of self-sacrificed Meiji women like her mother, her own experiences of failed and successful love, and every emotion came together.  

Tamaki also met an accomplished Japanese dancer in Paris, and she helped Tamaki choreograph her movements to show deep emotions.

After London, Tamaki and her husband went to New York.  Then, he went to Yale University to continue his study.  She signed a contract with Chicago Opera Company as a Metropolitan singer with help of Japan's consulate and a man from Metropolitan.  She sang in Washington DC, Boston, Saint Louis, Indianapolis, South America, and from May 27th 1918, she sang at Metropolitan in NY.  Enrico Caruso played her opposite.  

She played Madame Butterfly 2000 times in the US, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, and many countries.  In the U.S., she sang before President Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge.  After 20 years in overseas, she returned to Japan and continued her career as the war escalated.  

Her second husband returned to Japan earlier and received his PhD on his vitamin C research, but he died wishing to be with her.  She had contractual obligations, so she could not be with him.  Her mother survived until she returned to Japan, but later died.

From "Miura Tamaki  Madame Butterfly Forever" written by  Takahashi Iwao  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Interview: Julia Stein, a Los Angeles Poet

A great interview of Julia Stein, a Los Angeles poet.

To read the link below is to understand what political poems are.  Also Julia Stein wrote to poets who do not seek money for their work and told them to understand contracts and get paid.  I respect her for it.  No poets ever told me that.

She has published five books of her poems.  I have all, except one.  I have to get the fifth one next time I see her.  She's been my teacher in creative writing and also a very good friend of mine.   Because our backgrounds are so different, I've been learning so much from from her.

To me, she is a descendant of Electra, and most of all, I appreciate her openness.