Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week Starts in Seville, Spain

 It's that time of the year once again, when masked men and women, wearing the garb of medieval penitents, carrying candles, walk alongside ancient statues transported in baroque platforms around the old, windy streets of Seville. It's Holy Week. And if you happen to be in this fabled city, you experience it in a very special way. For seven days the faithful remember with solemn resignation the passion and death of Jesus Christ with elaborate processions, some even having a curious, almost out-of-place, festive atmosphere, while others are gloomy and silent as the grave. This should all lead to a kind of rejoicing since Christ rises from the dead on the seventh day.
 It might seem odd to most of the world to see thousands of masked figures walking alongside their treasured images of Christ and Mary, his mother. To outsiders, these life-sized representations of the Virgin all look the same, and for Americans, in particular, the sight of hooded men in white robes can only bring to mind bigoted times south of the Mason-Dixon line. You're going to have to forget all of that if you want to get to the bone marrow of what goes on in the streets of Seville, and "live" Holy Week, as the locals say. These are age-old customs that can trace their lineage back to the times of the Inquisition when Spain was fighting to remain staunchly Catholic while the rest of Europe was trying on for size the Protestant experiment.

During the time of the Franco dictatorship, these processions seemed a natural outcropping of the conservative, reactionary times of the dictatorship. However, forty years after the demise of Fascist Spain, Seville and its Holy Week processions are more popular than ever, and the role of women is stronger these days than it was ever thought possible in the long history of this event.

Those knowledgeable of Scripture understand that the mystical trajectory of the week from darkness to light is a very special time for believers.  For the majority of people crowding the streets of Seville, it is a week of cultural tradition rather than religious fervor, and it is marked by seven days of little sleep. At its conclusion most "Sevillanos" just get sad that the greatest week in their calendar has come to an end.  Luckily, their sadness does not last for long. The beginning of the April Fair, another fabled cultural event, tends to dispel the gloom rather quickly.

If you would like to experience Holy Week in Seville, it is being broadcast live.  Just follow this link:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Peter Gelb and the MET from The New Yorker

In this week's issue of The New Yorker there is an interesting, in-depth article about Peter Gelb and the financial crisis that the Metropolitan Opera is facing.  Unfortunately, unless a few factors change in the near future, things are starting to look bleak for one of America's most important institutions.

The photograph by Richard Burbridge on the left, which accompanies The New Yorker article, has prompted many in social media to exclaim "would you buy a used opera from this man?"

For a short while, the article is available for free at this link: