Monday, August 25, 2008

Peace requires self-control

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites,in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity,in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption,in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

- Edmund Burke, The works of Edmund Burke, vol. 4 (Waltham, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1866), pp. 51-52.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More than just an ice-cream flavor

After years of forward-thinking leadership, former BYU President Merrill J. Batemen was awarded one of his highest accomplishments: a concoction of almonds, berries and chocolate ice cream was lovingly named by the BYU creamery, “Merrill’s ABCs.”

Now an emeritus General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Elder Bateman recalls what he envisioned when he started as BYU president.

“I saw the BYU of the future as a digitized campus in the sense that you would be able to access the materials in the library from your dorm,” said Elder Bateman.

Elder Bateman was in his 60s when serving as BYU president, but an old and experienced mind didn’t hold him back from modern thinking. Elder Bateman strongly influenced the technological advancements at BYU.

During his tenure, the University was ranked among the top 50 of Yahoo! Internet Life’s “Americas Most Wired Colleges.” BYU showed 100 percent of its dorms and 60 percent of its classrooms Internet wired.

It may be difficult to realize that Bateman’s early life began with a father who worked for a dairy and a mother who owned a beauty parlor. When he was only 12, his father was in a car accident that kept him out of work for 2 years. Bateman worked every night cleaning his mother’s beauty parlor, for it was the family’s only source of income.

“I really learned how to put a beauty shop back together.”

The hair styling and cosmetics industry, however, did not keep him from becoming an academic scholar. Elder Bateman went on to receive a Ph.D. in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He later became an executive for Mars Inc., which gave him an increased appreciation for Mars candy products.

“My kids always loved going to the Bateman’s house,” said neighbor Virginia Galland. “The Batemans stayed loyal to the Mars company where President Bateman worked and they always had a great supply of candy at their house.”

With an endearing legacy of hard work and progressive “sweet” thinking, it is only natural that an ice cream flavor be named after Elder Bateman.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Die Zauberflöte: It's Eventful Premiere

It was perhaps, complete chance that the small theater was filled that evening. The splendid chit-chatting, gossiping and discussions filled the room almost in a symphonic rumble. Silly, pompous women dressed in overly "clothy" gowns and roccoco jewelry whispered to eachother in the upper boxes. They seemed to cling to the late Baroque style in their prided attitudes and overemphasized fashion. A night at the theater meant a night of sociality, where one could interact with the elegant and highly cultured class of Vienna. It also meant a night of social competition.

The scarlet carpet seemed to wave in the candlelight that evening. Wax candles flooded the simple chandelier hanging over the center chairs. The air above bended and skewed as the heat rose and cast its waxy paste on the ceiling. The room was pleasant, although a little warm. Late September wasn’t usually so hot and stuffy as it was today.

Freihaustheater auf der Wieden was situated a little out of town in the suburb of Vienna. It happened to be south of Karlskirche in a lovely neighborhood. Affluence found itself plentiful in the area with the Palace and Gardens of Belvedere only a few blocks to the east. However, the theater was extraordinarily modest in comparison with the Kärntnertor Theater situated within the city walls. Nevertheless, the theater was a hopeful business venture and after tonight it would boom with success. Emanuel Schikaneder was the owner, he being somewhat of a progressive "Renaissance Man." He was, after all, a playwright, a singer, an actor, and an accomplished musician. His most recent collaberation with the lively Wolfgang Amadeaus Mozart on tonight‘s production would be the highlight of his artistic business career.

The sound of conversations began to hush as the stage curtain ruffled as someone was trying to find the opening to come forward. It was Schikaneder, he being a bit short but with a confident posture. He was dressed professionally in a long black coat. He spoke in good Court German, "Ladies and Gentlemen. I welcome you this evening to our new creation of The Magic Flute, written by myself and composed by Mr. Wolfgang Mozart! Please enjoy the performance." There was a little commotion as a small man dressed in a "crimson pelisse and gold-laced cocked hat" (Kelly) entered the pit from the side and sat down at the harpsichord. According to the hushed whispers from the audience, his reputation was not small, and it wasn’t entirely positive either. Niemetschek would later write of him, "there was nothing special about [his] physique ... He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius." Indeed, his eyes showed feeling. They looked as if there was an influx of passion buried under hopelessness, anxiety and pain.

Nevertheless, Wolfgang Amadeaus Mozart showed a bright grin of excitement. He quickly straightened his cuffs and arranged his sheet music over the harpsichord. Mozart was more comfortable conducting his music while playing from the harpsichord. In fact, Viennese audiences knew of Mozart’s genius perhaps more from his performances rather than his compositions. Gentle applause engaged the moment as Schikaneder receded back behind the curtain. The weak candlelight of the theater cast yellow shades down onto the pit orchestra. Then silence. As Wolfgang gave a sharp wave of his hand, the curtains suddenly burst open. Music exploded into a frightening crescendo while onstage an enourmous snake bending with mechanical parts began moving back and forth over a helpless victim, Tamino. Yelps of fright from the Bourgeois women sounded behind Mozart which only caused him to smile with pleasure.

He continued to conduct with such vigor and emotion despite his slight illness. While in Prague on September 6th he had contracted symptons of fatigue, headaches, fevers, and discomfort. Tonight, September 30th, he was feeling slight exhaustion but this Premiere of his creative music was far more important. For Mozart, there was never enough time for trivial personal upkeep. His music was his life, and he wrote, played and conducted at every instant that time allowed. Sadly, his health became victim to his genius musical projects.

The performance continued as Tamino sunk in despair. After Tamino had passed out, three elaborately dressed women came to the scene and destroyed the menacing snake,. When the mystical ladies departed, a strange looking man bounced onto the stage. He was dressed in all manner of green and yellow feathers from he knees to the top of his head. His voice was powerful and his mannerisms were loftily comical. He carried a small wooden panpipe that he blew during short rests from the orchestra. The still enthused conductor directed his hands like he was moving a puppet—light and snappy.

A closer look at this befeathered friend revealed to viewers that he was Mr. Schikaneder himself. He had decided to show off his musical gifts by placing himself in one of the leading roles of his own libretto.

It seemed Papageno was the typical Viennese "Hanswurst." Schikaneder was always fond of the "Hanswurst" role, of which his own personality matched so perfectly. "Hanswurst" was a carnal man, not wholly selfish, but often ignorant of others. He was the pleasant comical relief that lended a lighter feeling to opera. Playing Papageno, Schikaneder would gain so much fame in the next few months that he later had a sculpture of Papageno placed over the doors of his new theater, Theater an der Wien, which he built closer to the city.

In an effort to frighten Tamino, Papageno spoke of his great strength and power. This popular "Singspiel," in which dialogue was spoken rather than sung at breaks in the score, was not a new idea to Mozart. "So you've killed the Snake. I thank you," said Tamino after he had awakened. "Snake!" yelped Papageno in fright, "Is it dead or alive?" Humorous irony played a big role in Schikaneder's libretto. He was rather proud of it in fact. A mumbled snicker filtered through the audience. Of course Papageno was quick to take credit for the death of the snake. This did him no good however, when the three ladies returned and rebuked Papageno for lying. As a punishment, they clasped his lips together with a padlock. The three magical ladies then spoke to the handsome prince Tamino and told him of the beautiful Pamina of whom they showed a painting. Typical of Italian and Viennese Opera, the main character, Tamino, immediately fell in love with the beautiful lady. Consequently, he was charged with a quest to retrieve Pamina from the deadly grasp of Sarastro. Only then would she be Tamino's to love.

The guest of highest nobility who was in attendance of this evening’s performance was the emperor himself, Leopold II. He was a conservative man but ideally moderate. His brother Joseph II, who had died just a year earlier, was overly conservative and a radical reformer. He would have displayed his dislike for such a simple problem as the wasteful use of candles in the theater. In his life, he had gone so far as to cut down the amount of candles used during Sunday Mass. Leopold was somewhat different. He was a man of the people, coming from Tuscany, and having an interest in realistic reforms. The Emperor spoke his mind occasionally in private, but he always showed a pre-made standardized smile which he wore to all public occasions. Only after a few scenes, he leaned over to the empress in their elaborately gilded box and whispered, "Delightfully childish. I must assume that this is to be expected with a Singspiel at Freihaustheather."

Leopold was not deeply acquainted with Mozart but he did recall the gossip from the court about the genius: that he was immature and with little capacity for deeper intelligent thought. A Biedermeier woman, Karoline Pichler noted after a few occasions in Mozart’s presence: "Mozart and Haydn, whom I knew well, were men in whose personal intercourse there was absolutely no other sign of unusual power of intellect and almost no trace of intellectual culture, nor of any scholarly or other higher interests. A rather ordinary turn of mind, silly jokes and in the case of the former, an irresponsible way of life, were all that distinguished them in society; and yet what depths, what worlds of fantasy, harmony, melody and feeling lay concealed behind this unpromising exterior."

Although thought to be childish, the opera was a concoction of ideas presented in the popular fairy tales of the time. In fact, three other theaters in Vienna were playing shows with fairy tale settings. A rival theater closer to downtown was playing The Magic Zither at the same time that Schikaneder was writing the libretto. Because of this, he completely reworked the plot even after he had already finished the story. Mozart also realized the fact that there was intense competition surrounding fairy tale operas. He composed fantastically technical vocal parts and dynamic love songs to counter his contemporaries.

From the back of the stage, the Lady of the Night descended the pyramidal staircase crying out with her piercing soprano voice. She was a tiny lady with a bulging dress shining in a midnight blue. It was Josefa Hofer, Mozart’s sister-in-law. He had taken the opportunity to write the score with Josefa in mind for the queen’s part. Hers was the most technical of arias and she achieved near flawlessness in her performance. Mozart looked into the eyes of Josefa and widened his eyes with anticipation. He intensely mouthed out the words for her, almost pleading for a perfect performance. Smiles and nods were seen throughout the audience. She had received a Viennese approval.

The Queen was portrayed as good and powerful, with a longing for her kidnapped daughter, Pamina. After an exchange of words, Tamino accepted the challenge while Papageno was forced into it. To help them on their quest, Tamino was given a magic flute and Papageno, magic bells.

The production continued. Papageno in his innocent curiosity, bumped into Pamina’s keeper, Monostatos. They both jumped back, frightened by each other’s appearance. Monostatos was a black man, Papageno a bird man. Schikaneder’s ideas of black men became very prevalent in Papageno’s line: "Hu! that is the devil, certainly." This very line was reiterated by Monostatos concerning Papageno. Then Papageno thought to himself, "there are black birds, why not black men!" Surely, this was hilarious. The laughter that filled the theater typified the racial ideas of 1790.

Johann Georg Metzler (Giesecke) was also present during the performance. He had spent much time backstage for the first few scenes but crept though the back theater doors to get a glimpse of the stage. He reflected how he had collaborated with Schikaneder and Mozart to write the Magic Flute. The three had met at the New Crown Freemason Lodge in Vienna. He remembered the triteness of Mozart’s thinking—how the young man had joined not for religious or pious reasons, but to enjoy the festive evenings with a close "brotherhood"—for that is what the Masons were. It was Schikaneder who originally came up the idea for Magic Flute. He was looking for a project that would boost his ticket sales of his failing theater. Giesecke actually wrote most of the libretto but he didn’t find it important to take credit. After seeing such positive reactions from the audience he realized his error of not taking credit. Years later, after Schikaneder’s death he would claim to be the chief mastermind in the creation of The Magic Flute.

Because the three men were members of the free masons, the opera was heavily influenced with Masonic principles. The spectators of the performance soon learned that the supposedly evil Sarastro was actually the wise and just ruler of the people. It was, in fact, the Queen who was portrayed as evil. Sarastro marched into the temple hall, (the set had now changed) tall and confident. His subjects praised him in powerfully majestic song. Mozart’s music showed his feelings for the ideals of a wise, male, leader. He sang of how love, virtue, and justice were of utmost importance. He also shared the idea that righteous people can create a "heavenly kingdom on earth."

Another example of Masonic influence would be seen near the end of the Singspiel, when Pamina and Tamino, together, would have to face dangerous trials of stamina and wit. Only then they would be able to be united and intiated among the Gods.

Despite Leopold II‘s continuous smile, he now showed distaste for the opera. His mother, Maria Theresa was especially against the Masons in Vienna. She had even tried to ban them from the city. Mozart and Schikaneder realized the Habsburg’s religious intolerability. Rumour had it that the Queen of the Night was a portrayal of Maria Theresa, while the wise Sarastro was Ignaz von Born, an intelligent and high ranking Mason known by the authors. "Knowing that the Masons [were] soon to be outlawed in Vienna, Mozart realize[d] that The Magic Flute [was] his last chance to ensure that his esoteric knowledge gained through Freemasonry reache[d] the rest of continental Europe" (Guarnere).

Mozart continued to lead the performance although he grew increasingly exhausted. Beads of sweat ran down his face after he had already taken off his coat. His motions became more and more uncoordinated. Finally in the middle of Papageno’s prime performance near the end, Mozart’s eyes went blank and he collapsed on the bench. A gasp was heard throughout the audience. The orchestra abruptly stopped and Schikaneder showed a face of humiliation that his song had been cut. Then he realized that his composer was unconcious. He quickly ran to the foot of the stage yelling, "Wolfgang, Wolfgang!" A violinist knelt down and lifted Mozart’s head which was dangling off the harpsichord bench. "He’s passed out!" he informed Schikaneder.

. . . . . . .

Despite its rough premiere, The Magic Flute became one of the greatest operas of its time. It was shown over 100 times even during Mozart’s life. Little did Mozart know that it would stand as the chief example of German Opera.

Only ten weeks after the premiere, Mozart died having not completed his own funeral march, the Requiem. He died penniless and with a weak reputation. He was buried in a mass grave in Vienna with a reusable coffin—something that had been instituted by Joseph II.

Many speculate the cause of his death. Some say it was Salieri, Mozart’s rival. After the performance of The Magic Flute, however, Mozart said of Salieri: "He heard and saw with all his attention, and from the overture to the last choir there was no piece that didn't elicit a bravo or bello out of him [...]." Some also speculated that some of the members of the Mason lodge were involved with Mozart’s death for he had revealed some of the Mason rituals in the opera. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a mason himself who also attended the performance said, "It is enough that the crowd would find pleasure in seeing the spectacle; at the same time, its high significance will not escape the initiates."

It is of little importance to know how Mozart died. Let be known though, that despite Mozart’s depression, an expression of optimism and love was felt in the powerful music of The Magic Flute. Beethoven claimed that The Magic Flute was Mozart’s greatest work "for here he has shown himself a German master." Wagner remarked, "What versatility, what diversity...indeed, this genius has taken almost too gigantic a step, for in creating German opera he at the same time fashioned a perfect, masterly example of the genre, impossible to improve on, so that this genre can no longer be extended or continued."

I have written a narrative in an effort to provide the reader with a clear picture of the actual premiere of The Magic Flute. Much of background in the story is well researched and documented with thoughts by those who actually witnessed the opera during Mozart’s time. I wanted to provide readers also with a bit of personality of a few of the characters namely, Mozart and Schikaneder. There are a few fictional events in the story that I incorporated to help the reader experience the time period. (1) Leopold II would probably not have been in attendance at such a unimportant theater. He would only have attended operas in the court theater. (2) Mozart did not collapse during the premiere of Magic Flute, although he was already somewhat ill. Nevertheless, in the Academy Award Winning film "Amadeaus," the screenwriters took the liberty of having Mozart faint as to further the story of the rival between Salieri and Mozart.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

M & M's - My Ethnographical Observation

I don't usually purchase sweets, for as a college student, my finances are low and I don't spend money on such temporary items. However, last night, on my way out of town I decided to stop by “Media Play” for a CD I wanted to buy for my Father's Birthday. I also remembered that "Media Play" was no longer "Media Play." I drove down University to check anyway. There in its place was a store with the title--in big letters over a blue background—“F .Y.E.” I understood that F.Y.I. means “For Your Information”—and after seeing “books, music” underneath the title—I quickly made the assumption: “For Your Entertainment.”

It was late—about 9:50 pm when I walked in. Consequently, I was tired and hoping to get in and out fast. The store was a bit ominous, much the same as Media Play had been. It was a classical CD I was considering buying. As soon as I made it to the music section at the rear of the store, the overhead fluorescent lights began turning off—signaling that the store was soon to close for the night. I began frantically fumbling through the CD's. I spent nearly 10 minutes looking for the popular album I wanted. The store was nearly empty and no one came to help or look up the album to see if they carried it. I finally gave up, feeling I had failed in my task of Father-Gift-Finding. Walking back down the main aisle, I ran into two employees, one after another, who asked if they could help because "the last cashier is about to close up." "No. I'm fine." I said it rather dejectedly, thinking on how I could have used their help while I was searching for the album. As I walked back I stopped twice, both times because I had seen two tables which bolstered cheap prices on used DVD's. I checked prices (something I always do before fully investigating a product). Of course, I had no intention of buying unless I had found one of my favorite movies.

Just as I was about to exit, I checked the stands in front of the cash register lines. I knew from prior experience that even though this wasn't a grocery or candy store, almost all retail stores had an "impulse buy" section with the standard candies: Mars Company candies, Hershey Company candies, and a few other varieties. There I found Peanut M&M's at a higher level than the plain M&M's which were on the bottom shelf. They were in a yellow box with the catch phrase, "tear and share." I usually check prices, but I had already made up my mind that I was going to buy the product (having been influenced heavily by this class). The cashier was jovial and conveniently didn't bag the M&M's. The M&M's were delicious. Five minutes after leaving the store, I had finished them. I was again reminded of their quality taste.