Thursday, October 16, 2008

And when you sleep, may you dream of large women ... (Samson & Dalila)

Caught the final dress rehearsal of Camille Saint-Saens' opera, Samson & Delila tonight at the Benedum. Oh the rear-screen projected shifting moon, oh the glorious thick tresses of our bewigged Samson, oh the stage violence.

I wondered at what our dangerous seductress would look like. I winced at the lithe fat-free dancers who proclaimed her eventual entrance. Please no.

When Delila drifted on to stage and began to sing, my jaw dropped. This woman who pulled down the leader of the Israelites, this honey-voiced beauty with the most delicate control of each gesture, who moves with quiet dignity ...

Stephanie Blythe is gorgeous and strong and stunning and as I listened to her sing her first piece, a seduction, I cried. I cried because this Delilah is fat. She is gorgeous. I cried for all my own small insecurities.

How few and far between are these role models, these powerful women with dimpled elbows and heated looks, women who know the difficulties of the world, women who are strong and centered and carry themselves so artfully each gesture is sublime.

Nowhere in recent memory have I seen a heavy woman carrying herself with such inner dignity and grace as I have Ms. Blythe. Too often I have seen the wear and tear of years of cattiness, of the skinny girl getting all the attention, of fat girl jokes. Too often I have listened to my friends release their sore vulnerability of having always been the "big girl with the pretty face".

What bullshit. Stephanie proved to me what I've known for years. First, those vaguely anorexic cookie cutters - the notion of a single paradigm of beauty - strip all women of access to their unique beauty. Second, the daily refusal to submit to the small slights of everyday reduction of to appearance will cultivate in onesself the beauty our mass culture blinds itself to.

Even before she opened her mouth she had the spotlight (and not because the lighting designer lit her). Such diginity, such power, such grace. She had no match on that stage, all those around her stood in her shadow, funny cardboard cutouts with long robes on.

Ah, opera, the place where all the violence and heated passions of human affairs meet. We should all go to the opera more regularly. It reminds us to watch the drama happen around us, in everyday life, let that unfold with its own necessity, and simply love our need for those stories to happen.

Go see the divine Stephanie Blythe as Delilah. She's considered the world's best mezzo-soprano for a reason. She'll use Samson's passion against him, and it is an absolute time-stopping joy to watch (and listen) to her do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jessica-- I have to say this as anonymous but you are absolutely gorgeous yourself.