Reflections on Rodelinda, Provence, Jonah, &c.
For many reasons, my favorite opera, as of listening to it for the first time this week, is Handel’s Rodelinda. First, Handel is my kind of Baroque composer: a German, writing Italian operas, in England. Second, I love the timbres of the Baroque orchestra. Third, this opera has absolutely beautiful melodies, most especially the duet that closes the second act. Fourth, and most importantly, Rodelinda is a moral opera. Marital love and fidelity prevail; in fact, they never waiver, though temporary deception is necessary to the hero’s survival. The double-minded sister gets on the right track, the villain-usurper repents, and the evil scheming villain-noble gets dead. What could be better than that? Probably only the happy providence of discovering this wonderful opera in the library, just at a time when a very meanbad flare made little besides supine listening possible.
On another front, while cooling to the undeveloped notion of moving to France, I’m considering ways to import Provencal elements of color and cuisine to our home. It isn’t time to repaint our house–indeed, a concept unknown in Provence where centuries-old stone vindicates entropy–but when the time arrives, I’d like to distinguish our 1950s rambler with a coat of typical Provencal wheaty-mustard, with trim colors of sunwashed basil, faded French blue, ancient-barn red, and limonitic ocher. Our neighbors will be enchanted. But alas, we are ten years away from repainting by American maintenance standards, and at least two hundred measured by Provencal time.
I read Hebrews straight through on Friday, the best use I have made of a jour de malaise in many. Chapters 10 and 12, as always, particularly convicted and fortified. Afterward, I walked three laps through our neighborhood, where attractive landscaping has really caught on. It’s tough to gauge the economy’s impact on my neighbors; some have clearly spent fortunes having their yards professionally overhauled, yet I see working-age men home mowing, trimming, weedeating, and looking generally purposeful on a leisurely Friday afternoon. Contractors were out in force, installing windows and mowing lawns. The sultry afternoon crested at eighty degrees, a boon that seemed beyond hope in the forty-degree light of morning.
A near-week-long flare accompanied for part of its tenure by a migraine is a crummy thing, but not as crummy as the sinful reasoning I permit to take hold. Jonah, save me a seat on the ship. It’s possible now to go so much farther than Tarshish. I did a map and Scriptural study a year or so ago, trying to figure out the location of Tarshish. Some commentators assume it’s the same as Tarsus, which isn’t all that far from Joppa. But I think it likely was located where the ASV map places it, at southern Spain or Gibraltar. Scriptural references to Tarshish fauna persuade me that it was likely a gateway to Africa. That would put Jonah’s destination at the end of his known world, the full length of the Mediterranean away. It’s possible now, of course, to go so much farther. But the key to the turnabout is well this side of Tarshish, and the turnabout is the real destination. And I have so much that is so much nicer than gourds for which to be grateful.