Welcome to Kate Saturday's Confounded Contraption!

  1. "Progress" is a land of hearts and quarter notes.

    Depression can make it hard to get things done.
    2012-11-21 18:13:00 UTC
  2. In which I employ a metaphor

    I used to be kind of a jerk to femmes, because i thought that since femininity wasn't right for me, it wasn't right for anyone.  That stopped when I stopped thinking of myself as a woman.
    2012-11-17 03:59:00 UTC
  3. MNOpera: Anna Bolena

    Anne Boleyn. This woman had an intense life, and then Donizetti made an opera about it. Anna Bolena is one of four operas Donizetti wrote about Tudor and Elizabethan England that functioned in part as a critique of the contemporary Italian politics and religion. The MNOpera let me come see their dress rehearsal last Thursday; it was, as always, a consumate performance of skill and artistry. The following drawings are the result.

    These actors stood still for longer and in better light than most of the others. I love how much fabric they used in this period. I love their gigantic pants and their tiny legs sticking out.

    Henry VIII was a jerk.

    This is the cutest drawing of a torture device I've ever seen. It looks like a teddy bear with a smiley face strapped to the bottom of it. The device was less approachable in person.

    Jane Seymore has doubts.

    I just love their puffy gumdrop clothes! How did they do anything? I imagine them swimming through their shirts, and finding lost treasure and strange ecosystems.

    Don't take my word for the puffiness of these clothes!See for yourself! This counts as double culture, because it's an Italian opera about an English queen. Triple culture, if you think about the choices that the MNOpera cast and crew have made in presentation. How can you miss that much culture? Obviously you can't. Go see it.

    2012-11-11 05:52:00 UTC
  4. MNOpera: Nabucco


    Ok. Let me preface this by saying that I have almost no idea what this opera is about. They invited me to draw, not to read subtitles, and I acted accordingly.

    A quick internet search will tell you the basic plot and the historical context of this play. In the interest of decreasing internet redundancy, I won't. MNOpera has set up an interesting rat-trap to reference the presence of the Austrians in Italy at the time Verdi composed this opera, and it's well worth investigating, later maybe, when you're done reading this post. In the meantime, I'm going to tell you what this opera is really about.


    Ok you're right, these are not really ghosts. These two are Israelites swathed in the White Robes of Purity, +2 against The Lord's Displeasure and sunstroke. But for as long as they've been inviting me to look at their performances, the MNOpera has had these incredible minimalist sets. In Mary Stuart, the most elaborate set piece was basically a fire escape, a black stairway against a black drop, and it was arresting. I think almost half my drawings that night were of the stairway, with people sitting on it or light streaming through it or snow drifting onto it. More recently their production of Lucia di Lammermore centered around two mountainous corrugated shapes that turned to create different effects of light, shadow, and space. For Nabucco, the sets are lavish flats painted by legit old-school opera painters in Italy. The costumes are flashy and ornate, but that arresting minimalist still sneaks in around the edges.

    These guys were priests of Ba'al, which is (thx Wikipedia) an honorific meaning 'lord' given to any number of gods in the Levant and Asia Minor. The Israelites used the term for their deity for a while, but it fell out of favor when the Israelites started trying to demonstrate that their god was the best one. The Old Testament seems to use it as a name for any local deity the Israelites disapproved of, and then it was conflated with a Syrian demon, Ba'al Zebub, Lord of Flies, and that's where we are now.

    It's not clear whether these guys were worshipping Hadad or Melqart or Hammon or perhaps even El or Yahweh in a secty sort of way, but they look like something from The Cube or Silent Hill and they are rad.

    This is the high priest of Ba'al, and this guy is nuts. Seriously, I'm engrossed in drawing, and then I glance up and this yellow-taloned tarantula is creeping around the stage and I almost drop my stylus. He had one long cane and one short one, and I could have watched him for hours.

    Abigaille. She is not a ghost, she is a warrior queen and she owned this opera.

    and my heart

    So to sum up: MNOpera's Nabucco, ghosts and priests of Ba'al, yellow taloned tarantula, warrior queen. Tickets are cheap; not punk-cheap, but working-stiff-cheap.

    Here are some more ghosts.

    2012-09-24 22:35:00 UTC
  5. What are you?

    2012-07-22 04:46:00 UTC
  6. Reviews.

    It was actually pretty insightful. Thanks, Comics List.
    2012-05-05 06:21:00 UTC
  7. Brain 1, Society 0

    2012-02-24 03:08:00 UTC
  8. Nature called, but I wasn't home

    2012-02-21 04:57:00 UTC
  9. There is a disco ball in this one

    2011-12-31 05:36:00 UTC
  10. Mopey Fish

    2011-12-16 23:24:00 UTC
  11. class MinnesotaWinter

    2011-12-14 23:18:00 UTC
  12. Smooth.

    2011-11-27 07:24:00 UTC
  13. Silent Night at the MNOpera

    Every so often, the Minnesota Opera Company invites bloggers and cartoonists to their dress rehearsal, in part so that we can soak up culture and history that we would not otherwise absorb, and in part so that, to paraphrase Lee Blauersouth two marginalized artforms can help eachother out.

    The second opera of this season is Silent Night, an adaptation of Joyeüx Noel. It was commissioned by MNOpera, so we were not only the first people to see this production, we were the first people to see any production, ever. That's neat to think about.

    For a summary of the story's history and context, I recommend you visit Thomas Boguszewski's excellent article.

    My favorite part about the opera was the set. MNOpera consistently does a lot with a little, but this time they had, well, a little more. The set was built in three rings, the inner two of which could rotate independently of eachother. Super spare and elegant, and allowed the French, German and British trenches to rotate into view.

    The French troops were quartered in this bombed-out Cathedral. I fell completely in love with it and drew it one thousand times. Barely a shell, it had a creaky fragility that was offset by its clean geometry. It was strong enough to support actors on its upper stories, in the same way that a nautilus shell is strong. Strong enough to support what, i don't know, tiny mollusk actors in a submarine drama perhaps.

    Each army was treated with sympathy and humanity, although we're clearly against the German political position. The Kaiser was portrayed as fat, dumb, and out of touch with the situation on the ground, sort of like a phlegmy Heliogabalus. The German lieutenant was fierce and heavy, but ultimately reasonable and considerate.

    This guy. He kind of looked like a bear, with his big coat and massive shoulders. He's Jewish, which would be funny if anything about that situation was funny.

    While the set was the most appealing thing, the most interesting thing was the language. Each of the armies spoke and sang in their native tongues. I had never attended an opera I could understand before. Always before I've let the singing wash over me, marveling at the strangness and melody and wondering why they are singing 1,000,000 words while the supertitle is a two-word phrase. Now I could tell, at least for the English and some of the French side, when the supertitles failed to capture some funny turn of phrase, and how incredibly alien operatic phrasing is to the cadences of speech. It sounded like dialog from Rex Morgan, M.D., with its emphasis on inconsequential words, and unaccented syllables soaring into the rafters. My favorite musical moment was Anna Sørensen's acapella rendition of "Dona Nobis Pacem" on the battlefield, which had the crispness and clarity of winter air and functioned as a symbol of the beauty and fragility of the Christmas truce.

    The interplay between strength and weakness comes up again and again in this opera. The troops are secure in their trenches, but vulnerable to longing for home; they abandon the physical strength of weapons and war for the emotional strength of sharing and companionship. The British soldier Jonathan, driven to distraction by his brother's death, is the only soldier willing to resume the conflict after the truce, and demonstrates the mortal strength of his decision. But he is broken by his loss, suffering hallucinations and unable to function outside of the context of war. Singers Sprink and Sørensen surrender themselves as prisoners of war in a courageous resistance to the German cause. All three lieutenants are criticized by their superiors for showing weakness and sympathy for the enemy, but the story of their truce outlasted the story of their battle by almost one hundred years. Strength and surrender, submission and success.

    And how often do bagpipers get to be heroes?
    2011-11-22 05:42:00 UTC
  14. Today is Nov. 17

    It is 20º outside, but inside it is comfortable and i am not wearing socks. On Sunday I will check out a volume of Gertrude Stein's poetry and maybe a book about her life, and then I will make a puppet show. Where are the lines between puppetry and picture show? detail- under2
    2011-11-17 20:24:00 UTC
  15. Desire

    2011-10-10 07:06:00 UTC
  16. Edward and her mouse

    2011-09-26 07:06:00 UTC
  17. I am good at computers

    2011-09-25 07:05:00 UTC
  18. California calling

    2011-09-18 05:20:00 UTC
  19. Hey Kate, have you ever made any comics?

    2011-09-03 05:21:00 UTC
  20. Adventures with David Bowie!

    2011-09-01 05:19:00 UTC
  21. State fair adventures!

    2011-08-31 05:18:00 UTC
  22. Depression adventures

    2011-08-30 05:18:00 UTC
  23. Why a new haircut?

    2011-07-02 05:17:00 UTC
  24. New haircut!

    2011-07-01 05:16:00 UTC
  25. Passing

    2011-06-02 05:16:00 UTC
  26. Robots.

    2011-06-01 05:14:00 UTC
  27. This is my new blog!

    Here is my old blog, which contains daily monsters and saw-a-day and comics and things. http://confoundedcontraption.blogspot.com/
    2011-05-26 05:03:00 UTC