Saturday, October 27, 2018


"The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial."

"Carmen" an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet

More years ago than I can now safely recall - when I still qualified as a young man - I was introduced to the opera "Carmen".  My mentor - whose name I also shamefully forget - was appropriately either Italian or French. He may even have been from Montserrat, the multi-peaked mountain range near Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. I remember distinctly that he had an accent. He was visiting a mutual friend - my erstwhile physician - in Canada at the time. He was clearly captured by the opera.  While I wasn't able to identify the opera, there was at least one of the songs which was familiar to me. The introductory acquaintance shall forever remain impressed on my mind as an example of how I have been affected by what in retrospect I consider important.

It pleases me that this opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875 where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized its first audiences. The admixture of commoners, comedy and singularity are ingredients not entirely foreign to me. Like a good peasant stew (Oso Buco for example) its defining feature and prized delicacy is the marrow in the hole in the bone. Similarly its working-class beginnings have become precious and refined. It is no accident that I was led to the trough of my first Oso Buco years afterwards in New York City following a performance of the Broadway musical "Show Boat" at the Gershwin Theatre.

Discovering ourselves now basking on Longboat Key is for me another serendipitous though certain victory. For several months prior to our arrival here I tortured myself to envisage that by some inexplicable fate I might not succeed to land here as planned almost a year ago when I confessed my undeniable attraction, a resolution made all the more compelling by having previously abandoned the allure of the Gulf of Mexico.

The tranquillity and isolation of the island commends itself to us both. We cannot fail to compare the venue to others more urban. In plain terms it is a good fit.

Post Scriptum October 28th, 2018

My cursory summation of Longboat Key doesn't adequately capture the myriad of ways in which this Lilliputian place appeals to me. Everything from the convenient and solitary sidewalks; the vast stretches of open sky and sea; the subtropical plants; the butterflies and bird songs; and the colours.  Our condominium is an older building constructed in the early 1970s.  It is patently solid and well-built.  It has what I call a white plaster facade, reminiscent of what I imagine to have been the colour of Axel Munthe's treasured San Michele.

"Axel Martin Fredrik Munthe was a Swedish-born medical doctor and psychiatrist, best known as the author of The Story of San Michele, an autobiographical account of his life and work. He spoke several languages, grew up in Sweden, attended medical school there, and opened his first practice in France.

Born: October 31, 1857 Oskarshamn, Sweden
Died: February 11, 1949 Stockholm, Sweden"

As I lay by the pool today my thoughts were strangely drawn to a recollection of that mystical place in Capri.  I recollected too the Costa Brava where at seventeen years of age I had lolled about by the Mediterranean Sea for a month, turning brown as a nut in the process.

The heat today was dry as that of an oven; the sun dazzling.  The sea crashed and the sky was brilliantly blue. Unknown to me at the time my mother had died around 2 o'clock this morning.  My sister had tried unsuccessfully to reach me earlier - as I knew from the iPhone records - but I mistook her attempts as casual only. It was in Spain that I, my sister and my parents had spent that memorable summer before returning to Paris and Stockholm.  Axel Munthe was in his 92nd year - as was my mother.

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