Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peak Performances and their Awkward Sexual Moments: Albert Herring

Albert Herring-May 2011-Alexander Kasser Theater

Okay so here we are at the final show of the Spring 2011 semester, and it just so happens to be an opera. The story is set in England at the beginning of the 20th century and surrounds a group of people who are suggested to be Catholic because of their search for a female virgin to be this year's "Queen of the May" for their May Day festival. To me, this seems to be connected to what us Roman Catholics celebrate as a May Crowning, which is a ceremony when we honor the Virgin Mary by crowning a statue of her. This takes place in May, which is the month of Mary, and ironically enough the opera played at Kasser on May 2 and 3.

If you want a visual of what I am talking about, click here. This is a video of this year's May Crowning at my parish, Holy Family. I took it special for this post.

This is a slideshow I found of the performance on May 2. I saw the May 3 performance, which was different cast, but the video still gives you a good idea of what the opera looked like.

Now that you know some brief religious background I have noticed in Albert Herring, here are it's Awkward Sexual Moments.

"The Female Sex is Soiled": After the council discusses every female in town who is in the running to be "Queen of the May," only to discover that every single one has already been deflowered, they lose hope in the female race. Therefore, they begin to sing "The female sex is soiled" repetitively in a very droll manner. Both my mother and I were in the audience and this part offended us, but in two very different and interesting ways.

Because all of these girls aren't virgins, their final resort is the only male virgin in town, Albert Herring. My mother finds this concept offensive because she feels that the female sex is portrayed in a very degrading manner here. "Not one girl was a virgin out of all of them so they had to a retreat to a guy? That's a disgrace to women." It suggests that the female sex as a whole isn't very virtuous, or, I guess, sexually honorable, which doesn't say much about women back during the time Albert Herring takes place.

However, though I do agree with my mother's point, I see the degrading of the female sex in this scene in a different way. The opera makes the women's sexualities out to be a tragedy. They make it seem so dark and depressing that women have sex instead of celebrating the expression of female sexuality. This part is so satirically dramatic, as if it's completely horrible that women have their own sex lives and that it is shameful, that I found myself actually laughing as I watched it, questioning why it is such a big deal.

"Bounce me High, Bounce me Low": There are these three adolescent kids in the opera who play this game in which they stand in a circle and bounce a ball to each other and chant these very words: "Bounce me high, bounce me low, bounce me up to Jericho. Bounce me slow, bounce me quick, bounce me to Arithmetic." Then they rhythmically clap their hands and rotate their circle. 

I know it's not intended to be, but this chant sounds kind of sexual. It's kind of funny to think about. Read it again and you'll see what I mean.

Okay...announcement time. 

This might be my very last "Peak Performances and their Awkward Sexual Moments" post. Notice how I say "might." If I am inspired enough I will write them again. I don't really want to stop something with which I have been consistent. 

The thing is, they're not interesting me as much as they used to. When I wrote the originals, I was on winter break and wrote them to be productive and was excited to write them. Even though I enjoyed writing them this summer as well, they felt kind of forced this time. I was working on articles this summer and plus I came up with other post ideas so I couldn't really place my full focus on them. I felt obligated to complete them because I promised them, so I kind of made them an unnecessary task that I brought on myself.

Like I said, I might continue it, but I just want to warn you to be prepared that this may be the last one. I just want to move on to other things. Thank you so much for reading them and I am so glad that I wrote them for you!

However, on a happier note, I am looking forward to the 2011/2012 season of Peak Performances at MSU! :)

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