Sunday, January 24, 2010

View from the parterre

The Grand Theatre in Warsaw is home to both opera and ballet
Now playing is an operatic version of "Faust" by Charles Gounod

There is more than one way to sell your soul

"Many and many a year ago, in a kingdom not even close to the sea, I signed my name on the dotted line and, forevermore, a Marine came to be. (Recognize who I am sort of paraphrasing / plagiarizing?)

"It has been a few years since, on January 24, Capt. William "Hoppy" Boyd administered the oath to swear me in as a United States Marine. It was in the evening, in a hotel room. I will not bother with the details other than to say the event was witnessed by a Gunny (Gunnery Sergeant) whose name I have forgotten and by a high school friend who just happened to be driving through town on his way to boot camp with the U.S. Navy. He had knocked on my door, looking for a place to spend the night. That was the last time I ever saw him. He stayed in California after his discharge from the Navy, and he is dead now ....

"This date is as important to me as any other anniversary in my life. I mark it each and every year. In a sense, having been a Marine to the "core" while having retained my individuality is a "feel good," personal accomplishment."

Those were the words I wrote a year ago on this very blog to mark my anniversary with the United States Marine Corps. Those words will do for this year, too.

But, here are a few more. Most people are familiar with the story of Faust, the man who sold his soul in exchange for wisdom or power or notoriety or the possession of a beautiful woman or a few other things, depending upon which version a reader selects.

My personal reading has included two versions, "Faust," by Johann von Goethe and "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus," by Christopher Marlowe.

In Goethe, Faust craves infinite knowledge, as well as his next door neighbor, Margaret, sometimes called Gretchen. In exchange for these things and for having the devil, Mephistopheles, serve him on earth, Faust agrees to serve the devil in hell for eternity.

In Marlowe, Dr. Faustus makes a pact with Lucifer to have the arch demon, Mephastophilis, serve him for twenty-four years in exchange for his soul. Wisdom beyond ordinary human capability is the object of this exercise, as is obtaining the presence of Helen of Troy as his consort when his end approaches.

These things enter my mind at this moment in time for three reasons.

One reason: Some would say joining the Marine Corps is making an accord with the devil. The point certainly is open for debate.

Another reason: Goethe's version of "Faust" recently came up in a discussion with Magdalena, who was in the midst of reading the work. As a result, a desire both to re-read the play and to see a stage production of it rose to the surface with a fair amount of intensity.

The third reason: Glance at the banner in the photograph of the Warsaw opera house.

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