This has been a month of watching/cleaning snow and reading Russian novels. Winter has been at its worst in the last 54 years or so they say, and besides enormous work load I did not get to do much of anything but the usual chores.
Still I hope you will enjoy my walk or should I say waltz in the snow.
This is my offering for Cardinal Guzman’s monthly challenge Changing Seasons. Hop over there and see if you can contribute with your entries.
A reminder: If you haven’t seen it already, the new Thursday’s Special is on with the theme minimalism. You may post for it by the 28 December. On the 29 we will be doing retrospective for this year. Happy holidays, everybody!
Set in the 16th century Mantua, Rigoletto is an opera with a tragic story that revolves around the lascivious Duke of Mantua, his court jester Rigoletto and Rigoletto’s beautiful daughter Gilda. The opera’s original title, La maledizione (The Curse), refers to the curse put on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier whose daughter had been seduced by the Duke with Rigoletto’s encouragement. The curse is fulfilled when Gilda also falls in love with the Duke and sacrifices her life to save him from the assassins hired by her father.
Modelled after Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse (The King Has Fun), Rigoletto is not only a social critique of the corrupt society, but also an account of a personal drama of an unscrupulous, boot-licking miser who plots against unsuspecting people to please his womanizing master. Rigoletto’s famous last words when he discovers the dead body of his daughter in place of the Duke’s: Mia Gilda! E morta. Ah, la maledizione! echo the last cry of Hugo’s jester Triboulet: J’ai tue mon enfant. (I killed my child).
It is not a coincidence that I chose Rigoletto’s statue to feature May.
Early this month I took a trip to Mantua. In a small yard in the shadow of Saint George’s Castle stands a statue of Rigoletto, a hunchbacked court jester and the tragic figure of Verdi’s most performed opera.
At last the moment of vengeance is at hand! For thirty days I have waited, weeping tears of blood behind my fool’s mask.
Act 3 opens with the famous aria La donna è mobile sung by the character playing the Duke, disguised as a soldier. It is an irony. The Duke sings that all women are fickle and that they will betray anyone who falls in love with them, but no character in this opera is rational or reliable. They may all be considered callous or mobile (inconstant).
Here is the libretto (the original and English translation), and if you click on the player button bellow, you’ll hear Pavarotti sing it:
On the same trip, during my visit to a petting zoo, I witnessed a horrible and a most absurd accident in which a small baby, bundled in his father’s arms, was attacked by a donkey.
Ah, la maledizione!
Some say that women are fickle. It may be so, but so is the fortune.
This is my entry for Cardinal Guzman’s monthly photo challenge Changing Seasons.
You may want to click on the player button to enjoy the score while you read… (It’s Samsons and Delilah – Bacchanale, a classical piece by Saint-Saëns)
For me April is a month of love, and I am not alone in believing this.
According to ancient Romans, mensis Aprilis is under the protection of the love goddess Venus, the and the name of the month vouches for that. It is supposedly derived from Aphrodite; Venus’s Greek counterpart (via a conjectured Etruscan form, Aprodita), though some linguists claim that the name for the month originates from aperire (to open) since April is the time when fruits, flowers, animals, seas and lands open.
In Roman times Venus Verticordia* was celebrated on the calends of April (calends being the first day of every month in the Roman calendar and the word from which the English word calendar is derived) when persons of both genders would ask Venus for help in the matters of the heart.
At the Veneralia**, all the women, married and unmarried, went to the men’s baths and offered incense to Fortuna Virilis (Venus’s bold companion) and prayed that the men would not see any blemishes they might have. They made a libation and drank the potion Venus drank on her wedding night: pounded poppy with milk and honey. Crowned with myrtle wreaths the women would then bathe and pray that Venus would bring them harmony and beauty.
Today, the first of April is no longer marked by honouring Venus; instead it is known as the April Fool’s day which is observed throughout the Western world. It implies playing pranks, sending someone on a “fool’s errand”, or trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.
In France the day is called Poisson d’Avril (April Fish), and sometimes French children tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying “Poisson d’Avril” when the prank is discovered.
The origin of this tradition is uncertain. Some attribute it to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull decreeing a new standard calendar for Christian Europe that would take his name and centuries later become the international standard.
This reform did not go smoothly. Many opponents continued to celebrate the new year according to Julian calendar between March 25 and April 1. April fools were those who still celebrated the holiday in spring and were the subjects of pranks and ridicule by those who observed the new year months before.
Perhaps this time of year when winter turns to spring lends itself to lighthearted festivities. Examples are found in many different cultures that celebrate days of foolishness around the start of April. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis, ancient Phrygo-Roman god who was born of a virgin mother, killed and resurrected three days later (sounds familiar?). The Hindu calendar has Holi, a festival of colour and love sharing when people chase one another and throw colours on each other. The Jewish calendar marks a holiday known as Purim that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. The festival is marked with a public celebration, drinking wine, wearing masks and costumes and eating a festive meal.
Regardless of the origin of spring festivities they give rise to good humoured celebrations and joyous gatherings and thus it should not come as a surprise that in 1976 Larry Wilde, an American humourist, motivational speaker and best-selling author proclaimed April to be the “National Humor Month” insisting that humour is fundamental to good health.
Whichever aspect of the month you find more appealing (whether you are a prankster or a romantic), I hope that you are honouring the bountiful nature of April in your own way.
Prankster and a romantic that I am, I altered the famous painting by Gustav Klimt “Kiss”.
Can you tell the difference?
(a double click on the image will reveal more details)
P.S. this time the skill of photo manipulation was not my doing. I used photofunia services 😀 as I did once before.
*Venus Verticordia – Venus, changer of hearts as in the one that is capable of changing from lust to chastity
**Veneralia was an ancien Roman festival celebrated April 1
NOTE: I will be absent from 27th April to 4th May, which means that the next post on this blog will come out on 5th May for Thursday’s Special. You can always check out Scheduled challenges page for upcoming events. Keep well, everybody!
March, the third month of the year, was named after Mars, the Roman God of war, but also a guardian of agriculture and the ancestor of Roman people being the father of Romulus and Remus.
That’s what the Western European tradition says, but in Slavic which is the tradition of my ancestors the story is a bit different, or is it?
When I was little I had to memorise two names for each month of the year. At the time I did not understand why. I had no problems with extra words, but I could not figure out why months had two official names each. One was Croatian, and the other was a latinised form that was the preferred form used in formal documents in Yugoslavia.
Now, let me go back to the month in question.
Not until recently did I find out the meaning of the Croatian name for March. It is ožujak and if you ask anybody who is not etymologically aware what that word really means in Croatian, they would go blank.
My research showed that what we now call “ožujak” which is an entirely obscure word in my language, used to be “lažujak” from “laž” meaning “lie” which indicates the deceiving, fickle quality of the month that tricks plant-life into sprouting too soon as suggested also in old Polish name for the month („łżykwiat“, „łżekwiat“ and „łudzikwiat“).
If you think that this reference to March is off-putting and somewhat unfair, let me tell you what Serbs used to call it. In their old calendar the name for March was “derikoža” which means skinner or skinning, implying that March, the month when winter meets spring, is the time when grim reaper harvests most souls, but also the time for skinning animals, or so the Serbian tradition claims. The same word is still in use in Serbian language to denote skinner or shark.
Even though I never thought highly of March, I was surprised to see so many references to death related to it. Do you recall the Ides of March from Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar – ‘Beware the Ides of March’ is the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning Caesar of his death – (Cesar was indeed killed on the Ides i.e. 15th of March in 44 B.C.)
I will not show March as the month that claims lives either human or animal, instead I’ll focus on its fickle nature, its deceiving weather that should not be taken lightly.
“Beware of the sunshine of March” I used to be told when I was a kid living on the coast in the far south of Croatia.
For many, February is a brutal month, with winter at its worse, flu season at peak, and the sky looking as if it will never get blue again, but it is also when the Chinese celebrate the New Year, and this year they decided to do it in Zagreb.
Festively dressed Qin Shi Huang warriors (already wrapped for the trip back home) defending the main square in Zagreb
(please click on the photo to see the full size image)
In his monthly photo challenge Cardinal Guzman allows two options and one of them allows posting of a single photo representative of the month you are posting in, so here it is my take on February 2016.
Being the first month of the year, January can’t be all that bad; after all the year is still young and promising no matter how strange the results of parliamentarian elections turned out to be, or how deranged the bosses in my company became trying to hold on to their jobs. This month has dealt me some crazy cards and after throwing madly the first deck into a wall causing almost a terrible smash I did what had to be done…. I finished my part of the job before anyone else on the team and before the deadline which is not surprising knowing that I had to put my blog on hold for two weeks to be able to endure a daily (weekends included) 12 hour work schedule with a sore arm.
This month I sold the one-off rights for the use of one of my photographs. I never meant to sell any of my photographic works, but how could have I refused a luxury international clothing brand that offered a generous and flattering amount to be able to print my photo in 100 copies as invites for an exclusive fashion show in London. This has finally made me change the copyright notice on my blog in which I used to allow people to share freely the contents I publish here. This will no longer be possible without discussing licensing.
This month has also given me a better vision and I think I can finally see some people for who they really are: this goes for (some of) my family, (a few) co-workers, but certain bloggers too. It was about time I stopped giving some people too much (or too little) credit. The most valuable lessons in life are painful and January has been very educational in that respect.
From the New Year’s celebration through some rough times, dealing with health issues and an impossible workload I still managed to live to see the end of the month still not crippled from all the translating and running to meetings, and now I am away in another country celebrating my birthday weekend.
This may very well be the longest piece of read from me for a while; you know that I usually confine myself to a single photo and paragraph, but it is my birthday and you are supposed to humour me 😉
Celebrate every victory you have fought for and pat yourself on the back even if everyone else fails to do it.
Only this once your comments are not subject to moderation, so go on and write to your heart’s desire and I will read you on Monday.
P.S. NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN:
One of the saddest news this month was the passing of David Bowie. More than any of the greats that I listened to, Bowie seemed out of this world. Wherever he might have come from, I hope he is now where he truly belongs. May God’s love be with you, Duke!