When people think of the Statue of Liberty, they often recall the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that is engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted within its base. Its message was clearly aimed at immigrants arriving in search of a better life, filled with opportunity in the land whose streets were supposedly paved with gold.
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The San Francisco Opera recently debuted its second installment in a new production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. There are so many wonderful innovations and insights in this new staging that, even after having seen a variety of Die Walkure productions since 1967, it was almost like experiencing the opera for the first time.
- Give the Act I transformation of Hunding's hut into a bold, moonlit landscape a new level of lyrical beauty to match Wagner's score,
- Transform Valhalla into Wotan's conference room in a skyscraper that literally scrapes the sky,
- Reposition Siegmund's death to a rumble scene beneath a highway overpass (Wagner goes all West Side Story!),
- Allow the Valkyries to parachute across the stage with the bodies of dead heroes they are escorting to Valhalla, and
- Deliver a magic fire scene that could thrill any arsonist.
Special mention should be made of Mark McCullough's lighting and Catherine Zuber's costumes, which help to frame this new Ring in ways that stress its humanity. No Ring, however, can survive without a strong conductor on the podium and Donald Runnicles coaxed some wonderful sounds out of both the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and his soloists. Although an announcement was made prior to the performance that soprano Nina Stemme (Brunnhilde) was suffering from a bronchial infection, one would never known from the richness of her tone and the dramatic forcefulness of her performance.
"I distinctly remember how much I was moved by this manga. This doll, inflated by the man she loves, walks around town at night and says to herself 'My empty body is filled with his breath. I may never be able to inflate myself on my own. Even if that means the end of my life, I don't care.'I think the idea of being made whole by someone else's breath is a very intimate way to interact and receive satisfaction. The contrast between the human trying to fulfil himself, and the doll being fulfilled by someone else is so intriguing for me. When I read the scene where the inflatable doll sheds a tear, loses the air inside her, and gets filled with the breath of the person she is in love with, I found it very erotic. I found the scene very cinematic as well. I had never shot anything like that before, and I wanted to try. This is sex through one's breath, and I believed I could express this cinematically and metaphorically."
"This film may appear to be a love story, but what lies deep down below are the questions about human nature: Can people fulfill their own emptiness? What is the meaning of life? What is a human being? In this film, I want the characters to connect with each other through the 'air doll.' Through this 'connection' people grow up and change. This is a reflection of my view of the world and its people: The truth and beauty of life lies in this kind of growth and change. The doll is determined to live her own life to the fullest even if death awaits at the end. 'I am sad and happy at the same time,' she says. How we feel about our lives, I believe, is inherent in these words: it is the truth about our 'sad and happy' lives.
All the characters in this film are lonely, regardless of their gender. For the female characters, the keywords are 'emptiness' and 'absence.' I came up with female characters from different generations in order to contrast with the doll’s aging process, and depict their emptiness in a dramatic manner. For example, one girl tries to fulfill her emptiness by eating, while the doll can’t eat. Another woman is afraid of aging, but the doll decides to enjoy her life and embraces growing older by abandoning her [air] pump.
For the male characters, those are 'substitution' and 'perversion.' The male characters don’t go straight to what they desire, but instead look for alternative solutions. These perverse men yearn for death, not life. These are the people I tried to portray. In other words, the film is about the loneliness of urban life, for both men and women."