last night while I was knitting in the breeze at the symphony

Verdi’s Aida in an emerald gown… then Rachmaninoff

An angel in warm brown skin sang Verdi’s arias from Aida
while wearing a brilliant emerald gown
and then… “Summertime”
as an encore.

A curtain of crickets and cicadas chirped and hummed along
in the background, a baffle of sound surrounding
the music from the band shell, against
the looming night

and the entire string section, whose musical precision
resembled a flight of dragonflies, attended only
to the conductor’s left hand and the tip
of his baton.

When they began the Rachmaninoff, I expected something
Russian-sounding… vodka-drinking, cold-defying
but the conductor wrapped us all up
in romantic flourishes

his gestures swooping and whorling like a calligrapher’s
but with music trailing his baton instead of ink.
He caught us all, lassoed us with italics
around our collective heart

long before he revealed the composer’s true Russian character
all in Cyrillic, embellished, angled and brusque…
so loud and rough that the music
must fight back.

Yet, he forged the two opposing forces into something
newer, bolder… a Roman type of face
a force that vanquished the brawl
and then returned

to the romantic, the italic, round and swooping loops & swirls
his arms thrown—once again—around us
each one, as he made love to us all…
with an orchestra.


  1. cocktailhag says:

    I love it, Karen, especially the part about calligraphy, and of course the dragonflies. I wish I had been there; it sounds lovely.

    • Karen M says:

      Thanks, Tony!

      (I couldn’t figure out how to add a category… maybe you can add one?)

      It was at The Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and home to many summer evening concerts. There’s a band shell, amphitheater, and seating on the lawn. We had great seats.

  2. bystander says:

    to the romantic, the italic, round and swooping loops & swirlshis arms thrown—once again—around useach one, as he made love to us all…with an orchestra.

    I love the way this tumbles in my head, prompts an image, and makes me want to say it out loud. Lovely, Karen M. And, evocative.

    • bystander says:

      *sigh*… eventually I’ll figure out the html that works in this joint…

    • Karen M says:

      Thank you, bystander! I managed a rough first draft last night, and then over the course of today, I polished it up a bit.

      About that html… if you use [br], but with LT and GT symbols, you can put in line breaks that do not include an extra line. It’s the only way to work with verse. Otherwise, wordwrap sabotages you completely.

      • bystander says:

        Yeah, you taught me well before… I thought I had them in there correctly since the preview pane displayed correctly…

        As it turns out, not so much. :-/

  3. retzilian says:

    Interesting combination, Verdi and Rach. I love Russian composers; they are pure-t crazy and schizophrenic. Rach has so much French music influence, but he puts on that vodka-drinking, cold-defying stuff in his piano concertos!

    • Karen M says:

      I must confess, Retzilian, that I don’t know much about classical music. However, I do love live music… recordings just don’t cut it for me, most of the time.

      If you like, you can see the program here.

      Apparently, that symphony is Rachmaninoff’s most romantic… so I wasn’t making that up!

      • cocktailhag says:

        I’m in the same boat, Karen.. As a former ballet producer, I thought orchestras needed something on stage to keep the audience intrigued. Disney Hall, as WT and I have talked about, is a good cure for this, to music snobs, shallowness. The space is like an egg, and is your seats are right you’re looking right down at the musicians, as they turn their pages and get ready for their moments.
        And then there’s the accoustics. If you’re ever in LA, I’ll meet you there.

        • Karen M says:

          I’ll bet that egg shape is great acoustically…

          Best concert I ever attended was Segovia on stage alone with his guitar. I don’t think he even had a mike. It was transporting…

  4. retzilian says:

    For all the abuse the city of Cleveland takes, we do have a world-class orchestra. The Cleveland Orchestra plays at Blossom Music Center in the summer, similar to the concert venue you described in your poem. If you ever get a chance to hear them (I’m sure they stop in Philadelphia on tour), you must!

  5. Pedinska says:

    Karen, that was just lovely.