The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Performs Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet
Was it forbidding as much as it was foreboding?
For those in the symphony hall tonight, what felt
like contemplation actually surrender?
It began disharmoniously, and then, some of us
could see it coming on—that love could be a kind
of abdication of responsibility.
Harlem Phillips was 7 months old when she was
pronounced dead on Christmas day. When she was brought in,
we were told she fell off the couch.
Autopsy showed her body showed signs of being shaken.
At last check, there were 217 kids killed since we started
counting. We have a database and our deaths are color-coded.
[ ] shooting (crimson), [ ] stabbing (raven),
[ ] blunt force (parakeet), [ ] asphyxiation (iris),
[ ] other (lemon), [ ] unknown (white)
There’s one part where Romeo stabs Tybalt, where the tympani
drums are just beyond. We weren’t sure whether to clap at the end.
The percussionists would eventually get a standing ovation.
Blunt force seems inadequate. On the other hand, bleeding
into the eyeballs, fractured baby arms and baby legs, damaged
tissues that connect us, support us, a bloody brain, is a mouthful.
Prokofiev was essentially an only child—his parents having lost
two daughters earlier. His mother was a serious amateur
pianist, practiced hours every day. He wrote his first opera at 9
for his family to perform. What a sight that must have been.
Come closer. Sit on the couch.
The conductor, in her set up, talked about the many beautiful things
yet to be written in C major. That all Prokofiev ever wanted was
unconditional acceptance. That he needed to be seen. That he died on
the same day as Stalin, and so, not a single flower could be found for his funeral.
What about the others,
the unknowns? Imagine some death not knowable in knowable terms.
On closer look, here, one of three children, drowned by their father
in an area hotel room. Knowable. Did he do it simultaneously
or did he take turns? Knowable. She talked about how C major
is like home for human beings. On the drive back we pass
a billboard that reads “If you lived here, you’d be home
by now.” The whole rest of the way, looking back, wondering
whether we were the only ones who saw poison as a kind of privilege.