Guess I should keep up on this blog a bit more. Well, keeping in the same vein as the last post, here is another "meditation with Franz," this time about his song Du bist die Ruh. I turned this song into a puppet show last spring and combined it with nine other songs I fell in love with while working on Winterreise into a show I call "Schubert Scraps." I took this show to Europe with me and performed at a house party in Bonn to rave reviews. Huzzah! I hope someday we can all travel again. I want to perform at your house!
Here's what I experienced in this meditation:
I saw a long hallway leading to a window at the end. Franz appeared beside me and took my hand. As we walked down the hallway I could see the walls were decorated with intricately carved dark wood. At the window we stopped and glanced at the view. We were high up looking over rivers and hills, but quickly Franz led me to the right where there was a bookcase. The bookcase was a door, which he opened and there was a fireman’s pole behind it. We slid down the pole and were in a rocky cellar. It was very dark, so he took up a torch. We continued down the close rocky path and turned again, now the walls were even closer and we had to crouch to keep from bumping our heads against the ceiling. It felt hella haunted down there, even though I was technically standing beside a ghost. At the end of this very tight rocky hallway there was another door with a frosted glass window. Franz took out a key and opened it. Behind the door was a very small room with vaulted ceilings like a tiny church. Before me was a small book shelf sitting on top of a cabinet built into the wall. Above me was a crystal star in the center of the vaulted ceiling with crystal pendants hanging down. I looked to my left and gave a start. A bejeweled skeleton sat there dressed to resemble a bride. I looked at her more closely. Sapphires were her eyes and she had a daisy crown made of pearls, diamonds and gold with a veil flowing down from it. Gold wire curled over her cheeks and her fingers were covered in rings. She wasn’t quite wearing a full wedding gown, but more of a white lace negligee. A bouquet of dried white roses hung above her.
“What is this?” I asked.
“I wrote Du bist die Ruh to the love I wished I had. This is her, but of course nothing remains of her but the decoration of the song she inspired,” Franz said. I knew he wasn’t talking about a real specific person per se, but of a template, the internal collage of love that inspired all his songs.
“Let me show you something.” Franz touched the bookshelf in front of us and it opened up like a door too. Behind it was a vast collection of cups on a tray that could be pulled out, but it went far deeper into the wall than the room was wide. He took out a cup and handed it to me. It was gold with large jewels around the rim, goblet like. “This is Du bist die Ruh,” he said and told me to drink from it.
I tipped the cup to my lips and looked into the bottom as I drank what seemed to just be water, but the water wasn’t the point. That water appeared to me as the sea with mountains on either side. The full moon rose in the center and a lotus hovered before it just above the sea.
“Wow!” I exclaimed as I put the cup down. Franz then placed a ring on my finger. It was a pink glass lotus with gold tips on the petals. One small diamond glittered upon it like a dewdrop. Then he took out another cup to hand me.
“These cups are all of my songs,” he said. “Deep feeling fashioned them all, but the feelings no longer remain, only the art. This is how all of creation came to be. Now you are welcome to fill them with your own feelings.” This cup was another goblet with a stem that appeared to be two golden hands whose fingertips became tree branches clutching a frosted glass cup with a wide lip. I lifted the cup to drink from it and was struck by the image of the brightest whitest sun I had ever seen inside. The beams burst forth like crystal with rainbow edged beads of light. I don’t know what I drank from it, it didn’t matter.
“What song is this?” I asked, but Franz didn’t seem to want to tell me. I guess it wasn’t important, or maybe I’ll find it later. I handed the cup back to him and he put it away. He closed the bookshelf cabinet. It appeared as if cobwebs floated all around us, but even these were merely the ghosts of cobwebs. Franz pulled out a book which was very old and much loved. It was a book of Schiller poems.
“These books are all the poems that shaped me, and my journals and diaries too.” He opened the book and it was covered in footnotes written in pencil. He put it back and we turned to the right where there was another similar bookshelf.
"What is this special place?" I asked.
"This is the shrine to my dead feelings," Franz said matter-of-factly.
He then opened this shelf in the same odd manner as the former, and inside was the same long tray but full of flowers of every color and variety. Butterflies fluttered just above them, but the flowers were all dried and the butterflies were made of paper.
“The ring I gave you is an analogy for this,” he continued. “The lotus rises above the muck of emotion, but we mustn’t forget the feelings that forged us. The diamond dewdrop on that lotus can be seen as a single tear. These painful feelings are capable of creating the deepest beauty, and in so doing they themselves become beautiful.”
I looked at the skeleton again and noticed that now behind her was a stained glass window where there had been the bouquet of dried flowers. I realized that while this room was a shrine to dead feelings it was still very much alive and changing all the time. I suppose that makes sense. The way we see how we felt once upon a time is always changing. Our personal histories are constantly being rewritten within our own subconscious.
I was beyond words. But still I realized I hadn’t gotten all the information I wanted on Du bist die Ruh.
“But, I wanted to know more about your artistic choices for that song,” I said. “Why did you choose the modulations and motifs you did, especially in that piano intro.”
As the ever flattening and descending piano line played in my head I got an image of uneven stone steps leading down deep into a human heart where I opened a wrought iron gate and closed it behind me. As the piano line jumped up and fluttered I lit a candle and filled the heart with my light. Aha!
Feelings are fleeting but art is eternal. Our emotions are but wax molds that melt when shaping copper. The copper holds their shape, even when the feelings themselves are lost.
I got up and put on a CD of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf singing Schubert lieder. One of the songs was Ganymede. Now things make some interesting sense. It would appear Franz saw himself as Ganymede, not just in the homoerotic sense (look it up), but as literal cup bearer to the gods - most beautiful among mortals for his mind and therefore abducted, inspiration forced upon him as a form of seduction so he could always be giving his art to the immortals. No wonder Franz has this collection of beautiful cups.
Hi, Juliana Brandon here. This is where I let you peek behind the scenes here at Paper Puppet Opera. See works in progress, rehearsal snippets, and learn more about the history behind each production.