Thursday, April 1, 2021

For the Love of Opera and RBG


Through all the activities the Dresser has been immersed in she hasn’t let go of “For the Love of Opera: Celebrating RBG’s 88th Birthday” presented March 15, 2021. The moving tribute paid to Ruth Bader Ginsburg was presented by Opera Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History (a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate), and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience. The hour and 16 minute program includes favorite arias of RBG, performed by outstanding young talent, and people who knew her or who had observed her attending opera in such places as Glimmerglass in New York state or Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center. The video of the program can be seen at


The program begins with tenor Joshua Blue singing “Una furtive lagrima” from L’eslisir d’amore by Donizetti. As the surtitles flash this “furtive tear welled up in her eye” and the Dresser could picture and viscerally feel the emotion that RBG felt in hearing this song being sung but such an artful singer like Joshua Blue. The Dresser had seen the Chief Justice at the Kennedy Center on many occasions.


Soprano Ashley Marie Roilard sings the second aria: “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. The sweetness of Roilard’s singing is remarkable for ability to relax the listener even as one strains with yearning that the performance does not stop too soon.


All of the musical presentations are like this. Between the arias we hear from RBG’s adult children, singers like baritone Norman Garret, opera director Francesco Zambello. The stories reveal so many intimate moments between RBG and these important people who made her long life worth living. Threaded through the talk is how justice and opera were interwoven in the Chief Justice’s life.


Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this thoughtful and moving program.





Monday, February 1, 2021

Griffiths & Hirshfield: The Introverts with Big Audience


On January 31, 2021, the Dresser heard poets Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Jane Hirschfield who gave Zoom readings sponsored by the Hudson Valley Writers Center. Jennifer Franklin, the moderator, reported an audience of 300.


Griffiths read from Seeing the Body (W. W. Norton, 2020), a collection that, among other topics, charts and celebrates the poet’s late mother with passionate and deeply felt imagery. One can hear this immediately in the opening poem, the title poem, “See the Body”—“I remember/her voice like a horn I never want/to pull out of my heart,” “I gather every mouth/that ever sang my mother’s blues,” “she talked back hard at god.” While this language is of this world, Griffiths moves this poem to a higher plane, the eternal: “How does the elegy believe me?/Together, we crossed the sky./There was a gate & we walked through/the world like that.”


Rachel Eliza Griffiths is an artist of many outlets. Seeing the Body displays both her lyrical poems and her black-and-white photographs. She is author of five poetry collections.


Hirschfield read from Ledger (Knopf, 2020), a socially, ecologically, and politically tuned in collection of poem reflecting on justice, peace, and, literally, the fate of the world. The poet has a disarming way of starting with the physical world and moving to another level of human existence. Her opening poem of Ledger entitled “The Bowl,” begins “If meat is put into the bowl, meat is eaten.” On the immediate level, the statement seems purely obvious and logical, particularly if the one being fed is at the mercy of a host. But wait, what if this is a begging bowl and the beggar is vegetarian? Then suddenly the audience has moved into some other realm. Is it the politics of healthy eating, animal rights, social justice where one person is subjugated by another? This is a bowl like a day that contains “Wars, loves, trucks, betrayals, kindness” and this bowl cannot be thrown way or broken. Moreover “It is calm, uneclipsable, rindless,/and, big though it seems, fits exactly in two hands.” If Hirschfield only presented this poem, the audience would be fed for a life time, except everything she read was like this.

Jane Hirschfield, a Princeton University graduate of the first class including women,  received lay ordination in Soto Zen (San Francisco Zen Center). She is author of nine collections of poetry.


The Dresser recommends hearing the reading and the Q&A that answers questions on their writing processes.