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Word and Iphigenia

Your faithful correspondent was a happy Torontonian today, even snuffling, with wheezing lungs. I’ve been riding my bicycle to Word on the Street almost every year since its inception, decades ago, on Queen Street. And today, at Queen’s Park, it’s bigger and better than ever. Someone somewhere has said that print is dead, but you’d be hard pressed to believe it today, looking at the countless actual dead-tree books, mags, newspapers for sale, the publishers and editors, the number of tents with writers reading and signing books – it’s a marvel. In all those years, I can remember only two with bad weather – and today did not break the record, a perfect day of hot sun with a breeze. Heaven – many books, much sun.


Every year I try not to buy and every year, I cannot resist. Couldn’t pass by Groundwood Books, had to buy a few kiddie books for my nephew, and my friend Laurel Croza’s prize-winning “I Know Here” again, though I have several copies already. Couldn’t pass “The Master and Margerita” that I’ve been meaning to read for years, and a few bookish gifts for my kids. The “Dummies” series was celebrating their 20th anniversary; I brought home their catalogue and a free Dummies pen. Among their subjects: Judaism for Dummies, Parkinson’s Disease, Weight Loss Surgery, Autism for Dummies; Knitting, Happiness, California Wine, Holiday Decorating, Fishing, Biochemistry, Quitting Smoking for Dummies. The catalogue is 144 pages long. This is known as a successful franchise.

Had to tear myself away, because, sigh, I had to go to the opera at 2. My student and friend Peg is in the chorus and periodically shares in-house offers of orchestra seats for $22. Yes, $22. Hopped on my bicycle, down University Avenue in the sun, my backpack loaded with books, off to the opera: “Iphigenia in Tauris,” by Gluck. Omigod. Breathtaking.

This dysfunctional Greek family – the House of Atreus – makes any other family look like the happiest of munchkins. Father Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods, but she is rescued by the goddess Diana. Iphigenia’s mother Clytemnestra does not know the girl has survived and avenges her death by murdering Agamemnon. Their son Orestes feels he must avenge his father’s death by murdering his mother. Orestes, pursued by furies and ravaged by guilt, is shipwrecked on the shore of Scythia, where his sister lives in exile as a priestess whose job is to make human sacrifices to the gods. Of course, she must sacrifice Orestes – and yet, must she?
Believe it or not, these tormented souls end happily. The heavy black scrim lifts, and there is light. The music was heaven – the chorus gorgeous, the leads, especially Susan Graham as Iphegenia, which has apparently become her signature role, spectacular. What an afternoon. The best in books, music and sunshine. Thank you, Toronto.
P.S. An opera joke: As I left after the last act during which, despite its happy ending, many people were killed and there was much, much angst until the darkness lifted, a nice older man with whom I’d been chatting said wryly, “This is the only opera about Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Made me laugh out loud. Maybe you hadda be there.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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