Turning Point 6.30.22
A Tarot opera, a Tarot art project--and the future of EP . . .
I’d planned to begin a series of Daily Notes on Monday—and it’s a long story about why that didn’t happen. But the outcome of the story is simple: I have to make some hard choices right now about where to spend time and effort.
I love writing posts for Exploration Project, especially when I can offer a perspective on Tarot that might not be found elsewhere. Or highlight ideas and information that will encourage a more substantive view of Tarot.
However. I can’t do it as frequently as I would like to, at the level of substance and quality I want to offer. So I’ve been trying to decide whether there’s some approach that would enable me to offer the newsletter more consistently.
At the risk of seeming coy, I’m going to save my answer on that one til the end of this post. Because I really want to share two items that were planned for the Daily Notes.
A Tarot Opera
I set out to gather Tarot references from the Los Angeles Times. Beginning in 1985, their archive contains over 800 instances, on 87 screens—which was a lot more than I expected. And so far, I’ve barely gotten through 1985. But in just that year, I’ve come across some interesting material about changes in state and local laws pertaining to Tarot reading and other forms of divination, as well as three “letters to the editor” written by irate LAT readers. Two are upset because Tarot was portrayed flippantly in a lifestyle article, and one was upset because the paper had failed to point out that Tarot is connected with anti-Christian cults.
But here’s the major reward so far for this research effort:
Here’s more from the story:
Tarotterror, which has never been performed in its entirety, tells the story of four characters from a deck of Tarot cards--the Fool, the Emperor, the Empress and the Magician. Scenes from the work have been previously performed in Los Angeles at the Anticlub and the Eilat Gordin Gallery, although, Houston said, “We have redesigned it to fit this space.”
“It has four characters and a series of tableaux. . . . The magician seduces the empress and the emperor doesn’t like it. So the themes are very big in that sense. I don’t go for the psychological angles--not in the sense of a Sam Shepard. But the characters are bigger than life, and I try to get the audience members to recognize that they are bigger than life, too.”
Needless to say, I would love to have seen/heard this production! The musical approach was described this way:
The chamber-sized ensemble uses French horn and trombone as well as two electric pianos, amplified viola, amplified acoustic guitar, accordion, electric guitar, electric bass and percussion. The result, as Houston describes it, is somewhere between the jazz-inflected pop music of Sting and the amplified electric guitar rock orchestras of Glenn Branca.
I think I’ve tracked down the composer, and have reached out in hopes of more info—pictures perhaps, a script, even a recording. Something of a long shot after all these years, but I’ll share anything I discover.
Meanwhile, in the process of researching this story, I came across The Opera Tarot. Since I love opera, I like the idea a lot, and was intrigued by a few examples, like this one:
Here’s the blurb:
The Opera Tarot with paintings by Linda Sutton and text by Philip Carr-Gomm invites us to explore the challenges we face in life by gazing on to the stage at moments during some of the most famous performances in the operatic world. We see Pavarotti and Dame Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas and Placido Domingo on stage in the world’s favourite operas, and we also visit less well-known operas and performers to broaden our knowledge and deepen our experience.
And this link will take you to a walkthrough of the deck.
Now fast-forward to a new Tarot project by artist/writer/teacher Gene Wisniewski. I like his approach—which captures (or at least suggests) the essence of each trump, using few or no representational elements.
Gene has created a slideshow of the project, showing each of the 22 works, along with card designs and other imagery that influenced his interpretations. Some examples:
Gene hasn’t decided where to go next with the project, but I happen to know he’d be happy to receive feedback! Contact info is on the first slide.
Which brings us back to my own “next steps.” Basically . . . I don’t feel right about the lack of consistency I’ve had with Exploration Project—but at the moment, I don’t foresee being able to publish on a more regular schedule.
So I have a sort of wrap-up post planned for next week, sharing several things that have been in my notes for a long time but haven’t made it into a post. I’ll also offer a suggested reading list for recent subscribers who would like to explore the archives.
After that, I’m going to put EP on hiatus for a while.
For now—thanks as always for reading! And if you’re in the US, enjoy the holiday weekend.
Warmest regards, Cynthia