elisabeth b&w

Musical: Elisabeth

It's just inevitable that one of these days I'll get to talking about musicals. I'm rather crazy about them, the combination of music and drama just does it to me, and I particularly like the modern dramatic European kind. (People tend to associate musicals with Broadway and West End, and I can in fact be dreadfully unknowledgeable about what has gone on in those places after the 1990s, while able to cite lots of cast and understudies for Central European productions of many of my favourite things.)

One of my favourite musicals is Elisabeth, which premiered in Vienna in 1992 and has since been a success in many European countries and also some Asian ones (I don't know, for some reason they love dramatic European stuff over there). It's about the Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898) and her time. Elisabeth was an unusual woman and unusual Empress, refusing to live the life she was told to live and breaking away from convention, chasing freedom, travelling, riding and writing poetry, but never really finding happiness. You could see her as being ahead of her time, but also very bound up in her time, a nervous, uncertain half-century where eras ended and others began.

In the musical, her story is told in a rather unusual manner: her assassin, Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, tells her story to some post-death audience, explaining that the real reason he killed her was because she was in love with Death and wanted it, and Death wanted Lucheni to do it. Death is shown in the musical as a seductive male figure who tries to draw Elisabeth to himself and tell her that she can only achieve real freedom through him and only he understands her; he also meddles with the life of her son Rudolf, the tragic crown prince of Austria who indeed killed himself at the age of 30 (and possibly my favourite historical figure). And his influence is felt all over the last decades of the Habsburg Empire, ruled by the Emperor Franz Joseph who loved his wife but never really seemed to understand her (or their son).

I recently went to see this musical in its German tour in Munich. While I enjoyed the Vienna production I saw in 2014 even more - I often seem to enjoy Vienna musicals particularly - this was also a brilliant one, with a great cast and excellent direction. I noticed that there's an interesting trailer available, which was apparently made for the China tour this production did this winter. There are spoken bits in English, though everything is sung in German, and I think it helps you get an idea of what it's like. There are enough amazing-quality videos to give you a pretty good idea of what the musical is like. (There are spoilers, but then, the whole thing is based on history, so...) I'm going to put the video here, in the case any of you want to check it out. The guy in a striped shirt in the beginning is the sarcastic narrator-assassin Lucheni, the guy in black is Death, the lady is Empress Elisabeth herself, and the anguished young man in blue uniform is Crown Prince Rudolf. Enjoy.

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As I said, I really enjoyed the Munich production. Roberta Valentini made a fascinating Elisabeth. She dared to go deep into the dark sides of the character, not making her too nice, but still relatable and understandable; and her young Elisabeth was really a wild tomboy, not too ladylike, and you could really see it will be a problem when that ends up in the strict Viennese court... Maximilian Mann struck a wonderful balance with his Franz-Joseph, making it understandable Elisabeth should find it hard to understand his strict adherence to duty and obeyance of his mother, but at the same time deeply relatable and human, one of the most touching portrayals of the character I've seen. Kurosch Abbasi as Lucheni lacked some of the energy I remember from the Vienna production, but I still loved his alternately biting and sarcastic, alternately thoughtful and even emotional Lucheni, an unusually dark and powerful, human interpretation of the character. Mark Seibert as Death is not a great favourite of mine, but he's growing on me; this time I could get pretty well into the character and see him as the manipulative power behind Elisabeth's, Rudolf's and other's actions. Thomas Hohler as Rudolf was one of the most beautiful and painful portrayals of the character I've seen and I can't even speak much of him. He was not afraid to go deep into the fragility of the character while at the same time showing that intelligent, frustrated liberal defying his father and the Empire and hoping he could change fate. Wonderful voice, too. The ensemble was great, and especially in Milch (a revolt song for the people, led by Lucheni) I felt like they might be about to start a revolution there and then. The ensemble in Vienna was even more powerful, but on the other hand this time I wasn't distracted staring at one actor 90 % of the time, so I could get a fuller idea of what everyone was doing.

I'm still kind of glad I didn't go for another performance in the same holiday. The musical is powerful stuff that leaves me exhausted both physically and mentally, seeing how strongly I live with it as I see it, and I'm not quite as young as I used to be. It seems better I don't have too many performances of this but have time to digest it both emotionally and intellectually. It's worth it.
apple blossom

Rosemary and thyme.

The week has been crazy, busy and stressful, and it will be weekend before I really have time to reply to comments or write much or read everyone's entries. But I'd just love to note here that today I and one of my friends went to a plant market, and I bought plants! Lots and lots of herbs for my balcony, but also I dared to start a little with vegetables. I bought a chili and a kale. I hope I can make them live and thrive on my balcony! Then I will have a little secret garden of my own, so to speak. I hope to get some flowers there, too, but now I'm just thrilled with the herbs and other things. I have a little bit of "gardening" to do in the weekend now!

It was also delightful to spend the evening with my friend, outside and enjoying things that grow. It's been too long since I spent time with another person, other than work. I came home feeling all exhilerated and rejuvenated. Now just to survive tomorrow and then it's weekend!

The spring continues to be amazing. Everything is light green and full of dazzling light. I can't get tired of watching it. There are bird cherries (had to look that up in a dictionary) around the house, I only realised this week that's what they were, when they started putting out flowers. Many of the flowers have opened now, though most haven't yet, and the smell in the air is already wonderful.

I was trying out some clothes tonight and accidentally discovered I have a spiffy outfit to wear on a Pride Week party. Too bad it isn't Pride Week yet!
road and trees

Spring is progressing.

I know, I haven't posted in ages. I get all these new LJ friends and then I don't post anything for them to read. I've tried to start writing a post a couple of times, and have thought about it several more times, but I've just been so exhausted, either exhausted or too busy. I mostly blame work. There's a long stressful period going on, and my brain is starting to give up on me sometimes and my body just can't seem to handle things at the moment, since I spend most of the time either tired or mildly sick.

But I guess that besides work, I am to blame a little, too, since I do too much and expect too much of myself at my free time, too. I'm trying to learn out of that now. Yesterday I had a day off, and did very little, and I think that did me good, since I've felt fairly alive today.

But I won't write more about that. What will I write about? The spring is getting lovelier and lovelier. It's still quite cold out there, it can surprise you when you look outside and see the sky so blue and the myriad little light green leaves of the birches glowing with golden sunlight. But despite the coolness, things are starting to grow, it's suddenly green everywhere, there are more birds than I can name, there's even a nightingale in the little grove behind my house that has appeared some time in the last week and sings, delighting me. There are white anemones everywhere, like a carpet of white stars. In the garden patches nearby, you see daffodils blooming, rhubarbs suddenly sprouting big stems and leaves, tulips preparing themselves to blossom.

I hope I soon get a little energy and can buy some plants for my balcony. It would be so delightful to have some herbs, and easy flowers the kind that even I can keep alive.

I've been reading a lot lately. Somehow, though my brain is tired a lot, it doesn't keep me from reading books. I think I need them to escape to another world, to think of different things, and also to make sense of the world I'm in. I've read a surprising amount of Finnish literature this year, considering I'm often more into foreign books, but mostly it doesn't do much good to talk about that here, since Finnish books don't get translated to other languages that much. I recently read one of the adult novels of Tove Jansson - though they're more like childhood memoirs written in a fictional style, and a collection of related short stories rather than a typical novel. I'm absolutely in love with her style and her world.

I've read a lot of books about LGBT things - ranging from lesbian romantic stories to several albums of Dykes To Watch Out For to non-fiction stories and thoughts of Finnish LGBT people. I read the French graphic novel Le bleu ist une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh - I think the film based on it is called Blue is the warmest colour in English. I haven't seen the film, because I suck at seeing films, even ones I want to see, but maybe I'll rent it at some point. The graphic novel, in any case, was incredibly beautiful, rich and touching, though a trifle too tragic for my taste. Though the tragedy was beautiful, it also felt a little self-serving, like a story has to be tragic in the order to be worthy, and I felt like the characters and the story were stretched a bit to make the tragedy happen and it was kind of excessive. It was still gorgeous, and maybe it would not have been as touching without the tragedy, but sometimes I'm a bit tired of LGBT books where things go tragic...

Anyway, it means a lot to me to read these stories as I sort out my own feelings, my own thought and self. It makes it real what I am and what I feel (even if I don't feel it towards anyone in particular yet). It makes me feel like I can be and belong.

But a lot of other books, too. I recently read a story of E.T.A. Hoffmann's, which reminded me what a partiality I have for Central European literature and German things. And how, no matter how much I love English literature, I really need other kinds, too. Because most often you here run into either Finnish or originally English-language literature, I want to make an effort to find ones that have been written in other languages, coming from other cultures. Lately I've been reading some translations of Chinese and Hungarian poetry.

But I still love English literature as well, and yesterday I picked up George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, which I've had sitting on my shelf since my last trip to England. I've wanted to read it ever since I saw parts of the miniseries a few years ago, but I took a while to find a copy that had covers which didn't hurt my eyes with the colours. Now I'm reading it, anyway, and am really delighted with it so far. I'm noticing my head isn't as accustomed to reading large tomes in Victorian English as it used to be, but it's not slowing me down too much.

Now I'd better get off the computer and start preparing for bed, though.
road and trees

Trying to let myself rest

I ended up being too tired to read much last night, I just went to bed rather early. I slept well and some of the sleep debt is paid now. I still feel very tired, though. Outside it's pretty though cold, and a part of me would like to go out and do things, a part of me is just too tired for anything today. I think I'd better take today very easy (though I will go outdoors, it usually revives me), and maybe tomorrow I'll have energy to be a little more active. But it's been such a tiring few weeks, I deserve a restful weekend.

There was just a little robin that flew on my balcony, sat on the balcony chair and looked at me. And right now a squirrel is climbing in one of the trees. I do love it that my current home is so close to nature, even if real forests the kind that I'm used to are still some distance away.

There's a lot that I want to do. I want to write here about things, ranging from upcoming musical productions in Finland and Europe to more sexual orientation stuff to politics (we had an election here and the results are not very happy). I want to write posts to add-me communities to get to know new people. I want to start a blog in Finnish so I can get to know more people in this country, too. (Though I really also wanted to start this English blog, because no matter how many good things there are about this country and how liberal it is on the grand scale of all the countries in the world, there is a rather oppressive atmosphere of sameness here, and I get desperate to stay in regular contact with people from other countries so that I keep a perspective of things being able to be different. When I was a kid, books gave me that, but the internet and social media have been golden in helping me keep in touch with a wider world.) I want to write letters and read books and make my home neater and join the political party I support because they didn't do well in the election and I want to take part in forming this society closer to something I want. But right now I mostly want to wrap myself up in quiet and rest.

And go for a walk and work on my novel. I think those are the two things I can do today, in addition to meeting my friend for Into the Woods. And seeing how much I've done in the past weeks, that certainly is well enough for one day.
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girl in garden

Winding down

I had three very stressful and exhausting things related to work this month, and now all three are finally over. I'm really glad of it, and relieved. This weekend I hope to mostly just rest, though I am planning to meet some friends and go to see Into the Woods in the cinema.

Sometimes, when I'm exhausted after a lot of stress, I feel all fragile inside. I don't really mean emotionally fragile (though that can happen, too), but there's this sense of fragility physically inside me, thinking feels hard and I just don't want to have to do much. Today was like that. But now it's evening and I don't have to do anything, and there's a pretty sunset behind my window, but as it's very cold outside, I can stay here and be warm. Maybe I'll make a pot of rooibos tea. Maybe curl up with a book. I bought an entirely fascinating book on a whim, The Quick by Lauren Owen. It's a gothic novel set in late Victorian England, with some queer characters - right up my alley. So far it seems the kind of thing I would have wished to write myself a few years back. I want to read it, and on the other hand I'd like to get on with Handmaid's Tale, so we'll see which one I'll end up picking up for tonight.

Today after work I took a moment to quickly raid some of the Rainbow Shelf in one of the libraries in this city - yes, there is a library with a Rainbow Shelf here. Queer-themed fiction, non-fiction and films collected in one place. It seems very actively used, too, because each time I visit it, the items are almost all of them different. I've been using it a few times in the past weeks. Ever since I started to realise this "I might be even more queer than I realised" thing, I've yearned for stories about people like me. I just need to be able to read about how we exist and are worth telling stories about, and how other people have come to terms with this in their life.

Last weekend I had a mini-meet with a couple of lesbian girls I found on a Finnish LGBT forum. It was great, we talked about a lot of things and had fun. It was so nice being among other people that I can talk about these things with, just like that, without having to wonder what they'll think, knowing that this part of me can be accepted just as it is. I've also been happy to make some contact to other lesbian/bi/otherwise queer girls and women lately.

OK, my brain is turning itself off. Time to go try that "rooibos and reading thing". I wonder how soon I could go to bed and just sleep. I guess 9 pm is too early to hope I'd really fall asleep. Yes, my Friday nights are just wild.
Marie Antoinette

Spring and sick days and Marie Antoinette

Writing out my angst last weekend seemed to help, as I became much calmer after that, could concentrate on other things again and even actually got a job application out that day. This week has been very busy, not as stressful as last week but still enough. When I finally got over the second work thing that had been causing me stress, it's no wonder I got ill. I tend to do that when I stop being under stress. So I've stayed home today. Actually, it's possibly the best kind of illness to have at this point: pretty much nothing's the matter with me when I'm resting and doing very little, I only start feeling bad when I'm up doing much. I think it's more just pure exhaustion than anything else, but nevertheless I don't seem capable of work, so I'm enjoying the rest. Hopefully the worst will go over today and I'll be able to do my plans for the weekend, but I'm not expecting anything of myself at the moment.

At the moment, I'm watching a very pretty spring day behind my window. Blue skies patterned with white and grey clouds, trees shyly opening their buds, birds chirping and tweeting and whatever it is that they do. An hour ago I was watching sleet and hail, so clearly the loveliness of the spring is extremely variable. Nevertheless, I've lately enjoyed seeing more and more new flowers such as blue and white anemones, hearing birds I don't even recognise because I didn't grow up this south, and even catching the sight of a bumblebee or two. Though I love all seasons, spring is perhaps my greatest favourite, because I simply love the feeling of light and growth starting again after winter, of green and colours and freshness and variety coming up everywhere, of things changing a little bit every day and more life coming out all the time.

Resting, I've been reading a bit of this and that (from evolution science to lesbian romance), and watching Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. I'd never seen it before (I see fairly few movies and usually much later than everyone else saw them). Collapse )

I've got a pot of lovely jasmine tea made, and I want to pay more attention to it. I might head back to bed now and read something, maybe continue my reread of Mansfield Park or see if I can progress with that brick of Finnish literature I've had for a while.
girl in garden

Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know...

My nerves feel taut, like they're constantly being pulled and tightened. It's mainly because I've got a hellishly stressful time going on at day job, and it haunts me even during the weekend, which I hate, because normally I can at least leave things behind when I'm not at work. But there are other things involved, too. I'm currently visiting my mother, and it makes me nervous, because I've been thinking about this sexual orientation stuff a lot lately. I'm taking small steps to get to know other queer girls/women and speak at least to some people about myself as I am. But at the same time I'm terrified and nervous to think about what my mother would think if she knew. She's not at all anti-gay, but I'm still nervous she'd be disappointed if her own daughter turned out not straight. I still feel like I'm expected to fill out my part in the normal straight person ideal and it's just not working out.

I know a woman in her 30s ought to have the guts to live her own life regardless of what her parents think, but it's not so simple. All my life, I've had a hard time belonging, so the idea of feeling less like I belong in my biological family, who've always been there, is pretty frightening. And in a way it makes it harder that I'm already over 30, and have let people believe I'm straight all this time. I should have come out in a blaze in my rebellious teens, except I didn't have very rebellious teens. I got rebellious only much later, and things felt complicated then. Maybe I'm going to have my rebellious teens now, who knows.

I need to somehow pull myself together, write job applications, be sociable, things like that. But I just want to hide somewhere for a month or two, get to rest and not have to care what anyone else thinks...

Well, at least I've got my writing. It brought me joy yesterday, and I'm sure it will today, too. I'm going to escape it again, lose myself in the feelings of my characters, which maybe at the same time are more honest than the face I present to the world... And I've got my books, they're a safe haven, too.
road and trees

Let the journal be opened.

Here I am, back on LiveJournal. I've been here before, see, and my old LJ is most likely still around. But I'm starting a new one, because I have new purposes for this one. (Also, I seem to have changed the password and forgotten it. I will do something to recover it, at least so I can inform old followers who might still be around, but today isn't the day, because first I need to recover the password for the e-mail address... Long story. Never binge-change your passwords in the middle of the night and then lose the note you wrote them on.)

Anyway, there are a few reasons I wanted to start a new LJ. I miss this place, damn it. No matter how popular some of the new forms of social media are, they're just not my thing as much as this place always was. Tumblr gives me headache with the overflow of stuff and images and just let's not go there. I hardly post anything on Facebook because it's attached to my name and followed by my mother and aunts and cousins and people I went to school with and even colleagues (I know, filters exist, but I'm lazy). Twitter's short for someone as verbose as me. My selfie-taking skills are close to nil. Blogs on Blogger seem to be designed much worse for communicating than this place. No, I want to give LJ a try. My old one was friends-only and pretty much all the friends had left. Didn't make much sense to communicate anymore. But I want to give a try to writing here, in a new place, mostly publicly, so I can get to know new people. I want to write about things I love. Things like books, theatre, history or my newfound interest in Dr Who. I'm not promising I'll write about all these things, but I want a place where I can, without it being something a prospective employer who of course never googles job applicants will immediately find.

Then there's another reason that's been getting evident lately. It'll have a post of its own, I think. But anyway, I'm starting to realise that seeing myself as a bisexual who can just try to focus on guys because it's the socially acceptable option... that isn't working. Because I just don't seem to actually like guys except some fictional ones. While I rather light up about the idea of girls. And something in me just becomes incredibly happy when I let myself think that I might acutally just be a lesbian, or at least a bisexual leaning rather more to the lesbian side. And that I at least don't want to pretend to be straight. And there's that whole side which just wants to be explored, let out and have a voice somewhere. Though I'm not completely closeted (several friends do know, and I've been to a Pride once), I'm still closeted enough that I don't want my Mum to find out while I'm looking for myself. So a place like this seems like the perfect solution. Here, I can at least talk about the fact that I like girls, talk about queer books and films and whatnot, talk about trying to find my way in this world with all this on my mind. And maybe it helps me live this part of me more in the non-internet world, too.

As yet I haven't done that much with the journal; the profile needs more information, the layout could use some attention, and I don't yet have any friends here. Speaking of friends, if you come across this journal and think we might have something in common, I welcome you! Like I said earlier, I want to get to know new people, I want to talk to people. I have a paper journal which I can use if I don't want to share things with anyone else. But forgive me that for a while the place is going to be under construction and not look all that fancy or tell very much about me. All in its time.

And a few words about the names: my real name, of course, is nothing like Amelia. I rather would like if it were. I got it partly from the film Amélie, partly from some other occurrences of some version of that name, and I just like it. The name of the journal is because I recently reread The Secret Garden and because it seemed like an appropriate metaphor. I like the idea of my online journal as a sort of garden where I cultivate beautiful or fruitful things that will hopefully bring happiness, healing and fulfillment.

But with these ramblings, let this journal be declared opened!