October 6, 2016
K&K Opera Hotel, Budapest. It took 1000 forints to buy a Starbucks, 7000 forints to get here from the airport, which is about 25 euro; one adjusts to the astronomical numbers. Sat beside a sea captain now living in Marion, NC, who’s retired from actual captaining and now works a desk job in Denmark. The trip was almost suspiciously trauma-free. Will even paid his rent early (which is to say, on time) so I have a little cushion in the bank. As the taxi passed the history museum with the ratty park I wrote poems in, and the little avenue leading to the radio station I came to know intimately, I perked up, for this part of the city I know. My room on the 7th floor has no view, of course, except for the windows of the rooms opposite and a pretty red roof off in the distance. Walked in the thin rain to Saint Stephen’s, Szent Istvan, which I somehow managed to miss before. Walked its long front avenue to the Duna, had some Starbucks in a tent near where some politician was going on in incomprehensible Hungarian, returned to the hotel. Have a ticket for Kodaly’s The Spinning Room at the opera tonight. Never heard of it; certainly never heard it. I could spit and hit the opera house, which is what I planned. Stood for a good while at the ticket booth behind an Italian who would not be satisfied, and kept saying “Your BEST price. . . your BEST price. . .” as if he expected the clerk to be holding out on him. His great beauty, when he turned around, made me glad I hadn’t started something. Traviata is sold out, so I’d best enjoy tonight.
Home from the opera: Szekely fono, The Spinning Room by Kodaly. Let’s see. . . The music was lively and lush, the staging, as I remember from the Strauss festival two summers ago, beautiful and inventive. Many men with their shirts off. It was an alternating discussion, in music based on and using Transylvanian folk motives, of death and love. A young man dies. . . then a bunch of women discuss love while dancing. . . and a bunch of men discuss love while dancing. . . a guy named Laslo pines for a girl named Ilona. . . everyone wants to die and their mothers hold them back. . . there is a demon. . .there is snow. . .the man who died comes back and claims his true love, a chubby lady in a blue skirt. Maybe I should have bought a libretto, though it was in Hungarian. Before the opera came a folk cabaret with dancers, a girl singer, and several musicians in black suits. At the end of their set they played some opening notes, and the violinist pointed at the crowd with his bow and everybody began singing a sad, beautiful song that all the Hungarians knew. It was lovely. A German woman kept asking me questions in German, which I kept answering, mostly on the theme of I didn’t know what was going on either.