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At some point during the summer, I revived an ancient practice. While I tidied up the apartment, I would listen to an opera. I picked up this amiable practice from Richard-Raymond Alasko, one of the stars of my undergraduate days. Richard-Raymond, a grad student, actually had his own little house to clean up. He would tune into the Metropolitan Opera broadcast and dust away.

I don't remember when I fell out of the habit of sprucing up housework with opera recordings. There was a long period of Jonathan Schwartz. Recently, I went through a phase of watching videos, which is not, I can attest, a good idea. One Saturday in August, I pulled out Salome to listen to while I cleaned the bedroom. I hadn't listened to an opera in a very long time, and that worried me. So much has been changing in my life during the past two years, but surely I wasn't going to lose opera!

I remember telling Richard-Raymond that I had a fantasy of taking a long bath while listening to Salome. He told me that I'd grow out of it. I never actually grew into it, however. I have been too big for bathtubs since I was fourteen, and while other people may love a good soak, to me a bath is nothing more than lying in a dirty puddle. I don't have what it takes to be decadent. "Decadent"! What an almost forgotten word. It was so big in the Sixties.

A week after Salome, I pulled out Aida. I was going to be systematic, rotating among the four Greats - Mozart, Verdi, Wagner and Strauss - with contributions from the Rest - Puccini on down - assiduously worked in. Manon Lescaut was last weekend's choice. I really didn't want to listen to it, but I really did enjoy it. Two days ago, I picked Lohengrin.

My housekeeping is somewhat superficial. I will take everything off of a table before dusting it, and wipe things with a damp cloth before putting them back, but I rarely move furniture or take down drapery. It is more a matter of order than of genuine cleanliness. During the week, the rooms grow deranged and askew. The task of putting them to rights confronts me with living proof of the entropy that will eventually swallow up everything. It is also sheer drudgery. That's where opera comes in. It is not a distraction. It is not even an accompaniment. It is a metamorphosis. It transforms dusting into a kind of dance.

Assuming that you already know the opera by heart, that is. Well, I know most of them. But not the rarity that I'm considering for next Saturday, Mozart's La finta giardiniera.


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My rule is nothing too subtle, cleaning needs noise. The Aida recording with Nilsson and Corelli is a favorite, early Verdi too. Too often with Puccini I stop to listen.....and Strauss I rarely listen to on CD other than Frau, which I know backwards and which is also a good cleaning opera. Mozart is death, while in the opera house and while out.........I write that listening to Schubert on a glorious day in P'town.....

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