Viva Verdi!

Posted to Subscribers on 12 October 2014


Dear Subscribers,

It's Sunday! I love my Sundays!

Yesterday was an incredible day. Not only did I go to the local theater for the Live in HD performance of Macbeth, but I spent most of the rest of the day exchanging e-mails and talking on the phone with a handful of others who also saw the production, most of them musicians except for me. This said, I have no illusions about the possibility that this post will bomb because there were only four of us in the audience at the theater even though the Metropolitan Opera must have sold out.

The opera is about ambition, conscience, and power and it is a drama, not a textbook or sermon nor even a page or two from "The Prince" by Machiavelli. Like other great classics, the fundamentals of the story are, sorry to say, probably timeless. Hopefully, not immortal but timeless. I am weighing my words carefully because there are two kinds of power, one that comes with identification with divine impulse and another that stems from a personal desire to dominate, something, I believe, that occurs at an instinctual level. So, the theatrical potential of a play or opera about power is immense.

Personal power is a behavioral bias. We can look for explanations, but it is simply a desire to dominate. To be successful, the means for sustaining domination have to be in place; otherwise, the power will be seized by another with the capacity to challenge the incumbent. To make this simple and bring it clearly in focus at the instinctual level, we can look at the animal kingdom. There could be bucks ramming their horns and bashing their heads into each other; the winner's genes are the progenitors of the next generation of their species. Alpha dog has similar prerogatives and slightly less artistic means of establishing rights.

With humans, the might makes right statute is called into question by conscience or challenged by competing theses such as "knowledge is power." Macbeth is a story about conscience and the risks one takes with one's own psyche when the policing of conscience is corrupted by various arguments and justifications for the action. However, as stated, the opera is not a sermon. The circumstances of the competing parties are not explained. There are no discussions of ideologies or loyalties, and neither the king nor his subjects have any lines to sing. So, we can say the entire drama takes place inside the psyches of the players themselves or, we could argue, that the entire opera is nothing in the world but a dream that Macbeth had in which the characters are merely aspects of himself.

Now, if we scroll back to the previous post in which I said that certain theorists, Cyril Scott being one of the primary voices, suggest that there never would have been schools of psychoanalysis were it not for Verdi (and Beethoven), we can take the opera to another level. Before going into this steamy jungle, I would like to add a couple more points. What makes for "classical" music or theater versus "modern" stage productions is the extent of the immortality of the artistic expression. In simple words, if a Broadway play or Hollywood film is a box office success but rarely revisited after the passage of time, it will not become a classic. The truth is, we can use these same arguments in any discipline. For example, why are we still studying Ayurveda or the writings and teachings of Hildegard of Bingen unless the system of thought embodied in the historic works remains relevant. If we are merely historians looking for the foundations of modern medicine, we would not offer diplomas to those who practice the ancient methods.

I believe the determining factor in the longevity of classic works is how inspired the original presenter of the system was. This is the divine power to which I referred. If we are all projections of a spark from our Creator, then we have purpose related to that projection and mechanisms within ourselves for manifesting the immortal part of ourselves.

In the Greek tradition, art had to be beautiful, but in the case of Verdi's Macbeth, aside from the music itself, there is no beauty, just a key to psychosis that, if understood, would have the power to change the world.

Now, I will digress a tad. When my parents divorced, my father seemed to take the rejection seriously. I did not have a good relationship with him so I can merely judge by the little I knew and observed that he had to go through a very long process to reinvent himself. Rejection is the main power a woman has over a man so, of course, he was hit in the Achilles heel, but he became involved with Jungian analysis and was working with Robert Johnson. He told me that they were collaborating on a book called "Shakespeare's Royal Self". I just checked online and see a book of that title by James Kirsch with a date consistent with this epoch in my father's life. Anyway, my father said the book was to be a psychoanalysis of King Lear, Otello, and Hamlet. It's interesting that Macbeth was not on the short list. Maybe, Macbeth is more of a subject for Freud than Jung?

Many years ago, but later than that discussion with my father, I wrote a short essay called "Born to Rule" which was about the three signs of the Zodiac with some inherent claim to rule. Mind you, I did not say "dominate" because each of these signs reaches its position in a different manner. Capricorn always acts with delegated authority. As such, it is part of the infrastructure of authority and must be subservient to the higher authority, whatever that authority is. I would maintain that the authority could be a person in the outer world or an aspect of self. For example, the vizier of the pharaoh must not aspire to become pharaoh. The key to Capricorn is its ethic so the painful places in the psyche revolve around what it takes to stay the course when the ruler is what the Chinese call an "inferior man". In this case, the sage (in the I Ching) would counsel to survive until the propitious moment comes to create divine order.

With Scorpio, the desire for power is very complex and it might be worth a moment of our time to look at the simply incredible array of Scorpionic women surrounding the present occupant of the White House. His grandmother was a dominant woman and he went on to marry a Scorpio and to put Hillary Clinton, arguably an incarnate Lady Macbeth, into a high position where, presumably, he would hope to control her at least to some extent.

The potential for paranoia is exactly what we see with the bucks. If there is even a tiny shift of power, the name of the one wearing the crown would change so trusting subordinates is crucial to peace of mind. It is doubtful that any prince with younger brothers or any general with captains beneath him has this kind of peaceful sleep.

The third sign that is born to rule is Leo. It assumes, by virtue of its right to rule by day, that the throne belongs to him. Since not everyone belongs to a dynasty of historic lineage, we can transpose these dynamics and say that the limelight is presumed to belong to Leo. Mr. Clinton certainly enjoyed that limelight but, ironically, he had the same Lady Macbeth in his entourage as the later occupant of the White House. Likewise, there is another edition of Lady Macbeth in Condoleezza Rice so now, we can easily set the stage and return to the opera.

If we take the opera as a psychodrama rather than a play about an historic king, we can suggest that the entire drama took place within one very bad dream of one person, Macbeth. Now, if we return to Jung, we can say that Lady Macbeth is the anima of Macbeth. We each have what Jung called a persona, an ego identity which is usually solar, and a less well known part of oneself which is a shadow. In men, the women act out the shadow. So, when Lady Macbeth dies, Macbeth has to own his own shadow, and then we see he is ruthless and can no longer blame the "devil in her" for his actions.

This is therefore a moment of revelation when he sees himself for who and what he is rather than someone who would like to blame a cunning woman for the deeds he commits. Then, we can take the opera and say, we do not really know who the war hero Macbeth is until Lady Macbeth dies. The cause is not reported, but she became a sleepwalker, almost an apparition of the fragmented conscience, troubled by the "damn spot" that she could not erase from her hands. It does not have to be "real" in the sense that one has an outer woman to symbolize the anima. The entire drama can occur inside oneself.

A very dear friend of mine was an MD who had wanted to be a psychiatrist, but fate led him into Jungian analysis and then shamanism. What happens in the shamanic crisis is similar to a schizophrenic break except that the person learns to recognize the anima, own it as part of himself, and eventually use it as a muse because, according to Jung, the creative self relies on the contrasexual energies. I.e., for a man, there are muses and they are perceived to be inner forces that take over and then supply the works of artistic value. A shaman uses this side of the energy for healing, but he may need to trance to find the energy. A composer may use different language to supply the explanation for his inspiration, but it comes from within and often will not "turn on" in the presence of a biological woman.

For a woman, the creative process is different because her "other self" is masculine and is experienced as outside and downpouring. However, as with men, the creative juices rarely flow if there is a biological challenge. For instance, with Alton and me, we could recognize each other's gifts and missions but just being together over dinner or a film would transform the creativity to ordinary conscious interaction where the magical sparks were not visible. So, to feel the ignition, we had to work out our individual relationships to self.

There are countless types of psychotherapy in the world today. There are entire schools teaching everything from how to find the inner child to how to reunite with the divine. These are different parts of oneself. So, what happens when there is a particular kind of crisis, let's call it a schizophrenic break, but there are other ways to experience the disintegration of identity, is that we see the self in fragments. If one is very logical, the fragments are rejected as unreal. Therefore, returning to the opera, we can, experience the chorus of witches as supernatural or incessant pressure on the brain that will not stop. I.e., logically, we can make an appointment with a fortune teller of some description or other, or we can go inside our own psyche and ask what are the possible consequences of the actions I am considering. Out there and in here are actually not distant and the answers should be the same.

So, if we wanted to expand the distance, we could substitute a card reading for dream interpretation, but it is still inside, and with the logical mind, the power to discriminate is in tact whereas this is not true in the unconscious because there are no thought processes, just visions and sounds, that, in a crisis, supplant the logical self and take center stage.

Now back to the opera. As I said, it is a story about conscience and the psychodrama of conscience. Many will say it is a story about power, one of the aphrodisiacs of the primitive forces in the unconscious of certain individuals. If it were that simple, Macbeth would not be tormented, but the drama is about what happens if one dares to question the ethics of actions. As such, I would say that Macbeth is a Capricorn. Yes, I am an astrologer and I know that horoscopes are complex, and we cannot just refer to one part of the chart, but let's then say that Macbeth is an archetypal Capricorn. If we now invoke the oracle of the I Ching, we will be told that the superior man waits until the moment is right to make his move. If King Duncan is evil, then striking him down would be noble. This "honor" however goes to Macduff when he stabs Macbeth.

If however the motivation is to have the higher position for oneself, then one has not accepted that delegated authority is sufficient. Ambition gets us from one situation to the next, but is there a goal that is prohibited by either natural or divine law?

Lady Macbeth, as the wife or partner or anima, is either more evil than Macbeth himself or merely compliant. As I mentioned, years ago I had two clients, each of whom had often played Lady Macbeth on stage. The one was perhaps what one might call "love starved". She was very dependent on her partner for intense partnership and very jealous of rivals. To interpret the role as "she would do anything for him" would be "normal" in certain circumstances. The other was friendly and cooperative and felt that wives should be loving but not competitive so basically, she told Macbeth what he wanted to hear.

I do not think this is the Lady Macbeth Verdi wanted. I have seen the opera live several times and on DVDs and film as well. Most people try to give Verdi what he wanted: darkness with some stridency in the opening aria after the letter, but they have to sound more beautiful in the all-important sleepwalking scene.

Anna Netrebko was not perhaps as unpleasant sounding as Verdi wanted, but to be seductive, as a wife or anima — it does not matter — one must also be appealing. Beauty is more attractive than harshness so I felt Netrebko struck a nice compromise by singing magnificently, with some darkness in the opening aria but immense beauty and artistry throughout.

Obviously, I could go on and on and on, but I would like to wrap up this post with a couple of closing remarks. First of all, it's not over. There is an encore performance at local theaters in 69 countries. This opera is no longer for audiences with the means to pay for tickets at the Met. It is available for everyone. It on Wednesday, October 15, at 6:30 p.m. in all time zones. Secondly, we could take this opera and reset it to countless situations in today's world. Whenever we are conflicted about whether or not to do or not to do, we can explore the ramifications of the actions and, perhaps, examine the toll the actions will take on our emotional and mental well being. For instance, what is the reward and what is the price for endless wars for oil or precious metals. We have countless forms of tyranny today that have similar outcomes as wars. For example, while wars tend to cause a lot of property damage, loss of life, and refugees, there are environmental assaults today that are causing similar devastation for every kingdom of nature. Or, we could take economic wars. In a revolution, we can overthrow a foreign sovereign and gain independence from the throne, only to be experience hardship through bankers instead of taxes.

In the usual idiom of wars, people are incited by some "ism" to take a side, and endless propaganda is spewed to promote allegiance to one side or the other. However, behind the scenes, it is more than likely that a few are profiteering by supplying both sides of the conflict. Macbeth is not about the issues that cause people to fight. It is just about the torment and consequences of ambition that is not held in check. This is the key to the play's immortality and its constant reincarnation in different costumes on different stages for hundreds of years.


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2014


The Astrology of Healing





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