Category Archives: Blog Posts

makeup lesson

How my makeup lesson went

I was asked for a new headshot. One where you can see more than my eyes over the edge of a coffee cup. One not taken in the ’90s.

And so I set to work fretting about it, which is a long process. Pictures are the reason I drive with an expired license.

In the midst of the fretting process I remembered that I had taken Sugarplum for a makeup lesson and had promised her I would have one done, too. This is why the fretting process is so helpful and important. It brings to light things you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Without the fretting process I would have gone barging into a photo session with my own face, and now I don’t have to.

When Sugarplum had her makeup done I had to look twice to establish that she had makeup on. She looked like the inside of a seashell – all glowy and smooth. I want to look like the inside of a seashell, too, so I scheduled an appointment with the same consultant.

It turns out I am the outside of a seashell.

My makeover starts with extra moisturizer because the foundation is falling into my pores. I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good. She applies foundation over the moisturizer, bronzer to replace the color taken out by the foundation, and then blush to lift my face. “See how lovely and dewy it is?” she says, handing me the mirror.

Where she sees dewy, I see damp. Dewy is my lawn in the morning. Damp is my face after I’ve had a hot flash, or run up the stairs, or covered it with wet makeup that is still…wet. I am at a place in my life where I’m more likely to opt for a jar of cornstarch and a poof. But I go with it. At this point there is so much moisturizer on my face it’s only a matter of time before something hydroplanes.

And then it’s the eyes. She puts highlighter and concealer under my eyes to get rid of my dark circles. We both pretend it worked.

She has to remove a little leftover eyeliner before continuing. I don’t tell her it’s yesterday’s mascara, doubling handily as today’s eyeliner. I have time management and economy down to a science and I don’t want her stealing my moves.

Next she gives me eyebrows. I have eyebrows of my own, but they’re the same color as my skin. She fixes that with a $42 pencil, which I buy in a drunken moment of having eyebrows. I also buy the lipstick she swears by because she puts hers on in the morning and it stays put until she eats. In my case that means about an hour of wear, but I vow to eat gently and without using my lips.

I accidentally wipe half my face off on my sleeve in the car on the way home and now I have to change my shirt, which sets me back because I really like this shirt and wanted it in my headshot. Maybe I’ll hold it.

I need to take the photo fast before I lose the other half of my face. Based on her recommendations, it will run me $342 plus tax to replicate this look at home. Tonight I will sleep flat on my back like after face painting at a fair, in hopes I can wear it again tomorrow.

J. Geils, Peter Wolf, and a rock nymph

I love J. Geils, don’t get me wrong. Specifically, I loved (and wore out) Love Stinks and Freezeframe. But it was Peter Wolf’s face I cut out of the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with manicure scissors, gluing him to my bedroom wall. I dreamt of the day when my high power music industry career would give me the chance to meet and mingle with the likes of Peter Wolf. I would be a smart, savvy, rock nymph. There would be affairs.

When I at last had the opportunity to meet Peter Wolf it was exactly like I had never imagined. I did not, for instance, imagine myself middle aged and 7 months pregnant. We were having our second child, so I looked like I was overdue with triplets.

Chris mentioned it so nonchalantly: Peter Wolf was making a guest appearance at a music festival he was doing sound for. He said it like “there will be lobster fritters, Peter Wolf, and free parking.”

I actually stopped what I was doing and made him back up. “The Peter Wolf?” I asked.

“And a line array,” he most likely answered. It was awhile ago, but chances are good that’s how it went down.

It was my big chance. Most people Chris does sound for end up hanging out with him at least a little and there I would be. I tried on my entire maternity wardrobe to find the perfect look, rejecting stretch pants with belly panels, empire-waist tunics, and a sundress made of two circus tents. Try as I might, it was impossible to create the illusion of 17, so I settled on something that didn’t bind, itch, or ride up when I sat down.

I bought a string of food tickets long enough to circumnavigate my belly and Sugarplum and I set to work festivaling while the first bands played. We downed fish tacos, fried oysters, onion rings, funnel cakes, and maybe some nachos. We stayed outside near the food trucks until Sugarplum couldn’t take it anymore and made me go inside to see the bands.

Sugarplum has been a dancer since she was in utero. Wherever Chris was working, we’d go. She heard a lot of bands through amniotic fluid and would faithfully start to shake it when the music started. Once she reached terra firma, she danced whenever there was music – from a cell phone ringing to a New Jersey rest stop.

She danced while I sat and watched, too slow, cumbersome, and self-conscious to join her. When she got tired we sat in the front row watching more bands until she fell asleep in my arms. It was 9 p.m. and there was no sign of Peter Wolf. I couldn’t believe how close I was, and how much I wanted my pajamas. We said goodnight to Chris.

I carried my sleeping rock nymph to the car, past the tour busses and the parties, and home to bed.

For the record, love does not stink. Rest in peace, J. Geils. And thank you.

Pages from Sugarplum’s autograph book:

David Lowery (Cracker), Colin Hay (Men at Work), Evan Dando (The Lemonheads)
Juliana Hatfield, Frank Black (The Pixies), Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band)

spring concert for small rock stars

Barfing on the band

So cute, right? My little indie rocker decided what to wear to Spring Concert a few days ago. He even did laundry. The suit jacket is obviously still big for him – a hand-me-down from an older musician he quietly admires – but it has a certain indie band David Byrne quality to it and paired nicely with his favorite skinny jeans.

On the third song all the kids changed places. Studley made his way off the risers and to the front of the stage, where he barfed like a rock star.

Not that anyone can blame him. This entire spring has felt like someone threw up on it.

I didn’t see the barfing. I saw him being escorted out of the room and thought “wait, he’s getting kicked out? What on earth did he do?” Studley is more of a pensive, layers of electronica musician than a hard core rabble rouser. Although now that we know about the barfing, we might want to change that up.

I climbed over seats and parents and video cameras and went to my son in the hall, where he was stifling sobs over his ruined suit. We got him cleaned up and headed home, totally beating the traffic jam. This is not our first rock show, people.

Because I respect his privacy, I may or may not have mentioned all this at work. I work with performers, and they had stories of their own.

“I barfed on someone’s head.” “I wet my pants at the second grade assembly.” “I had diarrhea at the bows.”

They all seem completely unscarred, with full lives both on and off stage. They also told me what probably happened: He had locked his knees.

I think they need to practice this in music class when they rehearse for concerts. As for Studley, we’ve been coaching him in case it ever happens again. The next time he feels woozy on stage he’ll yell “thank you, Detroit” into the mic, vomit on the front row, and collapse victoriously in the wreckage.

I suggest you sit toward the back.

The real Trout Towers

Imported from the old blog, because people still ask:

In yesterday’s comments, Kristin said “you know, Susan, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t visualize Trout Towers, with the musicians and the upstairs neighbors and the chickens and all.”

I don’t blame her one little bit. I thought about her comment and thought it would be fun to encourage readers to describe the mental picture they have of Trout Towers. I would rather like that. Please go ahead and do that, even though I am about to spoil everything.

Trout Towers is a full Cape – two stories and a full basement. Fun Fact! The person who built it made the windows and chimney larger than normal to make the rest of the house look smaller. It is the clown car of houses.

It looks kind of like this:*

Or it would look like that, if it weren’t for a few curiosities we like to leave around the yard. Like the lawnmower. And a woodstove. Doesn’t everyone have a woodstove in their driveway? No?

This shows the woodstove in the front yard, which would be tacky. Ours is in the driveway and therefore totally classy.

I may have mentioned at some point that Chris likes to bring things home from the dump. Specifically, windows. He’s fond of shower doors, but those must be around on the other side of the house because I couldn’t find a good picture of them. Also, my mother-in-law’s electric cart which we forbade her to drive because she was a maniac. And blind. But whatever.

We are also great fans of the exercise thing and have various wheeled contraptions around the yard for that purpose. Mostly bikes, a tricycle and a jog stroller that birds may possibly be nesting in by now. I do not jog.

And let us not forget the chickens.

Lucky for everyone, Chris took down the geodesic dome he built and left to die on the lawn. It was going to be a garage, but never quite worked out that way. It was kind of an awesome, if overly large, sculpture – until we had kids and the kids had friends and the dome started to look like a really, really big home owners’ insurance claim.

So, it doesn’t look like that at all.

It looks like this.

* Whoever actually owns the house I used in this illustration, I am really, really sorry.

Sitting Pretty

I ran into a friend this morning in a beach parking lot. Figuratively, I mean. We’re both okay.

She was wearing a navy Izod polo dress, faded to denim and soft with wear. “I’m wearing all my old clothes from the ’80s,” she said.

No one wants to see me in my clothes from the ’80s. Black lace and camouflage, arms ringed with plumbing supplies and a pair of pants that looked like they were made from a Hefty trash bag – it’s a mercy none of it fits now. It was my way of saying “I am not from here and I am not one of you.”

I was of course from there and looking back, was one of them. I just didn’t like admitting it. I used my clothing to define myself, as did we all.

I remember a political science professor in college telling a classmate that although he was welcome to wear hot pink nail polish in class, it would just make things hard for him out in the real world. It was his choice, to either smooth the road ahead or make it unnecessarily rocky. Like it or not, we are initially evaluated by our appearance.

He didn’t say it’s right or just, he said it’s the way it is.

My friend is a mountain biker and likes his roads on the rocky side. This guidance did not phase him or alter his course toward what became a very successful career. He probably doesn’t even remember the conversation.

I’m not a mountain biker, and prefer to stay off the really steep inclines. I’m more of a Parisian side street kind of girl.

I used to wear vintage dresses to parties because I am shy and the clothes always inspired people to come talk to me. They sparked conversations about history, art, fashion and eventually the hors d’oeuvre table because that’s where my real interests lie. The funny thing is that because I wore clothes that were different, people thought I was confident and extroverted.

Which isn’t to say I’m not extroverted. I am very extroverted when I am at my house, alone, expressing my thoughts via my laptop. In my vintage kimono.

Clothes do many things, then. They mark us as one of the herd or single us out as the black sheep. They make the road a freshly paved expressway or a treacherous single-track of adventure. Not all on their own, of course, but as my professor pointed out, they do weigh in.
Part of their influence is the way they make us see ourselves. If you tell yourself that something is true enough times, eventually you believe it. If you choose to wear that message daily, it expedites the process.

In college I was incensed that people would judge my friend by his nail polish. I thought they should see him for who he was and value his contribution. It’s a two edged sword, this fashion thing. We use it. We are surprised and appalled when it uses us.

Years ago I spent a long weekend at a Zen monastery. One of the things they asked was that we wear loose, dark colored, simple clothes, with no patterns or pictures. They didn’t want our clothes to be visually distracting.

I didn’t think about it much as I packed my favorite black sweat pants and t-shirts, but it’s one of the things I appreciated most while I was there.

With no visual statements to distract me, I saw people as they were: beautiful and exquisitely memorable.

When I came home I made a concerted effort to simplify my wardrobe. We are all so perfectly us, we don’t really need the sandwich boards around our necks, telling people who we are and what makes us different/better/smarter/wiser. Sandwich boards are heavy.

I don’t always practice what I preach. Today I am wearing a particularly loud sundress because it makes me laugh like a maniac when I see a reflection of myself. It also makes random strangers smile when I walk by. It’s not good at a monastery, but it’s perfect for work.

These are my current guidelines for clothing choices, subject to change. I don’t need to be different. I don’t need to tell people who I am. I just need to be comfortable and happy.
And although I would have eaten live frogs before wearing my friend’s Izod dress in the ’80s, it looked covetously comfortable this morning.

That’s pretty fashionable.

This column originally appeared in The Magazine of Yoga

Help me pick a cover for my new book

We’re down to the wire on the book cover and I need help deciding. Please leave a comment and vote for your favorite version. Extra credit for reasons why you like it.

Thank you!

Love Fest or hornet’s nest?

The other day I was on Twitter (shut up, it was work related) and I noticed that a friend’s Twitterscope happened to also be my Twitterscope. It said:

You shift from being okay to not okay and back in just a few minutes. Although this may be confusing to you, it can be truly disconcerting to others. Consequently, it’s smart to keep your mood swings to yourself until they settle down. Be patient; you will gain clarity in the days ahead.

To which I said, Screw you, Twitterscope. It’s not about me. I never knew what I was walking into – a love fest or a hornet’s nest.

This horoscope advice from the planets came on the heels of my own realization that things were topsy turvy in a particular area of my life. One minute I was doing everything right. The next minute I was doing everything wrong. My moodswings? I don’t think so.

As luck would have it, every time things were going badly I’d come home and the kids would be louder/messier/slower/stickier than usual because they can tell when I’m at my wit’s end.

That’s when they put grape jelly in their hair. To make sure my love is truly unconditional.

Because I do love them unconditionally, I try to practice a little of the horoscope advice. I focus on the “be patient” part.

I can do that much. Doing the be patient part helps me realize they don’t just get jelly in their hair because I’m stressed out. Things like jelly happen all the time, but when my head needs help it throws my game.

When my head is okay, I get out the hose and am done with it. So it’s not that they’re being less loud/messy/slow/sticky normally. It’s that it doesn’t always affect me. I don’t make it part of my experience. It looks like I go from okay to not okay and back because of what the people around me are doing, when really it’s how I am handling my interpretation of what they’re doing.

It’s always an inside job.

If it’s true of my jelly-crusted children, it’s true of the hornet’s nest. I can’t control the actions of others, but I have every right to not make them part of my own reality.

The Dalai Lama, who totally knows about such things, said “When our minds are clouded by hatred, selfishness, jealousy, and anger, we lose not only control but also our judgment.”

It’s funny, isn’t it, that the wanting to be in control is what actually makes us lose control?

Be patient and you will gain clarity. Fight it and you just make it more real. It’s true on the mat and it’s true in life.

Isn’t it great that we have so many many many chances to practice this every single day?

If you focus on what’s not working or get angry with yourself, your kids, your breakfast drink, whatever, then that’s what becomes more real and that’s where your day goes. If you can let go, you can be right where you want to be.

As I was writing this, three kids spilled three glasses of chocolate milk. It was like some kind of test. Because I was writing this and I didn’t want you to see what a hypocrite I am, I handled all three spills with patience.

It seemed like good practice for when the hornets start buzzing again. Maybe I’ll learn that even the hornets are just a bunch of big kids with bad hand-eye coordination. Maybe I’ll realize that their loudest buzzing is about needing unconditional love, and it’s not directed at me at all.

Maybe, when that promised clarity comes, I can get this jelly out of my hair – and resume my love affair with Twitter.

This column was originally published in The Magazine of Yoga. Reprinted with gratitude.

Radio Betty: Idomeneo et al

In March we listened to operas you can go and see, and congratulated the fabulous bass baritone, Sir Bryn Terfel, recently knighted by the Queen. Here he is in Don Giovanni – an Opera Betty reader favorite:

The Rake’s Progress

Boston Lyric opera is doing a stunning job of bringing us all up to speed on Stravisnky’s The Rake’s Progress, on stage now through March 19. Before you go to the opera you can learn all about it on their website


We played a some of The Rake’s Progress on the radio, but go ahead and take some time to explore BLO’s videos. I love this one:


La Traviata

There are two Met Opera HD broadcasts happening between now and the next Radio Betty. The live broadcast of La Traviata was Saturday, but you can probably still catch an encore.


The next Live in HD broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera is Mozart’s Idomeneo on March 25th.


If you like the story of Aida but wish it had a happier ending, this may be the opera for you. It’s also terrific because the story is from Greek mythology so there’s a sea monster and an unfortunate promise to Neptune.

First, the backstory: Helen has been carted off to Troy by Paris, and various Greek kings join forces to lay siege – including Idomeneo of Crete. Instead of postcards, Idomeneo sends Trojan captives home to let them know of his imminent return. One of those captives is Princess Ilia, the daughter of King Priam which I think makes her Paris’ sister but don’t quote me. The ship she was on sank because that’s what happens to ships in Greek mythology, but Ilia was rescued by Idomeneo’s son, Idamante . They fall in love.

Of course, it’s complicated. There’s the whole “your dad took me captive” part, plus, Elettra is already in love with Idamante. Elettra, who you may know as Elektra, is the one who helped her brother kill their mom in revenge for the murder of their dad, Agamemnon. Remind me sometime to go down the rabbit hole of operas involving all these people. It will be so fun.

Elettra lives in Crete now, since she was forced to flee Argos.

Ilia is falling in love with Idamante but realizes that holiday family gatherings will be a bummer since his father is a sworn enemy of her people. Idamante is holding down the fort until his dad gets home, so he frees the Trojan captives to show her they’re not so bad after all.

Meanwhile, Idomeneo is drowned in a shipwreck.

But wait! He doesn’t drown because he makes a deal with Neptune, who saves him. In return for his life, Idomeneo promises to kill the first person he lays eyes on when he gets to dry land. Unfortunately, that person is his son. Because, mythology.

Trying to figure a way out of sacrificing his son, Idomeneo sends Idamante to escort Elettra back to Argos. Elettra hopes the trip will work out for her and Idamante , except that just as they’re getting ready to leave, a storm kicks up and a sea monster appears. Idomeneo admits that it’s his fault the island is being attacked by a sea monster but refuses to sacrifice an innocent human. He tries banishing Idamante who still doesn’t understand why his dad’s being so mean.

Idamante agrees to be exiled, not having any idea why, so it is time for he and Ilia to finally admit that they are in love.

Idomeneo has to give up the name of the person he’s supposed to kill and everyone is terribly sad as they prepare the sacrifice. Idamante meanwhile kills the sea monster, but understands that a deal is a deal and is ready to be sacrificed to save Crete.

Ilia offers to take his place, which is maybe why Neptune reconsiders and, just as Idomeneo is ready to kill his son, makes a counter offer. If Idomeneo steps aside and gives the throne to his son and Ilia, they’ll be Even Steven. Everyone but Elettra rejoices. The chorus sings and they all eat cake and sea monster sushi. The end.

Opera Betty is on WOMR the second Sunday of every month at noon, Eastern time.


Eulogy for the broken

When a guest breaks something in our friend’s house, she tells them to make a wish. She says nine out of ten people say they wish they hadn’t broken the thing, and I say if ten people are running around your house breaking things you need to rethink your guest list. She tells me that’s not the point. Inviting them to make a wish turns breakage into a whole different kind of tradition – like wishing on a necklace clasp when it turns to the front, or driving through a yellow light.

I don’t do that. When I hear something break in my house I say “Was it the green one? My mom bought that when she was in high school. She kept an African violet in it when we were growing up.” Or whatever.

I don’t think of it as a guilt trip; I think of it as a eulogy. Having a mini Celebration of Life for a broken object is not something I do on purpose. It’s a reaction to the object’s life flashing before my eyes. Many of the things we have, especially the breakable ones, have rich and full lives during their tenure.

Don’t tell our things, but sometimes it’s a relief when they break. With great stories come great responsibility. And dust. I am a champion discarder, but there are some things I can’t bear to get rid of. You don’t realize how heavily a story weighs on you until it’s dispelled with a crash.

The last time we broke a piece of pottery (a favorite tea bowl that came from an art fair in Burlington, VT), I buried it in the yard to dissuade rats from tunneling into the chicken coop. I’m not sure if it’s working, but I do like to think of what future archaeologists will think when they find it.

If it surfaces, I hope the person who digs it up gives it a history – and makes a wish.

Fish makeovers

For Christmas we were given a hydroponic aquarium. It’s one of those things that you either love or send a thank you note that says “why would you do this to me?” People give us these things from time to time – things that make your kitchen explode or cover your bathroom in vegetable dye. We tend to love them.

The aquarium is designed to grow micro-greens on top while purifying water for the fish below. It comes with everything except water and a fish. Shortly after Christmas Chris took Sugarplum to the pet store in the big city where she picked out Antler.

Bettas are beautiful fish. I have had a few over the years and loved their grace and vivid splendor. They come in these crazy colors, as can be seen in a simple Google image search:

You can imagine my surprise when Antler came home and turned out to be a natural brunette like the rest of us. Out of all the fish, my daughter picked the beige one. That’s really nice, I thought. She brought home the one no one was going to buy.

“He’s Antler,” she said. “He’s supposed to be brown.”

We grew radish greens and wheat grass, most of which we ate or juiced before they turned to brown sludge. We replanted when the first seeds were spent and experimented with different greens with varying degrees of success (read: failure).

Things were going great. The fish was happy, the plants were happyish, and then the aquarium went from passable to an omg-where’s-the-fish? bucket of slime in less than 12 hours. The parallels between Antler and life in our house just never let up.

I went back to the fish store and bought a net and a sponge shaped like a fish because obviously you need a sponge shaped like a fish. I also picked up more food.

Antler does not eat just any fish food. Or maybe he does, but he’s doing great on what came with the Water Garden so I figured we should stay with what’s working. The thing is, the kind he eats come in two versions: regular and color enhancing.

I have puzzled over his color a few times since his arrival. For a little while I thought he might be a juvenile and hadn’t settled on a color yet. Like baby eyes. But could it be all Antler needs is color enhancing fish food?

I agonized over this decision longer than is sane. Antler is Antler. He is supposed to be brown. We love him and let’s face it, the chances of him attracting a mate in our dining room are slim.

Which is a shame, because he is seriously handsome.

Eat your greens. Live your life. Be your own fish.


Trouts on tour

We took an actual vacation.

We had a friend come to the house and take care of everything while we were gone, including feeding our chickens and Antler the hydroponic fish. We did not ask him to take care of Hazel because Hazel is a lunatic and we were not 100% sure she would let our chicken sitter in the house. This is fine for the chickens as they only come in occasionally, but Antler would have pitched a fit.

Hazel was a rescue pup and I wonder sometimes if the places where you leave your dog to go on vacation are reminiscent of where you leave your dog when you just go. So Hazel went to the spa.

When we signed her up we spread the brochures out on the kitchen floor and talked about how it was a place where she could claim her own experience in a supportive, nurturing environment. It was a time to connect with her inner puppy, spark her creativity, and find her peace deep within. We were all really excited about the retreat, including Hazel. Which is to say she at no time peed on the brochures.

Studley went with me to drop her off and was fully invested in the process. So invested, in fact, that he signed her up for all the extra menu items, spa treatments, and relax & renew mind/body workshops while I was in the restroom.

With all the animals accounted for, we went off to New York and walked 175,000 miles. We went to the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Tenement Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney, the Museum of Natural History, and the Breuer Museum.* We went skating in Central Park, walked the Highline, and went to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We ate 500 things and then had Indian food delivered because we could.

When we got home we picked up Hazel who now smells like kombucha. And I have to say, as great as it is to collapse from museum fatigue daily and have food delivered to your door, getting hugged by a dog is better.


*Sugarplum and I spotted the Breuer on our way home from consignment shopping, cruised the gift shop and had mochas in the cafe. Stop judging me.

Breuer laurels

Opera Betty: Opera and Politics

Given the season, I’ve found myself exploring politically inspired themes. I had a lot of material to chose from – so many operas have been – and continue to be – inspired by political situations.

“Scalia/Ginsberg” is a new opera by Derrick Wang. According to an article in Salon, “Justices Antonin Scalia, with his devotion to the Constitution’s original meaning, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, more willing to adapt the Constitution to changing times, were ideological opposites and longtime friends with a mutual love of opera.”

I couldn’t find a recording or video for “Scalia/Ginsberg,” but for once I have an actual excuse to play something from “Nixon in China.” I think this particular selection is especially timely. “News has a kind of mystery….”

According to Tim Ashley’s opera guide in the Guardian, Jurgen Flimm’s 2004 Zurich Opera production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” emphasizes that “the opera is not only a demand for freedom and individual dignity, but is also a reminder of the lengths to which we must sometimes go in order to achieve them.”

Following the 2008 election, Guerilla Opera came out with Curtis Hughes opera “Say it Ain’t so, Joe,” about the vice presidential debates between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. The opera is described as a musical re-imagining of the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate, along with glimpses of other contemporaneous events and figures – with some fantastical digressions. It goes on to say that it’s not about Palin and Biden as real people, so much as about their public identities as constructed in the imaginations of the American people. It’s intended to evoke the subjective experience of watching the debate, including some emotional twists and turns and musical reflections on the nature of political speech. The libretto is adapted from public records – so the dialog will seem eerily familiar.

There was also an opera about Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, by Dan Redican. Its premiere was described as an epic failure, but it’s short, sweet, and judging from the trailer, worth the watch.

Also worth the watch is the upcoming movie of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The opera version of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Poul Ruders premiered at the Danish Royal Opera in 2000.

And let us not forget “Powder Her Face,” the explicit opera by Thomas Adès about the “Dirty Duchess”, Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, whose sexual exploits were the stuff of scandal and gossip in Britain in 1963 during her divorce proceedings. I played the overture on the radio, just to be safe.

Then of course there’s Boris Godunov. Boris comes out of the gate with everything I love about Russian opera. I love the traditional melodies, the bells, the heaps of choruses and the sound of the Russian language. It’s the story of Boris Godunov, obviously, who became tsar when someone had Ivan the Terrible’s heir, Dimitry, killed as a baby. We’re not saying who.

Opera means many different things to many different people, says a New York Times review. One meaning with a long history is “opera as musically accompanied declamation,” which is how ”X (The Life and Times of Malcolm X)” by Anthony Davis struck a reviewer in its formal world premiere at the New York City Opera. X “falls into the category of message theater, and by definition its message will not appeal to all who hear it.” See what you think:

A new opera by Mohammed Fairouz opened at Washington National Opera earlier this month that may or may not be about Trump. According to a Washington Post article, in “The Dictator’s Wife” the attractive wife of an authoritarian political leader bemoans the challenges of her position.

Recordings of “The Dictator’s Wife” are not yet available, but there are about 16 pages of other videos by or featuring Fairouz. This is the rabbit hole I went down:

And then of course there’s the whole Trojan war, summed up nicely in In Les Troyens

In a show about political operas I can’t not play something from “Satyagraha,” by Philip Glass. “Satyagraha” is about Gandhi’s years in South Africa, where he developed non-violent protest, or Satyagraha. In Gandhi’s words:

“Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love.”

I’m sorry you can’t see it, but the music is some of my favorite:

There has been quite a lot of talk about who will and will not be playing at the inauguration. In a tweet, Charlotte Church announced that she had declined, followed by some choice emojis. I find it funny that the only thing I have by her is the evening hymn from Hansel and Gretel. It’s lovely.

When at night I go to sleep,
Fourteen angels watch do keep,
Two my head are guarding,
Two my feet are guiding;
Two upon my right hand,
Two upon my left hand.
Two who warmly cover
Two who o’er me hover,
Two to whom ’tis given
To guide my steps to heaven.
Sleeping sofly, then it seems
Heaven enters in my dreams;
Angels hover round me,
Whisp’ring they have found me;
Two are sweetly singing,
Two are garlands bringing,
Strewing me with roses
As my soul reposes.
God will not forsake me
When dawn at last will wake me.