Simanaitis Says

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THIS PAST WEEKEND, I enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera’s Met HD production of Nico Muhly’s Marnie. I’m seeing it again tomorrow, November 14, 2018, with Wife Dottie as a Met Encore. And, in between, I’ve read an article by Nico Muhly in the London Review of Books.

While this might smack of dramatic overkill, I can add that I plan to read the 1961 Winston Graham novel Marnie and, one of these days, watch the DVD of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1964 suspense film of the same name.

Marnie, by Winston Graham, Hodder & Stoughton, 1961. Cover and details shown here for the highly collectible first edition. Link to Pan Publications paperback.

By the way, I don’t want to spoil things and I offer only hints about the plot here.

Marnie, the Novel. British author Winston Graham acknowledged three real-life inspirations for Marnie: a family babysitter stressed by her mother prattling on about the dangers of men, and two newspaper articles, one concerning marital infidelity and the other, theft.

Marnie, the Movie. Alfred Hitchcock bid anonymously for the book’s film rights; this, to keep the price down. Once a deal was made, at twice the initial bid, author Graham admitted he would have given the rights away free, just for the honor of having one of his stories filmed by Hitchcock.

Marnie, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, music by Bernard Hermann, Universal Pictures, 1964.

Tippi Hedren, of The Birds fame, portrays Marnie. Sean Connery, in a much darker, complex role than 007, is Marnie’s husband Mark. There’s a witty trailer featuring Hitchcock that gives away only one element of the drama: Marnie has been a thief.

I give away no more here in quoting some of Hitch’s great lines: He intoned, “One might call Marnie a sex mystery—if one used such words.” After Marnie is terrorized by lightening: “Has she just realized she’s forgot her umbrella?” In a torrid, albeit brief, love scene with husband Mark: “Our hero applies mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

A Composer’s Work. In “How I Write Music,” London Review of Books, October 25, 2018, Marnie composer Nico Muhly displayed wit as well. “The tragedy and luxury of my life is that I travel a great deal,” he said. “My portable MIDI keyboard has a shoulder strap, and the rest of my things can fit into a small duffel bag over my other shoulder. The overall effect, as I traipse through Arrivals, is not unlike Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, but the convenience is worth any amount of staring and friction burns.”

Nico Muhly, Vermont-born 1981, American composer and arranger. He is a member of the Icelandic music collective/recording label Bedroom Community.

On finding accommodations suitable for his composing-on-the-run, Muhly said, “I often email landlords asking them to take measurements of the apartment’s flat surfaces, which has resulted in no small number of cancellations; I imagine they think I’m going to perform home butchery or celebrate a casual Black Mass for my new Lyonnais Satanist Grindr friends.”

Muhly also shared an example of his diagramatic approach to composition and orchestration: a fragment of a sketch for Reliable Sources, for bassoon and wind ensemble. Image from London Review of Books, October 25, 2018.

Marnie Meets Marnie. In The New York Times, October 22, 2018, Michael Cooper wrote that Tippi Hedren, Hitchcock’s ‘Marnie,’ Loves the Met’s Opera.”

Cooper continued, “When she showed up at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday for the opening of the new opera ‘Marnie,’ Tippi Hedren wore an elegant, glittering floor-length gown. In bright red.”

He quotes Ms. Hedren, 88, as saying, “I thought I’m going to wear it and see if anybody gets it.”

“Plenty did,” Cooper wrote, “to her delight.”

Ms. Tippi Hedren, actress, meets Ms. Isobel Leonard, mezzo-soprano. Image by Vincent Tullo for The New York Times, October 22, 2018.

Cooper also recounted Hedren’s being asked to make a surprise curtain call at the end of the opera. Ms. Hedren, one Marnie, met another, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard. “I’m going to cry now,” Ms. Leonard said, “Please don’t make me cry!” Then the two went out for a bow together.

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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