Pushing the vatrine

The Dallas Opera's current production of Donizetti's "Roberto Devereux" makes use of large, lighted glass display cases on wheels to showcase the psychological suffering of Queen Elizabeth I due to beheadings before and during her reign. At least that is the best pop-psych explanation I've come up with to explain the circle-the-wagons feature. (I flunked Tudor self-help.)

In Act I three glass display cases pop out on stage ending a fairly clever quicky recap of the Elizabethan era. William Shakespeare climbs out of a wicker chest to direct Elizabeth in a scene from "Midsummer Night's Dream" on the stage of the Globe Theatre. A lovely map unfurls for a backdrop. A cardboard cutout Spanish Armada is blasted by a cardboard English Navy.

Alas, the glass cases must signal that it is time to get capital S serious or italicized m mystified. Are they museum displays? Store windows from Neiman Marcus? Lenin's tomb? One case contains a hefty Henry VIII; another must hold Elizabeth's mother, Ann Boleyn. The center case holds a young redheaded princess doing the mime-in-a-box act while looking distraught. Yes, we get it. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" : Henry IV, Part 2; act 3, scene 1.1.31. Shadowy figures propel the lighted cases around the stage and off.

At the end of the opera, the three boxes go rolling around the stage again. One seems to contain a clearly deceased Roberto Devereux. One must hold Mary Stuart. Who is in the third?

One of my friends is a shadowy figure. He's hardworking. He claims the glass box he pushes is called a "vatrine".

My American Heritage Dictionary has no entry for "vatrine". "Vitrine" doesn't appear, either. I have better luck online with Merriam Webster:

vi·trine \və-ˈtrēn\ noun French, from vitre pane of glass, from Old French, from Latin vitrum:
1880 : a glass showcase or cabinet especially for displaying fine wares or specimens

So, depending how it's embellished, a vitrine could hold collections of porcelain chickens, owls, or mushrooms. A vitrine might display curios, knickknacks, aged sirloin, Braniff stewardess hot pants at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, or the A. B. Normal brain from "Young Frankenstein".

So many questions. So little time. It's quiz time:

1. In what Laura Ingalls Wilder book did Pa build a corner display case for Ma's porcelain shepherdess? By the Shores of Silver Lake

2. What was the display case called? A whatnot

3. Who was Lurleen Wallace? Not a Tudor. The first wife of George Wallace, and first female governor of Alabama, although a stand-in for her spouse. She just popped into mind between vitrine and the six wives. I was remembering a family in NE Nebraska who had named all their daughters Erlene, Sherlene, Darlene, Karlene, Murine...

4. What happens to the brains of NFL players who suffer head hits and concussions? Heard on NPR about a new study.

5. What was Emily Kaitz's hilarious wedding song about housing a hideous porcelain poodle collection in expensive glass cabinets? I Will Stay with You

6. Name each wife of Henry VIII and her chronological fate, and imagine how the Village People could dance to divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived:

7. Where can I get a cool name like Mary, Queen of Scots? I want a comma. I'll pass on the glass box, though. Collagemama, Queen of Blogs...

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

Christine Thresh said...

Confusing, but very interesting.


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