Thursday, August 8, 2013

Businessmen Are #1

I was at the opera last night, a performance of Siegfried, the third in Richard Wagner's four-opera Der Ring des Nibelungen.  It was a first-rate performance with Stefan Vinke in the title role, even allowing that the Brünnhilde, Lori Phillips, was standing in at the last minute as the advertised Brünnhilde, Alwyn Mellor, was sidelined with an allergy attack.

The great theme of Siegfried is the end of the age of the gods.  Wotan, now the Wanderer, accepts that the rigid idea of the triune world and everyone in their place: -- Nibelungs in the underworld, giants on the earth and gods in Valhalla -- is over.  Now humans, represented by the Volsungs, i.e., Siegfried, will inherit the earth and freedom and contingency will reign.

Freedom, as I define it, is the right to make mistakes.  And of course in the final Ring opera, Götterdämmerung, Siegfried will make a big one, everything will get screwed up, and the world will be left with the eternal female, Brünnhilde, singing in full voice while the whole universe collapses into the Rhine.

But in the intermission, aside from talking with conductors and art dealers, I got to talk to a guy from Boise, Idaho, who was running a couple of waste energy plants.  One was waste-to-energy, which I assume means garbage waste.  The other was a refinery waste project, "burning" waste from a refinery in Billings, Montana, and delivering steam back to the refinery, among other things.

It made me think.  To be a businessman, doing real stuff like trying to make a profit in some obscure but important economic niche, is the most honorable thing I can imagine.

Ordinary Joe employees like you and me?  We are ungrateful whiners that actually get to sleep at night.

Sauntering politicians?  They are divisive scum.

Political activists and community organizers?  They are worse than scum because, unlike politicians, they have absolutely no responsibility.

Barnacle bureaucrats?  They are bloodsuckers backed by men with guns taking and spending the lifeblood of ordinary people on the principle of How Not to Do It.

Not-for-profit preeners?  Look, it's a lot easier to  fundraise and spend money on worthy causes than to wrestle a business plan, day to day, into actual real profits.

Creative artists?  They are wonderful.  Don't forget that many are called but few are chosen.

But businessmen and businesswomen?  They are the people that actually make things happen in this world and that all of the above blame when things go wrong.

Back to Siegfried.  Seattle Opera General Director Speight Jenkins came out before the third act to announce the Brünnhilde change and he got a standing ovation.  I'll tell you one little story that will tell you why.  Speight Jenkins visits the orchestra at every performance, and my neighbor Julie, who plays viola in the pit, just loves him for that.

Speight Jenkins is a wonder.

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