Views of Venus

Plato thought she was the daughter of heaven, or U’ranos, though classical mythology sees her as the daughter of Jupiter and Dione and the goddess of beauty and love.

Shakespeare: ‘Venus smiles not in a house of tears’ – Romeo and Juliet

She was wedlocked in one view to Vulcan, and gave birth to Eros; another view has her give birth to Harmonia from her association with Mars. She also led Helen to her liaison with Paris, causing the Trojan War.

She wore a magic girdle, which aroused love for her in others.

In the Lusiad, as goddess of the ocean, she is the impersonation of heavenly love, giving dominion over the sea to the hero Vasco da Gama when she married him. The Island of Venus, near India, was raised, in this work, by divine love as a reward to the heroes of the poem.

In Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, Venus is the goddess of illicit delights and entertains the hero in her magic grotto beneath the Venusburg, a place of fatal delights.

Xenophon says she presided over the love of wisdom and virtue – the pleasures of the soul.

Nigidius says she was not born from sea foam (‘aphros’) at Cyprus, but from an egg that two fishes conveyed to the seashore. This egg was then hatched by two pigeons whiter than snow and gave birth to the Assyrian Venus, who instructed mankind in religion, virtue and equity.

The Venus of Milo was discovered by Admiral Dumont on the Greek Island of Milo. It now stands in the Louvre, with three statues of Hermes.

The ancient Cnidians owned the Venus of Praxit’eles and refused to part with it, even when King Nicome’dës offered to pay off their national debt if they sold it to him. It was later removed to Constantinople, where it perished in a fire during the reign of Justinian (AD 80).

The Venus de Medici was found in 11 pieces in the villa of Hadrian, near Tivoli. There was some suspicion about the authenticity of the right arm, which seemed to be more modern than the other fragments. Reconstructed, it now sits in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence. In it, Venus holds her hands out in front of her body.

The only thing missing on Venus is a CT Scan, but I’m sure someone will arrange one soon to rule out any hidden messages from a parallel universe.

It’s Anybody’s Spring

Just after the reunion, my new sister Karen (Karenska, as she calls herself on the Web) realized her own dream – to record and issue a CD.

Like me, she had the bug for music from an early age. In high school she sang in a band with Eric Carmen, toured with the American Ballet Theater, and had principal singing roles in musicals like The Pirates of Penzance but she had her heart set on jazz.

She was the one who told me where the music came from in our family. Her father Ben passed on his love of harmony from his years in barbershop groups and musical theater. Our Aunt Sylvia toured with the Robert Shaw Chorale to Europe, singing classical music. And her cousin Ruth Wallis, a risqué singer from the 50s and 60s, inspired her toward jazz.

More than anything, this gave me a connection to my new family after the reunion. We had our own histories, but we shared an interest more indelible than a photograph.

I started in the Temple choir, where Cantor Bushman quickly elevated me to solo work. A talent scout at my YMCA camp got me to sing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” at the front of a band of counselors – and I was hooked. In the summers, I sang in musical theater at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, where I had the role of Paul in West Side Story. In high school, I joined the Men’s Chorus, founded by the assistant conductor of the Robert Shaw Carole. I went on to sing in a quartet and a singing/dancing ensemble. As an adult, I’ve sung in various choirs in Canberra and Brisbane but only had a brief return to solo work with the Brisbane Light Opera before that company was disbanded. If I’d been born in Wales, maybe I would be in opera now. Or maybe not.

The title of Karen’s CD is It’s Anybody’s Spring, and the title is more than appropriate. It says it’s never too late to follow your passion, which she has.

Above all else, we have that in common.

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