Thursday, October 12, 2006

There's Always Room for Gioconda Lore

Reader* Flying Diva writes:

...I write to confirm the comment Zinka made about the b-flat. She made it on a public radio program called "The Vocal Scene" during an interview with the host, George Jellinek. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing in disbelief. I figured that I had heard this incorrectly. A few years later, they reran that episode and, sure enough, that's what she said.

However, my favorite Zinka moment was the one I had the privilege to witness. In the mid 80s, Queler and OONY did a Gioconda with Ghena Dimitrova. Although she later sang some decent performances at the MET, this performance was definitely NOT one of her triumphs. After the performance, where she had been booed a bit, I noticed Zinka standing on 7th Ave. just below 57th St......waiting for her ride? As was her way, she stood larger than life, in a white coat, signing autographs. As I got mine, one of the "faithful" said to her, "Ooh, Mme. one could EVER forget YOUR Gioconda!!" She seemed to grow another few inches as she steeled herself and smilingly replied, "ESPECIALLY after tonight!!!"

*I sort of hate this "Reader Flying Diva" business because it seems condescending..."Enthralled follower of my glorious pen," etc., but I can't very well say "Faithful correspondent" since I had never heard from Mr. or Ms. Diva before.

Mad as I am for Dimitrova, I couldn't resist passing along a delightful story.

Another Obituary of Sorts

Reader, I mean correspondent, I mean person-who-is-reading, I hope you have been appraised of the closing of Tower Records if you live in the New York City area. More to the point I hope you have been appraised of it but aren't going to go snap up the things I want. I have an odd history with Tower--just after college, I actually worked there, for minimum wage, for a little while. Nasty people to work for. But I also used to go there every trip to New York before I moved there, knowing I'd find things I couldn't get at home. Maybe I could have ordered them online but there's something about having it all arrayed before you that can only dredge up the awful cliche of a Kid in a Candy Store.

Blah blah, vaseline the lens, insert fond memories of rushing to tower after a late performance, crazy things I found there, I'm being dismissive because in point of fact when I walked into the one on lower Broadway and saw the "Going out of Business" signs, I felt (cross my heart and kiss my elbow) like crying. It's hard to explain. I think the key fact is that until now when I went in there, because I'm not a bazillionaire, I'd look at forty things and say, "I'll maybe get it later" and then walk out with some laserlight crap "Mado Robin sings Disney" bullshit that fits my budget better. And then, if you'll excuse the materialism, I'd dream of the ridiculously priced Keilberth Siegfried I left behind until one day I found it on sale for whatever one third of ridiculous is and decide to sacrifice the cat's college money. Now there is no later. I imagine there are recordings I simply won't find again.

I have no idea what I'm going on about. It feels a little like that dire prediction of many years about the classical record biz going belly up on us is a little bit coming true. itunes is still hideously understocked for opera, and besides, itunes is becoming creepily proprietary and universal in a troubling Googlean way. Listen, I'm going back to 33's, if not 78's. It has been pointed out to me by One Who Knows that of all musical recording media, the oldest ones hold up best if you look at it one way--78's sound exactly as they did in 1945, whereas CD's I bought last week won't play. So I'm throwing the battle, as far as technology goes. If you need me, I'll be in the corner with my Brunswick suitcase model.

Oh p.s. I got my Dalibor. It was the last copy. Sorry!


Chalkenteros said...

Fie and drats! So it was *YOU* who got the last Dalibor! Know now that thou art my enemy.


Alex said...

Oh man. I want that Keilberth so bad. The cat can come live with me and audit some stuff if that helps you get it/make me a copy...

Tower closing is very sad indeed. For the person who likes the classical there is something irreplaceable about the physical experience of auditioning 15 different little plastic Mahler 7's or Well Tempered Claviers or Siegfried's and getting to choose one to take home with you.

Besides the tactile fun, though, the serious classical music section is more than just a convenient way to distribute obscure music. It functions as a library for our musical history, a function rarely performed by actual libraries (e.g. Lincoln Center Library's opera section had nuthin' on Lincoln Center Tower's).

I've tried to tell myself that it's silly to get bothered about your preferred consumer outlet disappearing. It's the market, etc. But I think that's unfair. The rotten feeling about Tower's closing is no less than the rotten feeling one has at the closing of a museum or any other space where we store our history. Should a CD store have to function like a museum? Probably not. But that doesn't mean we haven't lost something.

Paul said...

When I used to go to London every January for a trade show, one of my favorite stops was the flagship Tower Records store at Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. One half of the top floor was a glass-enclosed classical music shop, with the most incredible selection of opera CDs one could imagine - especially notable since many of them were not (and never became) available stateside. But you're right about the prices: astronomical, especially with the crappy dollar-to-pound exchange rate the past few years (thanks, W!).

manprano said...

Museum?! I used to go to the classical section of Tower on Clark street in Lincoln Park to try and find a date!

Van Twee said...

R.I.P. Tower!

When I was a student in L.A., I made regular pilgrimages to the Classical Annex on Sunset. This is what my roommate and I did with our nights instead of disco dancing.

And then, when I worked around the corner from Tower Records Lincoln Center, I went there at least once a week to see what was new. Sometimes once a day. My boss should've installed a pneumatic tube to suck my paychecks out of his hand & deposit them in the Classical Room.

I'm sure I wasn't even close to being their most faithful customer, but I've got a billion memories of that place, from that time I spotted Thomas Quasthoff shopping there the afternoon before a recital (Quasthoff = the BEST classical celebrity sighting--you can be sure you haven't mixed him up with someone else), to that time I finally got laid off of my lousy job and listened to the headphones playing Johnny Cash's THE MAN COMES AROUND and practically started crying in the aisle. (That last one wasn't in the Classical Room, obviously.) But mostly I remember the gifts I bought for people, listening to a brand-new viola da gamba CD and holding a shrinkwrapped copy in my hand and thinking about how happy it would make somebody I love.

(Okay, so I guess--and I know my fellow-fags could burn me at the stake for this--shopping is kind of a shitty hobby. In fact, now that I think about it, isn't shopping for pleasure, on some level, half of what's wrong with this country? Hm.)

But dammit, it was MY hobby! It made me happy! And I'm very, very sad to see it die.

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