Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Part II of a Very Limited Series

In the ongoing series of Pictures of Francophone Tenors of a Bygone Era Who Like[d] Cats....

A very happy 105 to Hugues Ceunod. I don't really know his stuff, so I'll let you wax enthusiastic, if you adore him. My hat is simply off to him for landing a boyfriend who's like forty years younger than him. Not that I'd want to date someone who's negative seven years old, mind you. It just seems like an accomplishment.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Not for the faint of heart

Scant days ago I was telling someone this trio is among the very highlights of the operatic literature, and here it is in all its...in all its...uh, I can't find quite the right word.

Friday, June 22, 2007

In C, on Cornelia Street

So we're traipsing around the Village last night, trying to kill an hour because Mary's Fish Camp? It takes like a fucking fortnight to get a space at the flingin' flangin' bar. Anyway, we are as far afield from our promised treif repast as Cornelia Street, fortunately a good while before the rain, and we randomly stumble upon dozens of musicians in the middle of the street performing Terry Riley's In C, with many more standing around enjoying or WTFing. It wasn't something I'd want to stick around for much of, but the fact of it happening there gave me an odd rush of pride in my current adopted hometown.

(Happy Anniversary to me and New York next Tuesday. Three years is the leather anniversary: somewhat appropriate since you have to be a little bit of a bondage bottom to live here. "Please sir jack my rent up again sir! Ow! Thank you sir!")

Monday, June 18, 2007

Touched by an Angel, but not in a good way

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...how does the rest of that go? Oh, but nevermind. Can I tell you about one of my least favorite things?

So, I wasn't going to write anything about The Second Tosca. And I'm sort of still not, except tangentially, because both reviews I've read commented enthusiastically on the performance of two-time Tony nominee Vivian Reed as a larger than life diva-in-decline. I did enjoy this, in a way. She did 100% of what the script asked her to do. Thing is, and I'm not casting aspersions on the play as a whole, which was funny and well-paced...but when do we get to retire the archetype of the Black Woman Who Will Tell It To You Straight? And then maybe slam a door. It's sort of the verso of the very funny Mad T.V. sketch you may have seen floating around on youtube mocking the yearly ritual of an execrable movie about a Nice White Lady who teaches the kids at an inner city school not only to write/dance/juggle/play canasta, but [gulp, gulp, gulp, taking my anti-emetic] to LIVE.

I know this is a play in which everyone is to some extent a type. But this particular type is a wearying fetish, embarassing for everyone on either end of the equation, particularly when coupled in a sort of hybrid with The Sassy Black Woman Who Always Gets The Last Word (Oh No She Di-glottal stop-unt! Sass-amplifying Finger Wag!) The only opportunity they missed was having her cook for the whole family and dispense earthy wisdom. Even the horny, catty, gay character felt less problematic, maybe because he had a bit more of a story in him. It's not lost on me that a white guy critiquing portrayals of black characters is an iffy enterprise, by the way. Anyway, um, it was a pleasure to see a play about opera, and Rachel de Benedet was terrific, and I think I meant this to be about a sentence long but this medium-deeply pisses me off. Do I need to just take a fucking valium, or does this bug anyone else a lot?

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Ring, Announced

Casting for the Kirov/Gergiev/Tsypin Ring is now announced.

A week ago, anyhow, so maybe this is news only in my world. Valery Gergiev is Ossetian? I don't know whether you knew that – I mean, did you know that?

The highish number of unfamiliar names I find oddly cheering. It's exciting to think one of them may break out of the pack and be this year's find. I'm hoping it's Leonid Zakazhaev because we need one of those most. Or Victor Lutsuk, who needs a stage name. It just rhymes with too much.

Olga Sergeeva seems like a piece of good news. She acquitted herself admirably in the stand-alone Walkuere some 2-3 seasons back, though I don't remember being dumbstruck by her. She's young, yet.

p.s. yes I'm going, to part of it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tony vs. Tony

Just time for a quick entry before I have to run off and have myself cloned so one of me can watch the Sopranos swansong while the other watches the Tony Awards. Perhaps I should have a spare made that actually goes out and does things, but three's a crowd, I think I've heard.

Well the ur-Maury, the one who exists now and is primarily occupied with typing, was outdoors long enough to score halfsies for Spring Awakening because studies show the Tony Awards* are most fun when you have a few horses in the race. Somehow the season went by and I saw almost nothing until the bitter end. Maaaaybe because I was somewhere else most of the time, somewhere that starts with M and rhymes with "Petropolitan Opera." I'm not naming names. [I have the faint sense of perhaps having made that crack before. Me and my senile dementia offer our apologies.]

My impressions, in list form:

1) Fuck me running! $59 is a half price ticket these days?! I'm not exactly in my dotage and I have a feeling my first Broadway show cost less than that at full price. (This is pure speculation since the D'Annato family shall we say rarely pays full price.) Well, I had my chance. I think before they lugged it to Broadway, the thing was playing in an elementary school gym or something, but I was too busy seeing my 29th Aida no doubt. Tak oshibsja, tak nakazan, as Onegin might say, lamenting his failure to see, I dunno, Cats.**

2) That said, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and p.s. what does it take in this town to be financially secure enough that one needn't think of EVERYTHING in terms of how much it costs? The answer, I suspect, is the theme of my alternate viewing option. Look for a spinoff blog about my new career in Waste Management.

3) Thoroughly enjoyable, but oh my god, the lyrics. Like: how the hell did this make it from off to Broadway without someone saying, "Um...guys? About the lyrics?" Top notch song-writing if you're a native of Zambia and can't understand what anyone is singing.*** One friend says, and I tentatively agree pending further review of the soundtrack, that "We've all got our junk, and my junk is you," wins the abomination award. But I'm pretty sure the Act II finale contained the phrase...let me stop and compose myself before saying this..."a child will lead the way." If not that, something a lot like it.

4) Good performances. That should probably not win Tony Awards, because they were mostly of the variety that inspires phrases like "fresh, spirited young cast." They were super enthusiastic and, for the most part, a little green. Actually the guy who's up for "featured" maybe should win. But if it's that Groff fellow (cute, nice ass, totally decent singing voice) versus Raul Esparza, whose Bobby in Company yea verily seared my soul, there is an objective right answer. Somewhat tucked away in the cast is a gal with a not quite standard issue Broadway voice that made me sit up and take notice. Retrieving program from bathroom (what, like you read Ulysses on the goddamn toilet) so I can tell you her name is...Lauren Pritchard.

5) I can't decide whether to take half-hearted umbrage at the way the tiny gay subplot was played for laughs while everything else was so angstily serious, albeit occasionally laced with an underlying hipster irony. It doesn't really seem worth the effort. No thank you, no umbrage for me. I'm on a diet.

In other Tony races, well...I do think Christine Ebersole should win. All else aside, if Audra MacDonald gets any more Tony Statuettes, she's going to be able to play chess with them. But no, she should win mostly because of the uncanny thing she did up there: half acting, half seance. Same goes for Mary Louise Wilson, I think, though maybe I mostly want her to win because I'm so fucking tired of actors with one name, and think they should be discouraged when possible. In the same spirit of teaching by punitive example, Legally Blonde must win nothing so people will write fewer musicals based on pop culture detritus, which is so tiresome, except for Xanadu which I really want to see before it closes, presumably on opening night.

Other than that, I guess I'm out of opinions.

Next up: pictures of my cat, or something equally fascinating.

*no, I can't quite bring myself to pluralize the word Tony. Tonys, Tony's, Tonies. They all make me squint.

**Seriously, though, the only time I've ever seen Jesus Christ Superstar (I can tolerate religion in the context of showtunes, apparently) was in Russian. Funny thing is I'm sure musicals and anything else lyrical involve massive re-writing since things in Russian tend to have way more syllables.

***Great, I go and pull a country out of the hat and it turns out the official language is English. At least this time I did a preemptive mistake google and avoided huffy emails from my heretofore silent Zambian readership with this footnote! Please amend to "native of Zambia who by circumstances too elaborate to outline here, is a monolingual speaker of Wendish."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Kindly Accept Substitutes: Tony Edition

The season's in the rearview, so it's going to be nothing but lunatic ramblings about Inge Borkh, catblogging, and the occasional theater review for a while. And what better time for theater reviews? This Sunday is a total nervous breakdown for some of us: miss the last Sopranos and risk reading spoilers before seeing it, or miss an hour of the Tony awards? I find awards shows to be sort of like sporting events in that the idea of watching them anything but live is weirdly disappointing---don't you? So it's Tony Vs. Tony, for better or worse. As it happens, I've done a bit of theater-going lately. (You remember theater. It's the one where people speak their lines instead of singing them.)

A visit from the folks a few weeks ago, for instance, led to the requisite D'Annato family TKTS marathon. Aright, not a marathon like the time we spent all day at Long Day's Journey and then--no, I'm serious--went to Take Me Out. Let me take this opportunity to recommend not going to Take Me Out with your family, if it's ever an option, unless you're weirdly comfortable with your family. Anyhow, this time it was one play a day, chosen by the elder D'Annati: first Inherit the Wind, then A Moon for the Misbegotten.

The former, ok, is simply a rotten play. Morally neatly schematic, not particularly clever in its use of language, and at this juncture, in this setting, it's just a bunch of New York liberal back-patting. Not that I have a huge problem with that, per se, but it's not what I want in a night at the theater.

Brian Dennehy was surprisingly dull (or not surprising to me since I know next to nothing about him and had the vague idea he had been in a famous action movie, but everyone seemed to be throwing up from excitement about his participation) in a role that--again, at this point in history, in this place--amounts to so much moustache-twirling. Christopher Plummer was on the other hand kind of a treat, oh and hey the guy who played the not even 1 dimensional role of the teacher was someone I met at a Golden Globes party once. Get me! Fancy me! The gal who played his um, gal, was an actress of the school whose main drama is generated by the urgency of the question "what on earth do I do with my HANDS?"

Maybe the best thing going for the production is the old timey gospel ensemble (think Carter Family, I guess--not quite so country, but there's a zither and all) that pops up at the beginning of the show and at intermission, lending a sort of flavor the rest of the proceedings didn't so much have. The set, by the probably deservedly ubiquitous Santo Loquasto, was big and detailed and somber and unfortunately featured rows of seating for a chunk of audience. Yeah, onstage. If I may partially inappropriately quote a John Guare line that sometimes pops into my head, Silver Beaver: Why??*

Oh, and if I may spoilerize what I had assumed was a directorial clunker until [see comments], the thing ended with Plummer packing up his books, taking a long, meaningful look at Dennehy's bible and another at the teacher's volume of Darwin, then putting them, side by side into his bag. Just before the scene went dim, I'm pretty sure I heard the ghost of Clarence Darrow and that of William Jennings Bryan singing a sarcastic verse or two of "Ebony and Ivory."

Now, Moon. I am fundamentally not set up to appreciate the plays of Eugene O'Neill. I know Catholics and Jews are supposed to have a good deal in common, but our neuroses come in somewhat different flavors, and watching this or even Long, Long, Long Day's Journey into Night, I just can't quite grasp what much of the fuss is about. On some level, please understand, my ideal playwright is Chekhov. So O'Neill just feels so damned bloated. Anyway, it is what it is, and obviously the deficiency is mine rather than that of a canonical playwright. As with certain operas I don't adore, I can at least enjoy the performance and leave the text for others to love.

So it was a jolly enough time, in its fashion (as I believe one character says, putting me inevitably in mind of Cole Porter) though not without its issues. Mama D'annato termed it "a little too loud," and I can't argue--some of this surely could have been done with a lower incidence of shouting. The complaint that is being most widely made (and the charge leveled by Papa D'Annato) is that the script spends a good long time hammering home the fact that Josie is, in so many words, a big fat horrible ugly unattractive ten-foot-pole-requiring...I think they call her a cow a few times. Not subtle, and you know for what it's worth, it's not that hard to google O'Neill and see for yourself that he was not exactly the stuff porn is made of. There, I've gone and done the work for you, see up top and try not to let your libido run amok. Anyway Eve Best is strikingly distinctive I guess, but basically conventially pretty and not particularly big. Put it this way: if I were bisexual and stuck on an island with Eugene O'Neill and Eve Best, I'm pretty sure I know who I'd want under my palm tree at night. Didn't matter much because she gave this extraordinarily energetic, provocative, brutally physical performance. There was that rare and cherished appearance of spontanaeity to it I assume we all wait for.

Kevin Spacey was by no means her equal, but perhaps he was devoting his energy to keeping his wrist level, haw haw. He was fine at times and overly fussy at times. I guess I'm just not that keen on him, and the role is a beast anyway, full-on nervous breakdowns to be had. His desperation was the more tiring for the want of nuance, though. O'Neill without some serious actorial invention is awfully emphatic.

The strangest thing is they had all this slide guitar in the fairly obtrusive score and fluffy clouds and sort of deeply blue lighting, and despite the fact that I found the set pretty excellent, it kept bugging me that they seemed to have located Connecticut next to Arizona.

And tomorrow or the next day I'll try and blab about Spring Awakening, and Who I Want to Win What.

*Mr. Guare, it is safe to say, would have clutched his head in consternation over the working water pump in the Moon set. But I'm not him, and I thought it was neat.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I am defeated by Antonietta Stella

And the answers have been revealed over yonder at Parterre. And I feel awfully smug about having nailed 1-5. And the last one was...Antonietta Stella!?!? I could have guessed for days and I'd never have gotten there.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Hey are you guys taking the Tosca Challenge (it's like the Pepsi Challenge, only without blindfolds. Or soft drinks.) over at Parterre? I figure I may as well blerg about it since at worst I'm telling you my right answers which I already sent in, and at (likely) best, I'm misleading you with my wild guesses, mwar har har!

1: You know, I'm pretty sure this is...no, wait, I do feel like I'm giving away something, despite all my prodigous self-doubt. soooooo instead I'm going to be so cryptic as to obviate any need to read the rest of this posting. Ok. I'm pretty sure this is someone who sang Tosca not only at the Met, but in San Francisco. A very long time ago, dig? Puccini was surprisingly hard for me to find my way into when I was but an opera kitten, and I have the same memory of her recording of Vissi as I do of learning to read, a sudden "I get how this works," because and aria I had always found meandering seemed to have a shape when it was shown to me by an expert guide.

2: If this is who I think it is, she has two studio recordings, and I've never associated her much with Tosca because on the one I heard first (and last), her "Questo e il baccio" had an unmistakeable Minnie Mouse quality to it. By "muori, dannato!" I'd taken the damn thing off. Not fair, but first impressions are hard to shake. Anyway I feel increasingly certain of this one, which will make it all the more poignant when I'm wrong, wrong, wrong.

3: Well, I mean she has to be in here somewhere, though the only reason I listen to her Tosca usually is to hear Corelli sing the "o" in "Vittoria!" until everyone else on stage dies of hunger or old age. No, in truth I'm not at all sure it's her. I just thought the "perche" had that...quality. Went back and listened to a record of the lady in question in early years and was quite unsure. Some have said this selection might be the voice of a Parterre favorite and MFI punching bag, but unless La Cieca has pulled the old "Nilsson on a cylinder" trick from Opera Quiz lore, the sound quality suggests to me that it is not. Who did you think it was? Say so in comments. I won't tell anyone.

4: No idea, so I took a wild, screaming, random guess...and vent home.

5: I had help on this one, though I'd like to think I might have gotten it on my own. After all, who else does the trick of not breathing between the climactic note and the, uh, anticlimatic? note. Who else could, if they wanted to? At least without making horrible gasping noises afterward, I mean I could do that.

6: I have no idea. I punted, thinking maybe it could be her, another inevitable exponent, in late, not so healthy years--isn't there one from Paris or something, or is that a Norma? I don't go in for necrophilia, so I try to stick to prime or shortly past.

Well it's been a pleasure half-misleading you, at best. I'm afraid there's nothing else to do for a while unless you're absolutely salivating at the thought of hearing what I think of the old Hvorostovsky disc I snagged for $3.99 at Academy (so old he has brown hair. Are things allowed to have happened 15 years ago at this point? Oh vecchiaia maledetta ! Son da tutti disprezzata!) but I'm bored enough for both of us imagining that posting, so this is looking like a summer lull at least until Caramoor (or perhaps slightly earlier if the heavens should grant me a seat at the Kirov Ring.) I do enjoy the thought of making a voice ID quiz of my own, though without the delightful incentive of a prize, but I'm dragging my feet on figuring out how to host sound files, not to mention editing them together as La Cieca has done.