Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yeah, I'll blog Podles later

Here is the site for "No on Prop 8," which is dedicated to defeating California's Proposition 8, a ballot measure that will take away gay and lesbian couples' right to marry, already established in California. The Mormon church has pumped millions of dollars into the state to try and pass this legislative act of hatred by means of poorly reasoned fear-mongering bullshit. I guess because they are so goddamn famous for their history of traditional views on marriage.

For a sampling of the Lincolnesque rhetoric, see the clip above! Note the subtle writing, the considered morality, the attention to rhyme for god's sake. This clip wins Maury's coveted "Worse than the Holocaust" trophy. [ETA: I think this video has disappeared. Description can only be inadequate, but it was basically these two excruciatingly cute Asian kids singing a song their none-too-clever parents, one assumes, wrote for them about how confusing it would be if their mother was a man, while neglecting to sing about the vicissitudes of deities from other planets, polygamy, and religious underwear. Life's confusing, kids. Suck it up.]

There's a view among certain radical queers (for whom I got nothin' but love) that marriage is outmoded/hegemonic/dumb and it's not what we should be shooting for. That's for talking about later, when we have the option. As long as you are denied a basic human right everyone else has, whether you have much use for it or not (and god knows my dating life does not augur matrimony lo these many months), you are a second-class citizen, and your other rights are up for grabs.

This is really, really, really important. Massachusetts looks like they've opted for equality in the long run, but California is, y'know, BIG, and has rather a lot of symbolic weight in this fight. You can give at the site; I did, and I am fucking cheap.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Talk at Parterre was of Vaness, and about how she did many fine years of service and a few not so fine. Well, I think I only ever heard her live as Norma in Houston (in which the main draw was Mentzer) and otherwise associate her with that mixed bag of a Cosi from t.v. and a really weird OperaNews interview. Anyway, the non-lunatic portion of the crowd over there seemed to have some really good memories of Ms. Vaness, and I'm always open to persuasion, so I went plunking around on youtube and here's the first thing I found.

Pretty demented, alright. This scene is a bit of a drag unless the soprano finds a difficult balance of poise and ferocity, which CV obviously nails. I think I'm off to youtube again to dig up some more fun. Because it's Saturday evening and my life is like that lately.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quotation (particularly anti-chronlogical) is the art of the 21st c.

Can it be that I am the only one put in mind, by the first line of the big baritone aria in Doc Atomic, of the somewhat obscure southern hymn "Make my Heart a Corny Dog for Jesus"?

Thursday, October 16, 2008


That felt valedictory. I wonder if she'll drop the role.

Faute du jour

I'm told Doc Atomic is actually really consistent w/ Adams style these days, so my perplexity at its failing to be Nixon is 100% my own deal. As Wittgenstein once blogged: whereof one cannot speak with any insight, thereof one might as well STFU.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hey, here's what

I started to post this over the summer, then figured I'd wait 'til I was writing reviews and readership was back up to its almost incalculable numbers.

Excellent music. Excellent performance.What's not to like?

Anne-Carolyn Bird, soprano, and Jocelyn Dueck at the 88's performing Judd Greenstein's Hillula, link posted with kind permission of ACB and JG.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

and that cleans up the matter

10:38] Maury: [third party] says you might know if Dr. A was amplified
[10:38] DSJ: Yes.
[10:39] Maury: singers amplified? or just sound effects?
[10:39] DSJ: Singers too.
[10:40] DSJ: Somebody complained that the amplification was too much in San Fran, but I think they were talking out of their asses. I didn't even notice it unless the singers actually had their backs to the audience.
[10:40] Maury: it sounded last night like they were projecting really well. it wasn't obtrusive. [ETA: I guess if it'd been obtrusive I wouldn't have had to ask around to find out for sure if it had been amp'd.]
[10:43] DSJ: Yeah, I thought it really worked.
[telephonic interlude]
[10:46] Maury: so, sadly, i really did not like Dr. Atomic, and on top of this was very tired, and...left at intermish.
[10:48] DSJ: Eh, it's kind of difficult.
[10:48] DSJ: It's just people talking, and then they detonate a nuclear bomb.
[10:48] Maury: bang.
[10:48] Maury: it's like capriccio, only instead of a monologue about words and music, a bomb.
[10:49] DSJ: It's exactly like Capriccio.
[10:49] DSJ: Also instead of a sextet, a burst of electronic noise.
[10:49] Maury: that, too.
[10:51] DSJ: Also instead of Music and Poetry having a spirited competition, Music pushes Poetry to the ground and punches him repeatedly in the nuts.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Physician, heal thyself

Oh, the shame. The awful, crushing shame. You go around saying how great it is that the Met is finally showing a little sense of adventure in their programming, hoping it makes you the sort of person who doesn't say "My kindergartner could do that" at exhibitions of abstract art (god forbid I should ever have one...of either) and where's it get you? On the train to Inwood. At 10 pm, sneaking out so Nico Muhly won't see you. Heh. Nico Muhly doesn't know who I am, so it's fine if he did see me. He was just put into that sentence to represent the people whose love of New Music is made up less of good intentions than mine, which is inapt since he actually writes it. But he was by the Millo pole at intermission so hey, welcome to my review.

The worst of it is that to leave after intermission is to leave after the one glimmer of hope, the Donne sonnet setting for the baritone, which someone just tried unsuccessfully to send me. I'd like to listen again and see if it's as great as I thought it was; all I know for sure is it snapped me awake after 75 minutes of pinching myself REALLY HARD because I snore, and that's just not ok. The wondrousness of this aria, however, is a bit of a problem in that the rest of the act is extraordinarily talky and just...not very likable.

Oh hey here's "Batter my heart" on youtube. Funnily enough, on my way home (by which I mean 15 blocks or so out of the way, but I needed a pick-me-up) I went to Coldstone Creamery for cake batter ice cream. Batter! Anyway.

Riveting, right?

Caveats: 1) I was tired anyway and 2) this was not the kind of flight reaction that greeted The Wurst Emperor. I just couldn't get into the idea of 1.5 hours more of what I'd just heard, even if Gerald Finley was something of a revelation. It's just...I think the problem is the libretto, to some extent, and then where that leaves off, the music. I obviously don't know John Adams, nor have I spent any time in his brain (though I read his New Yorker thing) so I have no idea what his motivations are at any given moment, but one might imagine that in composing this, there was some deliberate sidestepping of the minimalist label, yesno?

Listen, I'll go back and get one of them $30 orchestra seats, and I'll listen to Act II. I've mostly heard it's, well, interminable, but just now through the magic of the intertubes, I'm being told some of the staging is miraculous. In fact, the staging of Act I was very much what you'd want; inventive, thoughtful, poetic. So even just for that, I'll go back. For now, though, here is a lesson about why composers should not maybe always talk about their own work, this being the final sentence of Adams' essay in the program:

"As the tape recorded voice of a Japanese woman repeatedly asking for a glass of water plays in the distance, the audience gradually realizes that they themselves are the goddamn bomb." (Profanity mine, for emphasis.)

ETA: Ok, here's another clip that serves as evidence that there was other good music in the act and suggests to me perhaps I just wasn't wild about Sasha Cooke's reading, though folks of estimable taste are wild about her so...what to do. I stand by my narcoleptic reaction to the first scene, and the weird conversation about carbs in the third. But again, here's a good part--

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Village Voice Deathwatch

"This opera is the bomb."



I really ought to blerg about this and that what I've seen or pull the plug altogether here, I'm thinking, and I'm not entirely ready for bloganasia, so...

Lucia--did I tell you about Lucia? The production kind of grows on you, doesn't it? I seem to remember I wasn't that thrilled with it before (too lazy to go back and check, and besides, it makes me feel senile that I really don't know) and now I find the much discussed directorial conceit for the sextet a natural and sensible solution, right down to the pop of the proto-flashbulb. Even the Edward Gorey hallucination for the fountain scene feels more happily familiar than contempt-breeding familiar.

Damrau is doubtless beginning to feel a little like Dessay's much-delayed echo, and for now that's an appropriate status. Yes, she brings a welcome vocal security to this, as she did to Zerbinetta (where her assurance was something staggering.) But Dessay...you know, I'm tempted think Dessay's battle with her voice has been one of deliberate injury. One of those rules of apportionment in the universe does seem to be that if you can sing a high F, you probably don't have a broad range of colors in your voice. Dessay, I'm told (endlessly, out of Schadenfreude) used to find every possible comic nuance in Zerbinetta, but I don't think she could have put the same blood and madness into Lucia had she not banged her voice around until it got some bruises. Her e flats these days are strong but ugly. She has squandered a natural gift in the most ingenious way; a sacrifice that paid off.

Damrau is, on the evidence of her Lucia, a healthier singer. The voice grows as it goes up, and the top few notes...did I ever tell you about the time I was listening to two ladies in a laundromat and one of them produced one of the choicest utterances ever? "Them Dulcolax do not play," spake she. Diana Damrau's top five notes are, forgive me, pure aural Dulcolax. No, that's too awful. Let's just say they pack heat and leave it at that. What's below is pretty and fades into not much in ranges she isn't called on to use very often. Not pretty in the backhanded sense, though. Really a collection of sounds worth hearing, and all knitted together by a technique that allows for fearless florid singing and a good legato in plain lyric passages.

No complaints, then, except it isn't what it isn't. There's room in this world for different kinds of Lucias, though most days I'd rather hear the more harrowing kind, myself. I'm looking forward to her run of Rigoletti, though chances are good by that point in the season I'll be checking it out Siriusly.

I'm actually quite curious to know what other folks thought of Beczala. I sat up and took notice at his Rigoletto, whenever that was, and probably wrote some horseshit of the form: Look Out For This Singer. (Why is that sentiment so often irritating to read, I wonder? I guess it seems like a cheap 50/50 on whether one is just so tuned in to what makes for future success or just easily excited.)

Alright, here's what I said last time about Beczala:

As was pointed out to me, there were some choppy phrases and weird cutoffs, but really it was a most athletic piece of singing. I suppose I should throw in the word slancio somewhere here, so there it is, and there it was. If I had to choose between hearing Beczala and Villazon, I think what I'd most likely do is start a new paragraph, about Ekaterina Siurina.

Which I did. But back here in the present, I'm interested to hear from the past that there were problems, because there were problems again as Edgardo. To the point that I was concerned for him. It was again impressive, and really (as I think I twittered) stylish, but there was a bottled-up quality to the tone in places that gave me pause. By the end, I actually felt like the role was beating him up. Was it worth it to hear him do all the Italianate emoting about the marriage contract, son tue ciffre or whatever? Nuh-huh, mos def. But I'm still curious if it got better later in the run or if it was all in my ear to begin with.

Ildar Palin-Abdrazakov (I dunno, I was just trying to think what would prompt one to name a kid Ildar and then I thought "Track"?) didn't rose tint my world the way he has once or twice before, but was certainly up to the task at hand. Sean Panikkar--who, did you know?, is really cute...I just googled him and it's true, and thus concludes the Tiger Beat portion of this posting--was in the weird position of following quite a trick in a very small role, which is to say Arturo isn't that much in the spotlight unless last year's Arturo impressed enough people to get bumped up to Edgardo for a performance. Anyway, he impressed me more here than in his role in Manon Lescaut. Obviously he's a young guy with plenty of voice, and I think the artistry is budding as well.

Um, and yeah. I left before the last act. Some weeks are like that. So adjust some of the above for broadcast-ness.

It does look like I'm not going to get around to blooghing Gioconda. Suffice it to say: Voigt was, I don't care what you've heard from people who went in expecting her to fail, really in swell form, forked over generously from the chest, and has come a long way in the Italian idiom. Tosca will never be hers, but I'm just going to call her Gioconda, without much hesitation, a success and something she can be proud of. She and Borodina (a cat in catnip in this rep) seemed to inspire each other to give a lot in the big Act II smackdown. Everyone else was, frankly, better than expected, and I'm leaving out one singer I'd waited a long time to hear in the opera house I call home, because by now you know exactly how I feel about her and there's no need to go there again.

Next up, Doctor Atomic, PhD.

In which I am right.

After that year's Met Council Finals Audition Concert Extravaganza Bar & Grille*, I wrote:

"Ghosts of Versailles is on for 2010 or whenever...Peter Gelb, meet Rodell."

So mote it be, as you'll know if you read Met Futures (recently updated with all kinds of news.)

*I just never know where to stop adding words onto the end of the title of that thing.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Rough equivalencies

So, aright, no Finnish Frontal in the HD, but really, the way she sings the /a/ vowel in "ich kann nicht bleiben" is fairly pornographic, unless I'm just having one of my private moments of loose association/synaesthesia.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008


Have started listening a little obsessively to La Damnation de Faust which I think is French for That Darn Cat! Actually I'm doing something I haven't done in years which is to listen repeatedly but in a disengaged manner, taking advantage of subway noise and my brain's own shall we say porous qualities to listen as if Berlioz had written for vocal instruments, making sounds with no meaning. You end up making up your own meanings, if you're me; not stories or anything, just understanding the emotion of a phrase in some kind of blunt, caveman emotive vocabulary. Funny to think of cavemen and Janet Baker in the same context but there it is. It's a beautiful recording, not too studio-bound, and at least when I bought it, it was on itunes for $9.99 for the whole megillah. [Hat tip to Chalkenteros.]

Yesterday I finally printed a libretto after futzing around to make it compact (sudden memories of the horrible/wonderful summer I spent at Glimmerglass, when they squished the entire text of The Mother of Us All onto one page. It was a much sought after souvenir item among the miserable staff.) and will soon take to crushing my own vague, projected meanings out of it. I mean, yes, I know the story, but it still exists for me right now in the strangest liminal state...I must have listened to Act I of Der Rosenkavalier fifty times before I ever bothered to find out what they were singing. I don't know what this practice means, but I'm hoping it isn't anything in the DSM IV-TR.

In other non-news, I read Latonia Moore's name somewhere this morning and it put me in mind to wonder when we'll hear her next, and in what. It was a lasting impression she made in Edgar. Guess I should look on operabase. Also tonight I am going to Lucia though nine gets you seventeen I'll go home before what is sure to be a terrific star turn for Beczala after going ten rounds with Szechuan Gourmet during last night's frustrating debate and then waking up at 4 am with scalding heartburn. Yeah, TMI, but whatever. So, too, in some sense, are my opinions of people's singing. En todo caso, I'll twitter Act I at least.