Thursday, April 20, 2006

Is it plagiarism if you're stealing your own lines?

To be filed under...I'm not sure what. Someone with a long memory and an even longer cache of saved emails* has sent me my reaction to Lohengrin in 1998. Rude awakening #1 is that I was all Mr. Literal-pants and didn't cotton to the production. Rude awakening #2 is that I'm stealing my own jokes, seven and a half years later, pretty much word for word.

For the hell of it, here goes:

Thus runs the timeline of movement-as-art in the twentieth century:

1913 - Nijinsky's Sacre du Printemps raises Parisian eyebrows
1984 - Synchronized swimming becomes an Olympic event
1997 - Robert Wilson's Lohengrin booed at the Metropolitan

Granted, I probably left a few things out. Also granted: the temporalpossibility of WIlson taking in the summer games proves nothing interms of causality or inspiration. The trend, nonetheless, is downward. It seems a shame, in any case, the R.W. didn't turn his talent for devastating tableaux to ballet or something else not explicitly textual, as the frequent contertextuality of his directing is by turns frustrating and hilarious, in opera.

Some examples: Ortrud and Elsa's Act II confrontation. Unavoidably,gripping drama. Unless they sort of skate around one another, Ortrudmaking a Vulcan salute, while Elsa answers "Live long and prosper"with what can only mean in a late 90s gestural lexicon: "Talk to thehand, cuz Elsa ain't listenin'!" Later Telramund perishes in opera's first death by voguing -- no sword, just attitude! But the best/worst may have been Lohengrin, singing to Elsa to give Gottfriedhis horn, ring, and sword, and proceeding to hand her what appears tobe either a Hallmark card or a paper airplane. Is the moral of this opera that it's the thought that counts?

Anyhow... it had its moments, and the singing (Ben Heppner, Karita Mattila, Deborah Polaski, René Pape) was uniformly solid. Everyone hadexciting moments, even. Levine got a screaming ovation from thethird-act survivors, (Thank god no-one loves Wagner; I heard the lastact from orchestra seats) though I've heard the Met orchestra soundbetter -- it's basically gradations of perfection.

And we're back to the present, for better or worse.

*ok wow. Correction. This was apparently an actual letter on that material they used to make from trees.

In other news, you know what would be lots of fun? A Robert Wilson Fledermaus, that's what.


Paul said...

I think you forgot one item in your timeline:

1962 - In the movie "The Music Man," Hermione Gingold recites the line, "Three Grecian urns - and a fountain," while her fellow River-Citians illustrate.

Maury D'annato said...

Oh my. That's just perfect.

La Cowntessa said...

It's sort of fun (read: hilarious) to imagine what all operas would benefit from his type of staging, actually.

I'm trying to picture what his Figaro would look like. On the bright side of it, the Susannah would probably thank him. It certainly couldn't be less taxing than what most directors have the person in that role doing already...

Jonathan said...

I think a Robert Wilson 'Fanciulla' is certainly in order.

Grrg said...

I'm sorry but in this context I just have to type just a little bit more of from the same letter, that M. d'A did not include in the original post:

...[I] plan to see what all the howling is about as concerns M. Wilson's Lohengrin (that's Monsieur Wilson, not Meredith Wilson, whose musical Lohengrin! has never recieved the attention accorded to The Music Man owing perhaps to its not always succesful fusion of Midwestern local color and master race mythology).

You really should have started a blog years ago, darling.

Maury D'annato said...


Anonymous said...

How about a Robert Wilson T & I where the main characters are not allowed to express any passion, er, lust...

Oh wait, that was the David Pountney Welsh Dutchman

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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