Wednesday, August 23, 2006


When I tell you that the Met's summer parks performances are fun for the whole family, I trust you won't need your decoder ring to catch my drift. See, the marvellous thing about the series is it's a little bit like a picnic...rules are loosened up, everyone likes that. Heavens to Besty, I'd be elated if I could eat dinner at things I go to at the Met just because there's nothing on tv, cough Fledermaus cough. So with no-one too worried about what sets us apart from the animal kingdom, we are presented with a golden opportunity to rediscover children's love of opera. Not completely incidentally, children don't love opera. Don't even like it, and why should they? They fidget and fuss and occasionally scream during opera, especially in an age of such innovative schools of parenting as the "Everything You Do is Automatically Precious Because You Came out of my Vagina" school. The main rule of EYDAPBYCOMV mommying is you never, ever correct any behavior, and if everyone around you wants to murder you for prioritizing the little ones over every other breathing thing in the universe, just mow 'em down with the stroller for being such bad sports.

The Met's Rigoletto in Central Park this evening was, from my vantage, a little like those toddler+Carribean nanny+guitarist who somehow resists suicide Raffi sing-alongs at Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, if for some reason there were a recording of Verdi playing softly, forlornly, helplessly in the background. We stayed until all the "addio! addio!" business and then could not refrain from a little addio of our own. I had just finished my picnic dinner of $5 hummus from fucking Gristede's eaten with what turned out to be apple cinnammon flavored crackers, and was not feeing patient with the universe. Nora Amsellem sounded DADDY WHO PLANTED ALL THIS GRASS, while Mark Delavan remains NO NOT ORANGE JUICE I WANT APPLE JUICE NO THE OTHER KIND although slightly less so than I recall in years past, making some allowances for mics. Roberto Aronica, a new name to me, was more or less WHY IS THE LADY SCREAMING EVERYTHING AT THE FAT MAN. I'm sorry if you couldn't hear that, but hey, there are several more performances left if you'd like to find out for yourself. If you go, bring pesticide.

Ambizioso spirto

What's the etiquette on linking to stuff someone posted on youtube? Eh, no idea. Also not sure I'm doing it right...we'll see. God only knows what's going on with the reading of the letter by some disembodied mopey sounding Italian dude, but once you get past it, it's worth it.

This makes me think Verrett should have been one of the stars.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mordant wit, if you will

Look who's back in the opera bloggin' game...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Da geht die alte Furstin Resi

I was talking to a goyish friend of mine (albeit with an estimable Yiddish vocabulary) yesterday and found out something interesting about the gentiles: when you turn 33, you're supposed to furrow your brow and say something like, "Look at everything Jesus did by 33, and what the hell have I made of my life?" I suspect rather few of you do this, in fact, and "you" might be a hasty choice of pronoun anyway considering my regular semi-conscious efforts to alienate the devout. 33, said my friend, is your Christ year.

It just occured to me what the opera queen's analogous crisis must be: as of half an hour ago, I am older than the Marschallin. Die Marschallin Furstin Werdenberg, Resi to her friends, was described by Hoffmansthal, as no older than 32--I think that's how he phrased it. One does at certain moments feel ganz alt, but thank god for Oktavian. Thus ends my Marschallin year.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Birthday greetings to Manprano, very nearly my twin.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bonus Tracks

You know, I think this isn't the first time I've bought a CD and been disappointed and wanted to hit rewind right to the moment where I'm at Academy wondering whether the Callas Vespri is in acceptable sound and decide instead to go with the Beecham Elektra. Which I know is going to be in primitive sound, but some Callas stuff is in a particular kind of reel-to-reel-under-a-heavy-wool-coat sound that really does ruin the fun. Hey actually I didn't finish my thought up there. The thought got too long and the last clause kind of snapped off. So: not the first time I've bought, been disappointed, but THEN felt the bonus tracks made up for the sorry state of things.

Erna Schluter as Elektra: there's nothing terrible about the debit column, she takes "der jauchzt" down a hefty interval--high notes aren't everything but it is the climax of the first half of the opera; in the credit column, she sings with real lyricism in the recognition duet, perhaps inspired by Schoffler? The main thing is she sounds like she's reading the role from a score. Perhaps Beecham wanted no effects--there is no laughter from Klytamnestra when she is told that Orest ist tod, none from Elektra at the suggestion that Aegisth is ein Mann, etc. It makes the whole thing decidedly drama-free, despite Beecham's happily heavy-handed orchestral gestures. This crushes the life out of Hongen's perfectly respectable Klytamnestra as well, and nearly does the same for the uncrushable Ljuba Welitsch.

Ok but then there are bonus tracks. I actually haven't listened to the Siegfried tracks yet because I have this unshakeable hunch the tenor is going to blow, but the Tristan!!! Hang on, let me run down to the corner for more punctuation. Ok, back. The Tristan, conducted by Furtwangler, is heartstoppingly beautiful, and I hope you know I hate phrases like that. Suthaus really is the only acceptable consolation prize we have after it became clear that Melchior would never happen again. Klose makes Brangaene's "Einsam Wachend in der Nacht" practically the centerpiece of the scene, and Schluter here is golden. !!! There, I've gone and used them all again. Isoldes Tod, which I'm not calling the Liebestod (or even the Love-Frog as some of us like to) in case any purists are reading, is rapturous, Wagner as we long to hear him; Wagner in the mode guys like Barenboim and Eschenbach shoot for sometimes with great success and sounding sometimes like an imitation.

I'd love it if anyone could tell me if it's from a complete Tristan, actually.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Sure, Schwarzkopf meant enough to me as a dewy opera kitten it seems I should say something on her passing, I think now confirmed. Needless to say, her death is not going to provoke the kind of outpourings of some recent losses; she was notoriously tough and perhaps even cold, her heyday ended long ago, and we never end up knowing these things, but much was asked and said about her politics, which may have been of the very worst.

Well, when I was 19 and just past my initial mystification that one singer could be told from another, hers was a voice (the second, after Callas) I could clock right out of the gate. Everyone likes to feel knowledgeable. I bought the Karajan Figaro, senza secco, because it was on two discs and cheap, maybe my first complete or quasi-complete opera recording. I liked that it didn't have the chatter, which I couldn't see the music in, just the meat and no bones. I liked Irmgard Seefried (still do). But really I guess I was, yeah, very taken with the quavery, regretful sound of Schwarzkopf's countess. I have mixed feelings these days, maybe preferring a little more lushness.

Later that year, I spent my first summer in Bloomington, and bought myself a birthday present of Karajan's Ariadne, 100% unfamiliar with the piece. It took me a while to warm up to--much of the prologue felt like bones. I remember falling asleep in the heat and awful humidity with the endless closing duet on like a fever dream in the background. What I immediately took to, though, was Schwarzkopf's full-soul plunge into "Es Gibt ein Reich." It remains perhaps my favorite reading of any aria. She never sang it onstage, right? But she sings it like she's absolutely ecstatic about the idea of dying, and pretty much nobody else does that.

So it's odd I am not very moved by her death, but then it would be odd to be moved by it too, in a way (I start to sound like a broken record about the death of people we've never met: not ours, not ours.) I guess for the past X years I've been less moved, in many roles, by what I remember reading of as her "interventionist" style. I'm not sure why Ariadne is exempt: to me it puts everyone else's Ariadne in black and white. Her four last, though, seem academic. Her Capriccio Countess doesn't break my heart, really even a little. Lately it's a style I associate with the terrible decline of Fleming, so maybe there's that on top of it all.

Well, how many times can we say it's the end of an era? It really does feel historical, though, or am I alone on that? Who else from that particular time is still with us? Maybe instead of putting on her Ariadne tonight I'll put on the Figaro, if I can even still find it, and think of that era in singing and its grace: Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Jurinac, Kunz, all sounding to me like photographs of my family from the 50's look, irretrievably steeped in another way of living.