Friday, August 15, 2008

Singin' and cryin'

NHB, your wish is my command, which just goes to show you: it is sometimes best to stick with standard wishes like a pony or a filibuster-proof Democratic majority. So, for no real reason except I think they're great and you'll like them, here are two sliiiightly thematically linked clips from the films of Almodovar, the first from Tacones Lejanos (High Heels), with apologies for lack of subtitles, and the second from Volver with--I shit you not, as usual--subtitles in what I assume to be Turkish.

In this one, the magnetic Marisa Paredes syncs to Luz Casal's cover of "Piensa en mi," a wonderful little melodrama by Mexican songwriter Agustin Lara. Sample lyrics: "Piensa en mi quando sufras. Quando llores, tambien piensa en mi" = "Think of me when you're suffering. When you're crying, think of me then, too." Not for nothing is this sung by a character beloved of drag queens. (You'll even find one visual cover of the scene on youtube performed by a real live drag queen.) There's a neat trick Luz Casal does near the end, singing through the phrase "quitarme la vida" with a sobbing vibrato that permeates even the consonants. Curiously, to me anyway, the guitar accompaniment is exactly, but exactly, identical to the cover of the same song by hard-to-take songstress Chavela Vargas, which I think is also on youtube at least in audio. (I was introduced to the beyond-Dylan, beyond-even-Vysotsky gargling of Madame Vargas at this weird house party in Austin where I was also introduced to Laphroaig, perhaps Chavela's sour mash equivalent.) Ok, so my summer entries are all about lamentably autobiographical digression, yes. Cue the next musical example.

Ok, best lip-synching in the history of lips, no? You may or may not recognize the woman doing the crying in this one as Carmen Maura, tough but glamorous twenty years earlier in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Almodovar on the verge of leaving camp and epater-ing-el-bourgeousie behind in order to make a number of increasingly sincere masterpieces.) Maura looks to me to have made the bold move of aging naturally, but in her first scenes in the movie, she's consented to be made absolutely haggard, with tremendous aesthetic pay-off. Cruz talks in the commentary track about wearing, well, a prosthetic ass, and she and Almodovar have a little love-fest about how it inspired her to carry herself like a mother instead of one of today's great screen beauties. The lyrics here are softer camp, and, uh, the subtitles, as promised, appear to be in Turkish. It was the longest version of the clip and I wanted to be sure of having the last seconds of it.

It occurs to me that what makes the second clip more convincing, though the first is more of a tour-de-force, is that Luz Casal is audibly younger than Marisa Paredes, though perhaps her character is meant to be lip-synching to her own beloved recording of the song from younger years. It makes me have vague thoughts about singing voice in relation to speaking voice--and recall an interview in which Upshaw said her coach or perhaps her doctor told her to try and habitually raise her speaking voice to be more in line with the range of her singing--because I'm still not convinced--anyway, Almodovar back then was at least half about artifice.

Really I just posted these because I played both of them for regular commentatrix Grrg, and didn't even think at the time about the fact that they're both so much about singing and memory and loss, even if they show Almodovar reacting to these things first at the tail end of his enfant-terrible phase, then as...I don't know how to categorize what he's become, other than one of the very best. For more on singing and crying, please visit the Opera-L archives, as I recall there was one of those immortal (in the sense of neverending, not in the sense of great or timeless) threads about what music makes you cry! Seriously, it was one of those things where by the end every recording in history has been referenced. Somewhere out there, there's someone who gets misty over Marilyn Horne singing "Groin pull."

All for now. A month, more or less, 'til I can go back to opera blogging. Oh but meanwhile, did you notice Santa Fe made public their intentions for next seez? Highlights include a Brewer/Groves Alceste and Dessay in Traviata. One feels certain she will make interesting and unusual dramatic choices in the role, no?


Mer said...

Maury, I'm a huge fan of this blog ( there really needs to be a more interesting way to say that - whatever that is, that's what I meant to say). Necessity is what causes me to break my shyness-induced silence. I need ticket advice from some experienced, Met-going New Yorkers. I'm planning a trip to New York sometime in December, and I've been looking at ticket packages. What I'd really like to see is one of the Pape Tristan & Isolde's, and Thais. Wouldn't mind Queen of Spades either, so I'm thinking of buying one of the 3-operas-in-3-days deals and then trying to change Don Giovanni ( the third opera in that package) for Thais a week later. First of all, how does one go about doing that? Secondly, what are decent all-around ( aural & visual) seats in the $ 350 range or under?

Thanks so much!!

Maury D'annato said...

Mer, hey, I wouldn't bother with the blog if people didn't talk back. It'd be boring. So howdy! Anyway I'm going to be of little use for the first part of the question, because my opera-going companion does all the ticket machinations while I watch and make snotty comments back when the ticket guy starts giving us 'tude about people exchanging too many subscription tix. I don't actually know if the mini subscriptions like that have the same liberal exchange rules, plus Thais may be a tough trade with the house selling out as much as it is and you-know-who singing the role of the happy hooker.

As to seats under $350, I'm pretty sure they all are. I mean, I've never bought Parterre Box seats or anything, but I don't think even those are $350. But what I guess you will want to know is: there are very few bad seats in the house, aurally. Side and rear orch under the overhang has a little bit of a weird echo at times, and you won't want to sit in front balcony boxes for things with a large orchestra or the balance is all off. Otherwise, I don't think there's much to know.

As to the view, boxes that are neither right at the front or all the way box are a good deal, and balcony is fine though you won't see faces clearly, and it goes without saying orch seats are a lovely treat. Fam Circ does, as one ages, begin to feel like a real compromise, and standing circle one does purely for the war stories. I've not spent much time in Dress Circle or Grand Tier, so I can't comment on those at all.

Um, that wasn't outrageously helpful. Let me see if I can figure anything out about the 3-off subscriptions.

Unknown said...

I don't think that camp has totally left Almodóvar's films, and I hope it never does. But it certainly has become integrated more stylistically seamlessly into a more mature and (as you say) sincere aesthetic. I still find the dialogue in his latest works ubiquitously peppered with the Almodóvar punchy crassness, and the bathroom-vignettes-for-their-own-sake are still there (do we see Penélope taking a leak in Volver? I forget now, though I'm not sure why I'd forget such memorable moment). But yeah, the schlocky campfest as a weapon of social critique has now given rise to a more psychologically probing agenda. One of the best, as you say.

By the way, Almodóvar is totally operatic. This is opera blogging.

Maury D'annato said...

r.: while I'm careful of the overgeneral use of "operatic" to describe a certain sensibility, I think you're right in the case of Almodovar. My unconscious thinks you're right, too, if I may judge by the fact that quite recently I found myself daydreaming, without having posed the question to myself "might Almodovar direct opera?" about the possibility that he might. An obvious choice for his debut might be La Voix Humaine, as Women on the Verge is in whatever sketchily archetypal way inspired by it.

And yes, the camp is still there but, as you say, an accent rather than a motivating aesthetic, and it's not wielded, as in certain early work, as a bludgeon.

Anonymous said...

OK. That's more like it. Great commentary on Almodovar, and, yes I agree, Dessay will be a very interesting Violetta. I'm a big fan of Gheorghiu in the role and I doln't think Dessay could surpass her, but it wouldn't be a boring evening in the theatre.


Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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