[NOTE: This entry has been updated (1) as of 1:21 AM Eastern on 8 Nov. See below.]
If this production doesn't drive us back to live opera nothing will.
Now, where to get the $$$...
Update (1:21 AM Eastern on 8 Nov): On reading several eMails referring to our above entry, we now see we've managed to be unintentionally ambiguous concerning our two one-line comments, so let us now correct the problem.
When we wrote, "If this production doesn't drive us back to live opera nothing will," we meant to say, "If this production doesn't drive us back to live opera TO SEE THIS PRODUCTION, nothing will," meaning that the intriguing staging was so complex we knew that no filmed reproduction of that staging (as in a DVD or via the Met's HD Live) could capture it fully or even accurately and therefore it had to be experienced live in the theater to properly assess its appropriateness as a staging for this opera about which appropriateness we have some fundamental doubts; doubts that would NOT have arisen had Lulu been a stage play rather than an opera.
As to our closing line, we were NOT coyly soliciting donations. Merely jestingly stating an actual impediment as living like a virtual hermit for the past 30 years or so, we're sorely ill-equipped materials-wise to venture out into the high-class, high-cost world of NYC opera-going without expending substantial amounts of money to properly equip ourself.
We trust this update will serve to remove all ambiguity from our above entry.
We just got around to viewing this lovely movie (thank you, Amazon Instant Video) and it's a thorough delight. Set in a fictional English retirement home for musicians called Beecham House (modeled on the famous Casa di Riposo per Musicisti in Milan founded by Verdi) it stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly (an actor with whose name and work we're totally unfamiliar but who is so much the spitting image of John Cleese in face, figure, and voice that it was not until the movie's closing credits we learned it was not John Cleese playing the role) all of whom turned in touching performances in this touching little tale which film critic Stanley Kauffmann described in his review for The New Republic as being "a bit thin" (which it is) but then went on to astutely observe that it really "doesn't matter. The important thing was to spend a hundred minutes or so [i.e., the length of the movie] with these people in that place," which people also included a singing cameo role for the great dramatic soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones who played Anne Langley, one of the resident guests of Beecham House. Lots of fine music-making to be heard throughout the movie all of the instrumentalists involved being real-life retired instrumentalists playing resident guests of Beecham House who actually performed the instrumental music seen in the movie themselves.
If you haven't seen this movie it's well worth at least renting from Amazon Instant Video for three bucks (we bought the film from AIV for eight bucks) and some 100 minutes of your time.
Alex Ross, classical music critic for The New Yorker, notes on his blog The Rest Is Noise:
Russell Thomas, speaking to Anne Midgette [here]: "The conversation about blackface is a distraction. It’s not about whether or not Mr. Antonenko was painted dark. It’s also not about whether whites should be allowed to sing Porgy and Bess. It’s about this: Why aren’t the stages representative of the communities in which they are located?"
Answer: Because it's unimportant, no pressing matter, and "a distraction". What matters on theater stages, the ONLY thing that matters — whether what's being presented is straight drama, musical comedy, opera, or what have you — is the excellence of the presentation and performance of the artwork being staged. Period. Full stop. Everything else — everything — is but of ancillary importance and only a hypersensitive, corrupted postmodern sensibility would argue otherwise.
Over the decades, we've viewed Citizen Kane some two- or three-dozen times and each time it seems as fresh as our first viewing. We viewed it again last night and it still raises the hair on the back of our neck, even at times brings us to tears so consummate a work of art is it.
How was it possible for a 24-yr-old, filmmaking-ignorant Orson Welles to create such a film — his very first — right out of the box, so to speak? It's akin to, say, Richard Wagner creating a Tristan und Isolde the very first time he put pen to manuscript paper. Impossible, of course. Yet what Welles accomplished in creating Citizen Kane is its rough equivalent for he both shaped and controlled every aspect of the film's making from its scripting to its actual filming and editing.
Clearly, Welles's accomplishment required an authentic cinematic genius — a genius of the most mindboggling sort for which no explanation is sufficient or can even be conjectured. Whatever else Welles may have been he was indisputably that and in our estimation is to world cinema what Bach is to music and Mozart to opera.
For the most part, commercial TV spot commercials today, either of the 30-second or 60-second sort (rarely longer or shorter), are each a kind of micro-drama; quite sophisticated and very well produced. They all have the same purpose, of course, which is to sell you something; either a specific product or a corporate image and sometimes both in the same TV spot. Except for TV news shows, we never watch a commercial TV show "live" but DVR it instead so that we can fast-forward through spot commercials which commercials are typically intrusive beyond tolerance as they break for too long the "rhythm" and sense of the show they're interrupting to pitch their message.
There exist, however, certain TV spot commercials which are so enjoyable in themselves (and which we learned of when watching commercial TV news shows live) that we let them run in their entirety instead of fast-forwarding them when watching our DVRed copy of a commercial TV show. This new, ongoing series of S&F entries will be dedicated to showcasing those commercial TV spots which, in our not so humble opinion (IONSHO), qualify.
Herewith, our first three commercial TV spot commercials for inclusion in our own little Hall of TV Spot Commercials Fame (with gratitude to YouTube, our sine qua non in this enterprise):
(Song: "Feeling Good", Vocal: Audra Mae)
(Music: "Zadok the Priest" by George Frideric Handel)
In yesterday's New York Times there appeared an article titled "Debating 'Otello,' Blackface and Casting Trends" wherein Ben Brantley, the Times's theater critic, and Anthony Tommasini, the Times's classical music critic, discussed (via eMail exchanges between the two) the Met's new, no-dark-skin-makeup-for-the-Caucasian-Otello staging of Verdi's Otello. Instead of a trenchant discussion of the very real dramatic problems presented by such a staging (which problems we discussed here), these two New York Times critics engaged in a near-worthless, mealymouthed back-and-forth that even the PC-friendly Times ought to have been embarrassed to publish. We especially liked this unintentionally revealing bit of idiocy from Mr. Brantley:
Seeing "Otello," I tried to imagine how I would have responded if I hadn’t known the story before. Would I have felt something was missing without the makeup? And no, I don’t suppose I would have.
What I did miss, in the production’s first half, was any sense of what set Otello apart. Aleksandrs Antonenko, in the role, tended to blend into the crowd in the early scenes. Even a red scarf, anything, to set him apart might have helped relieve that black-and-gray canvas, and something to indicate that he had come from a culture different from the one he now inhabits.
How about markedly darkened skin (but not grotesquely darkened as in "blackface") that would instantly have shown Otello to be "from a culture different from the one he now inhabits" — you know, just as Shakespeare intended? You think that might have done the trick?
Of course it would have, you mealymouthed twit. It's not for nothing, you know, that Shakespeare didn't title his play merely Othello but Othello, the Moor of Venice.
What damage, if any, would be done to world culture were it the case that in no competent public venue (competent meaning they've the wherewithal, talent, and facilities to do the job properly) could the plays of Shakespeare be seen presented fully true to the way Shakespeare set them down using his own settings and plots and in his own language (Werktreue presentations to use the handy German term which translates literally as "work-true" meaning "faithful to the original")? Appalling damage would be the informed consensus; damage so appalling as to be virtually unthinkable.
The first commission given newly naturalized British citizen George Frideric Handel by George I of Great Britain in 1727 was to write music for the coronation of George II which, as it turned out, took place that same year. Handel composed four anthems known collectively as "The Coronation Anthems" which anthems have been a part of every British coronation since and the first of which is titled "Zadok the Priest".
And here is how we Americans made use of that anthem.
We don't know whether to pat AT&T on the back for coming up with a truly brilliant commercial or sit down and weep.
You decide for yourselves.
Our S&F entry "The Met Panders To The Sensibilities Of Simpletons — Again" of 5 August addressing an aspect of the Met's new production of Verdi's Otello has had appended a significant update that might be of some interest to our readers. Click on the above embedded hyperlink to access the updated entry.