Cher Public

Dodecaphones

lulu_seated“I hate musicals. Why doesn’t the opera bother me?” The  first visit to the Met with an enthusiastic host, here enacted by The Awl‘s lavishly-bemiddlenamed Mary HK Choi and Seth Colter Walls (of whom more soon).

Photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

  • My apologies to La Cieca for hijacking the threat but I just learned of 2 very exiting upcoming releases. The blog stridonolassu is listing 2 dvd’s from the Salzburg Festival filmed in 1963 AND 1964 respectively:

    NOZZE DI FIGARO -- Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hilde Güden, Graziella Sciutti, Geraint Evans, Evelyn Lear, John van Kesteren, Peter Lagger, Patricia Johnson, Siegfried Rudolf Frese, Barbara Vogel, Martin Vantin, Evelyn La Bruce, Margaret Nesse; Rudolf Sellner; Lorin Maazel, Salzburg Festival, 1963 (VAI)

    DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE -- Waldemar Kmentt, Roberta Peters, Pilar Lorengar, Walter Berry, Renate Holm, Paul Schöffler, Renato Ercolani, Maria van Dongen, Cvetka Ahlin, Vera Little, Lucia Popp, Yvonne Helvey, Hildegarg Rütgers, Paul Späni, Josef Knapp, Herbert Shachtschneider, Georg Littassy, Alfred Böhm, Georg Bucher, Heinz Rohn; Otto Schenk; Istvan Kertesz, Salzburg Festival, 1964 (VAI)

    For those not familiar with this blog, give it a look, you might find the information they gather extremely valuable.

    • scifisci

      thanks for the website recommendation!!

    • The Vicar of John Wakefield

      Patricia Johnson (Lucky Berlin!) was the best Marcellina since the War and of course Sir Geraint was matchless as a bel canto Figaro.

      Pity four horrid Americans mar these releases…

    • calaf47

      Thanks for the “heads-up”. I ordered both of them today via Amazon.

      • I hope you went through La cieca’s so she can get a cut of that sale.

  • Wait, there’s more, There is also a Seraglio in the works as well. The cast has Reri Grist as Blonchen, Luigi Alva, Fernando Corena and Ingeborg Hallstein as Constanza. Zubin metha conducts. This one will be released latter in the Summer.

  • I think I’m about to come off as a supremely bad sport.

    The tone of this review makes me want to find a new hobby. I mean listen. I blogged about opera for five years (without nearly the audience The Awl has, so put this down as sour grapes if you want) and am as guilty as anyone of writing discursive, informal, in my case downright incoherent reviews. But I have genuine misgivings when I read stuff that seems deliberately dumbed down. I can sort of understand it as a reaction to more mainstream reviewing, which can feel ostentatiously (and meaninglessly) sterile and intellectual in the worst sense, but it isn’t enough.

    Things like calling Lulu a “crazy bitch.” Well…it’s funny, if not particularly original. I can’t say I didn’t laugh at a few things in this little dialog. I think these rhetorical fillips make for fine accents to a piece of writing about opera. But when it’s the keynote, it doesn’t make me think opera is worth my time any more than deadly plot-summary newspaper reviews do. It’s sort of like reading Gawker: I can see the craft (if also the effort) that’s gone into the breezy tone and au courant expressions the coolest 18-year-olds are using, some of them startling/amusing, but cumulatively the whole enterprise makes me weary.

    I guess the main thing, and as long as I’m slagging on things universally liked, this is why I can’t read OperaChic, is that the tone of “I am so much hipper than other opera fans” makes me think I’m reading the words of someone who decided to hang out with the dorky kids because it’s easier to look really with it. (It’s worse with OperaChic because the tagline of her blog “I live in Milan and you don’t!” etc. is so expressly self-aggrandizing, with the hipster’s feint of maybe-I’m-joking-and-don’t-you-look-a-poor-sport-to-protest? it’s an act of masochism to read further.)

    Me, I don’t know that I detect much sincere liking for opera in writing like this. Opera, in this context, feels like a fun thing to whittle one’s phrase-making on, easily replaceable next year with something else. Maybe I’m missing it, and this is all unfair. There is room in my heart for this possibility.

    It’s a fine line, I guess, between something like this and, say, Wellsung where the talk is equally off the cuff but the love is there. This piece? I’m afraid it often just reads like hipster posturing done in the vicinity of an interesting performance to me. Reading it, I felt they’d composed it standing outside in the plaza, drinking ironically dowdy classic cocktails with tiny, sarcastic umbrellas in them. It feels like a party I’m not invited to, no matter how much I may protest I had better things to do anyway.

    • CruzSF

      I thought I was the only one who doesn’t like to read (and no longer reads) OperaChic.

      • richard

        I’ve tuned out Operachic too. Her tone is irritating but really finished it for me is that she plays the same old numbers over, and over, and over…..
        Fine she has her favorites, but that doesn’t make it interesting for other people.

        And Roberto Bolle, ok he’s Italian, I get it. But he’s only a so-so dancer. And Zakharova is even less interesting to me……

    • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

      I love hanging out with the dorky kids, but in my case it’s social-climbing.

      BTW, Maury, if you consider yourself a dorky kid, then all I can say I wish God had made a helluva lot more dorky kids.

      • SFPhoto

        BAB, you ARE dorky kid and I can PROVE it: You used the word AGUE thusly: “It started to sound like she had developed ague of the larynx.” Well, BAB, the only other time I’ve run into that word was in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I. (Although, now that I think about it, Trollope used it in The Way We Live Now.) I knew we had so much in common and there was a reason for my affinity towards you.

        • DonCarloFanatic

          Lord Byron’s poem On Swimming the Hellespont is where I first saw ague:

          (last verse)

          ‘Twere hard to say who fared the best:
          Sad mortals! thus the gods still plague you!
          He lost his labour, I my jest;
          For he was drowned, and I’ve the ague.

        • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

          far be it from me to ague the pont

    • Maury,

      I agree that some of this was a little annoying. But To Be Fair, even Wellsung (even Opera Chic!) is written with us nerds in mind—this is written for people who have never ever heard an opera before. To a certain extent, we need to figure out ways to make opera criticism MORE superficial—like, what are you going to read in a newspaper review of Lulu? You’re going to learn:

      It is a work of 12-tone music.
      It is one of conductor James Levine’s favorite pieces.
      He was unable to conduct it, due to injury.

      You’ll learn all kinds of things, in other words, that have nothing to do with the actual experience of going to the opera, especially for a first-timer. What I liked about this is it focused on things like “lesbian underwear switcheroo”—like, people REALLY NEED TO KNOW THAT. Or, what no Times review would EVER say (okay maybe Steve Smith), which is that Lulu actually makes for a great first opera… for the right person. And that sort of person is actually pretty thick on the ground in NYC!

      Could this have been tighter? Yes. But I’m still glad the Awl is running pieces like this at all.

      Also, I WISH YOU WOULD BLOG MORE.

      Love,
      Danny

      • What he said. Maury, the best defense against mediocre blogging is the offense of good blogging. Or offensive blogging, which amounts to the same thing.

        • pernille

          Opera blogging gets some exposure in the latest “Opera News” coverage of the Slatkin/Traviata debacle.

      • mrmyster

        Tiny sarcastic umbrells! Fancy . . . what CAN it mean?
        Well, now that the fifth cousin of Queen E. II is at Number Ten
        that may improve the tone.
        But Covent Garden still needs its vegetables and they have been
        looking a bit wilted of late.

        • mrmyster

          Oh I know, it’s all written by Martin Amis.
          Sounds exactly like him, come to think of it.
          Elegant and obscure.

        • armerjacquino

          Don’t remind me. All the most enthusiastic Brit-bashers can rejoice. We’ve screwed it up at the polls yet again.

    • Well, in the defense of the Alwsters, what they’re writing is for a general-interestish blog (i.e., not for specialists) and I can understand (if not always sympathize with) the urge to yokk it up when the subject matter can be perceived as so Deep and Serious.

      I do think this kind of piece is interesting in that in applying that familiar ueber-ironic tone to opera, it includes opera in the more general conversation about art. I rather like the idea that there is something growing that is somewhere between “opera fans” and “never been to an opera and never will,” a new generation of occasional operagoers. There is a something to be said for building an audience of 10,000 people who go to the opera a few times a year as opposed to us, the few who go 10,000 times a year. And what’s really good news, if it’s true, is that this casual audience seems to be attracted to repertory that deserves to be performed but heretofore has been considered box office poison. If we’re going to get to see Saint François d’Assise, and especially if we’re going to get to see it more than once, that causal audience is going to be key to making it happen.

      The other point is that editors always want some kind of a hook, and the “fish out of water” trope is as perennial in arts journalism as it is in early sixties sitcoms.

      • Indiana Loiterer III

        There is a something to be said for building an audience of 10,000 people who go to the opera a few times a year as opposed to us, the few who go 10,000 times a year.

        Exactly! Opera has never depended entirely on the hard-core fans. There have always been occasional opera-goers who have gone for various reasons of their own. It used to be that opera-going carried a lot of social status that it’s currently losing. It also used to be that people of certain groups (as Mrs. JC would remind us) grew up with certain operas the way many of us grew up with certain musicals, and would go to see them; but they got assimilated and that’s died out. So if we get people like the Awlsters who go to certain operas because they want to seem hip--more power to them! We need all the butts in those seats we can get.

      • The point about the 10,000/10,000 is particulary well taken. I don’t know quite why this piece rubbed me so wrong. An hour or so later I feel a bit like a scold.

      • honorary virgin

        i agree that snagging the occasional operagoer is an excellent thing. but to see it as the key to bringing us “st. francois” seems (massive understatement follows) like a stretch. are we to understand that average blokes who frequently can’t be cajoled to see, say, “don giovanni,” packed with bloodshed, sexual intrigue, sadism, and nonstop great tunes, are going to create an irresistible demand for a 4 1/2-hour-long opera with no sex, no violence, no (human) love interest, and no hummable music? look, i love “st. francois.” i will forever bless the name of pamela rosenberg, who brought it to us in san francisco. i even scrounged up a bootleg dvd of the world-premiere telecast. but let’s be real: it’s been staged in paris, in salzburg, in s.f. and in amsterdam. has there been a vast clamoring for its return in any of those places? (i can assure you that the orchestra seating had thinned out considerably by the second intermission in s.f.) plus, it’s expensive: a big orchestra and chorus, lots and lots of rehearsal time for some very difficult music. the idea that the casual operagoer holds the key to its debut at the met (much less possible return appearances there) is, frankly, utterly bewildering. would our hostess care to elaborate?

    • January

      Maury your blog, Operachic’s blog, as well as this one or any other always deteriorates FAST from the initial ‘love for the art’ into the ‘me me me’ stuff. I don’t care much cause I’ll take what I can get, and for an opera fan, it’s slim pickings throughout. Stupid opera posts trump no opera posts.

      • I think you’re probably right, and it’s part of the reason I stopped doing it.

        • rapt

          Wait one darn minute! This can’t be left to stand. Admittedly, I haven’t read too many opera blogs--but in my experience, neither Maury D’s nor La C’s, different as they are from each other, can be accurately described as me me me. La Cieca, for all her occasional whip-crackings and the possibly telltale recurrence of certain themes (perhaps I should say Flemes), is almost a paragon of negative capability in her self-effacing responsiveness to a variety of artistic attempts, her ability to admit error, the surprising stands she can take (the triple and quadruple ironies of many utterances helping create the mists behind which, presumably, one jewel-like consciousness lurks). Maury, on the other hand, was (and, in my private pantheon--which he could punnify in an instant, I’m sure--always will be) a master of using his personal pulse as the finest seismograph, attuning him to the subtlest nuances of the aesthetic experience he set himself to understand. And both (and here, for me, is the difference from other blogs I’ve dipped into) feel a primary allegiance to actual facts, to observing and analyzing what actually happened on this or that stage and what was the historical, aesthetic, and cosmological context in which that happening is to be understood. And if I were either one of them, I’d be able to think of the telling, Bracknellish line on which I could make my exit from this post. But I’m not, so I have to keep on reading them.

    • Tamerlano

      Beautifully said, Maury. You’re a fantastically good writer :)

  • rysanekfreak

    To this sort of person, I would say…

    If God had intended you to enjoy opera, He would ______.

    a. have blessed you with heightened taste buds
    b. let Michael Musto write the surtitles
    c. have Lady GaGa’s people design all the costumes
    d. force you to drink nonstop before and during
    e. all of the above

  • A. Poggia Turra

    I’ve never been to a pop or rock concert. I assume that, should that ever change, I could write a pithy, too-cool-for-school report of my observations :)

    • ianw2

      The Guardian did something like this a few years ago. From memory, their sexy sexy rugby writer went to Royal Opera, and Charlotte Higgins I think went to some death metal slam? Judith Mackerell went to the races, I can remember that one…

    • Harry

      Well finally I went to a rock concert only late last year, as a VIP guest of its organizers.I held the going -- price for these VIP tickets was around $500 each. It was with reputedly one of these so called ‘great world famous bands’, we happen to hear of, in passing. It was an open air concert thing with tons of fine food and wine on call (for the VIP’s!!!) in the glass closed in restaurant pavilion overlooking the event. Hearing some incoherent loud banging and thumping, I just stayed inside.Once I checked the decibel intensity outside , pressing my hand lightly on the glass windows. Yes the windows were vibrating. Yet the stage was hundreds of yards away. . ….. I had a fine time dining and then finally left before the end…..The rock music ( what it was), how good the band was…..I do not know. It was just ‘noise’. I just decided to forget it was there as I enjoyed myself dining. The very vast majority of ‘true believer rock fans’ were out there in the cold night open air, freezing their arses off and paying for the privilege. What silly bastards!

  • Henry Holland

    Why I miss Maury D. blogging, Part 2,983:

    It’s a fine line, I guess, between something like this and, say, Wellsung where the talk is equally off the cuff but the love is there. This piece? I’m afraid it often just reads like hipster posturing done in the vicinity of an interesting performance to me. Reading it, I felt they’d composed it standing outside in the plaza, drinking ironically dowdy classic cocktails with tiny, sarcastic umbrellas in them. It feels like a party I’m not invited to, no matter how much I may protest I had better things to do anyway.

  • ianw2

    I loved it, found it cute in a pleasant way. And to all those (self-admitted) scolds, I hate to break it to you but this is the kind of tone of conversation I have with my friends. There’s room in this crazy cesspool for both Oxford Opera Quarterly and those crazy kids (git off ma’lawn!)

    • Henry Holland

      Maybe it’s an age/generational thing (their age cohort is a distant memory), but I just feel like everything they say has ” ” around it, that I’m being nudged in the ribs in that totally fucking annoying “Get it? Didja get it?” way and most of all, it doesn’t make a person more appealing to me to trumpet their ignorance like it deserved one of the lesser, non-hereditary titles from Elizabeth II.

      Look, I know Gen Xers were abandoned by their Boomer parents, who instead of bonding with the little nippers were off finding themselves > having orgies in the neighbors hot tub > doing massive amounts of mind-altering drugs > remarrying for the 5th time, but gawd, I can only take so much “I use irony and sarcasm so I can pretend I don’t care about anything, really, because actual feelings are yucky”.

      Hey, what the hell are you accursed kids still doing on my lawn?

    • RRnest Thesiger

      I’m with you, Ianw2. Whether the whole long piece was totally naive or elaborately satirical, it was marvelous. And the specific observations about the performance were none of them off the mark.

      I’d be glad to take lessons in prose style from those kids.

      • RRnest Thesiger

        I looked a little more at The Awl and elsewhere. Seth writes straight prose for the Huffpost, etc. It’s Mary who has the wriggly style, with a bit of “voce infantile” folded in. If I were 40 years younger I’d move to NY to get more of it…

        • RRnest Thesiger

          And I suddenly realized where the style comes from: an old friend of mine from the 70s, Kathy Acker (“the Black Tarantula”). I remember how much she and her friend Clay Fear enjoyed it when my lover and I took them to the Stud on Folsom St. one night. If, Henry Holland, you are the same guy I’m thinking of, you knew her too.

    • pyramus

      I loved it, too. I thought it was sweet: there’s a palpable sense of the excitement (even if it was thickly overlaid with hipper-than-thou attitude) that comes from discovering that you have found something new that you instantly adore. I remember it well (though it was just about thirty years ago), that feeling of OMG THIS IS AMAZING WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME?!

      • January

        “there’s a palpable sense of the excitement (even if it was thickly overlaid with hipper-than-thou attitude) that comes from discovering that you have found something new that you instantly adore. I remember it well (though it was just about thirty years ago), that feeling of OMG THIS IS AMAZING WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME?!”

        Remembering that feeling is one of the only things still worth it.

  • Pelleas

    They lost me at “winner winner chicken dinner.”

  • Batty Masetto

    Proof positive that Lulu is just empty pretentiousness that appeals only to musical snobs! :-)

  • Kentie1964

    I have tickets for this Saturday. I am looking forward to it.