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Emperor of the perverse

“Short as Roman emperor Eliogabalo’s reign was, the world sighed in relief when it was over. I felt the same way about Gotham Chamber Opera’s performance Friday of Francesco Cavalli’s Eliogabalo. It was a shocker in exactly the wrong sense—an inept presentation from a company with a reputation for wit and refinement.” [New York Post]

23 comments

  • m. croche says:

    “The real-life Eliogabalo …”

    As W.C. Fields said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. There’s no sense being a damn fool about it.”

    I’ll take his advice.

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    Tony’s at his exercise:

    “This audacious production, directed by James Marvel, turns “Eliogabalo” into a glam-rock melodrama, with bare-chested burlesque performers (of both sexes) who silently interact with a terrific cast, headed by the impressive, sexy countertenor Christopher Ainslie. Now on his way to becoming a rock star of Baroque opera, Mr. Ainslie excels as the cross-dressing emperor and carries himself like Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s pop idol character in “Velvet Goldmine.”

    Hormonal criticism…

  • Lee B. Ahmo says:

    Speaking of countertenors (and now we are), in his tribute to Opera News Award recipient David Daniels in this month’s issue of that magazine, Adam Wasserman calls countertenor singing before DD “malnourished, sickly-sweet…as notable for its musical inflexibility as for its dramatic unsuitability in staged opera.” He mentions “wan vocal compromises” and “authenticity at the expense of a pulse.”

    What? With all due respect to DD, did Wasserman never see Jeffrey Gall or Drew Minter in Peter Sellars’ 1985 Giulio Cesare? or hear Gall hold his own with Kathleen Battle and Marilyn Horne in that Carnegie Hall Semele, also in 1985? You could hardly tell Horne and Gall apart in the ensembles! Wasserman probably didn’t see Minter tear through “Furibondo” in Stephen Wadsworth’s 1988 Partenope in Omaha or hear Derek Lee Ragin and Michael Chance, who were both astonishing in Tamerlano in Lyon (also 1985). What about Gall’s Met debut (the first CT to sing there) as Tolomeo in the 1988 Cesare with Troyanos and Battle. Am I old?

    These men sang/sing with astonishing virtuosity and wit and emotion, and are amazing actors as well. “Sickly-sweet” and “wan” they were not! I realize Wasserman was writing a tribute (and was maybe a tad too adoring), but I don’t think DD himself would deny the accomplishments of his predecessors.

    • m. p. arazza says:

      Wow. For that matter, I wouldn’t even call Russell Oberlin’s singing “malnourished” & so forth. An editor should have flagged this if only in recognition that Minter, a very great singer, is a writer for the magazine. Oh wait -- Wasserman, I see, is an editor.

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    I had the same thoughts. Wasserman is actually a very good writer, but here I think he was just going with the generational Received Wisdom, along the lines of Opera Acting Starting With Callas.

    Christopher Ainslie has a nice body and some sense of style but the voice is very uninteresting. “Rock Star”, indeed-- sheer ignorance (including in re rock). But the really appalling performance was John Easterlin’s unbelievably cheap, upstaging drag act as Linea-- he should have been pelted with dinner rolls.

    • sassymaegibbons says:

      Actually, ‘Nerva’ the one who should be pelted is the director, not the artist.

      Did you ever stop to think -- really think outside of the nasty, bitchy, snarky, and uneducated garbage which routinely falls out of your mouth -- that the artists are being directed in a certain way?

      You really, REALLY need to think about this before hurling further inane banter out of our ignorance.

      And for the record: you need to watch the ‘pelting with dinner rolls’ remarks -- such comments when read by legal counsel, such as myself, can result in all manner of difficulties for you.

      My firm has reviewed your commentary and find it to be a clear indication of someone making violent and dangerous threats against an artist who was, most likely, following the stage director’s dictum.

      • la vociaccia says:

        Calm down John.

      • DonCarloFanatic says:

        Wouldn’t that depend on whether the dinner rolls were soft or hard and crusty?

      • ianw2 says:

        Haha, amazing.

        Newcomer, I know Americans are a litigious bunch, but “pelted with bread rolls”, considering its function as dramatic speech, would be an amazing three second trial for you to be thrown out of. Please do let me know the dates so that I can find a ten minute opening in my calendar to attend.

      • m. croche says:

        The horror, the horror…

      • Rory Williams says:

        “Mmmmmmmm, dinner rolls!” <— Homer Simpson voice.

      • Nerva Nelli says:

        Will you make further risible threatening noises for my widening your frame of reference?

        “Remembering Judy Garland (Roger Ebert)

        “She became, in time, one of the greatest of stars herself, but when Judy Garland died Sunday in London there was little of that left. Only pain and vulnerability and memories. In one of her last live appearances, a few months ago at the Talk of the Town in London, she couldn’t finish “Over the Rainbow,” and the audience threw *dinner rolls* at her.”
        …………..

        I’ve seen (and performed in) a performance or two, (and also seen an Easterlin performance or ten). Of COURSE the director should have reined him in instead of seemingly saying, “Do whatever comes into your mind to steal focus”. But this was clearly (to anyone with eyes) not a performance in which each and every move and moue was director-inspired or -sanctioned.

        By the way, Counselor, did you SEE this show or are you too busy with Jarndyce v Jarndyce?

        • la vociaccia says:

          Nerva, nerva….I think, you’ve seen this “legal counselor” in a performance or ten…

    • Hippolyte says:

      The character’s name is Lenia, not Linea.

  • DeCaffarrelli says:

    Lee B. Ahmo, you are absolutely correct in your observations. I suppose one must expect it in a piece of hagiography attached to the Opera New Awards, but the “every countertenor before Daniels was mediocre” pervades press about DD to this day. It’s particularly unfortunate when Wasserman’s initial example is “A dispetto” from Handel’s Tamerlano which, as you point out, Derek Lee Ragin sang magnificently 10 years before Daniels took it on.

    I might refer you to a piece I did here last year which discusses this very issue:

    http://parterre.com/2012/03/13/counter-attack/

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Somebody at City Opera is doing something right for a change. The Holloywood Reporter has a story about the Anna opera, but it was probably placed by BAM.

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/anna-nicole-smith-opera-set-429755

    ROFL -- Gelb is on the mayor of Milan’s list of people to replace Lisner at La Scala!!!!
    http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/03/whos-the-next-chief-at-la-scala-you-guessed.html