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Lamento della Neely

All these years La Cieca has complained that nobody would write an operatic version of Valley of the Dolls, and what do you know? Monteverdi already did it almost 400 years ago. The controversial “Voglio una bambola! Voglio una bambola!” scena follows the jump.

Alternate explanation: Deutsche Grammonphon and Anna Prohaska have lost their fucking minds.


  • Houndentenor says:

    A few years ago I finally watched Valley of the Dolls and was stunned at how much Patti Duke looked like Lindsey Lohan (and how much the movie seemed to be “The Lindsey Lohan Story”).

    Also, is the old piece about the operatic treatment of Valley of the Dolls with its various revivals still available somewhere online? That was one of my all time favorite Parterre Box pieces.

  • perfidia says:

    I kind of love this. And as radical staging goes it looks rather mild. The music is beautiful. And that guy in the beard can give a sponge bath anytime he wants.

    • MontyNostry says:

      This is really reminiscent of something from the 1980s movie Aria. The soprano’s voice is a little reminiscent of Margaret Price!

  • Salome Where She Danced says:

    That’s a music video for Monetverdi’s breakout hit “Ragazze Interrotte”.

  • la vociaccia says:

    Anna Prohaska lost her mind? No…can’t be..

    • m. croche says:

      … at the same moment [Anna] was horror-struck at what she was doing. “Where am I? What am I doing? Why?” She wished to rise, to throw herself back, but something huge and relentless struck her on the head and dragged her down. “God forgive me everything!” she said, feeling the impossibility of struggling…

  • Hippolyte says:

    “Lamento della Ninfa” is my favorite Monteverdi madrigal and one of the great things in all 17th century music. It’s hard to avert one’s eyes, but this doesn’t seem terrible, although nothing like Rossana Bertini’s astonishing version.

    The Vivaldi in the other clip sounds pretty awful. “Alma Oppressa” from “La Fida Ninfa” in one of the composer’s most difficult arias and more than La Pazza Prohaska can handle at the moment.

    • louannd says:

      Thank you for that version by Bertini -- extraordinary. It’s amazing how slowly opera actually did evolve with madrigals being an important part of the development. Some people think it just happened because of the Florentine camerata but no-- I pulled this from --

      Monteverdi’s eighth book of madrigals is a monumental tome, containing nearly 40 individual works. The madrigals in Book VIII are culled from Monteverdi’s work of the previous two decades; the pieces are carefully arranged into particular sequences, suggesting that the book be examined as a whole work rather than an arbitrarily ordered collection. Many of the pieces in the collection are in “genere rappresentativo” as opposed to the madrigals “senza gesto” (without gesture), indicating that the performance of the book would have been at times highly theatrical. The overall ordering of the book follows the pair of adjectives in the title. The first half is comprised of “madrigali guerrieri” (warlike madrigals); the second is made of “madrigali amorosi” (amorous madrigals). Each subdivision of the book is marked by a madrigal for larger-than-normal vocal and instrumental forces. After the sinfonia (for two violins, viola da brazzo, and basso continuo) that introduces the whole book, the subsequent prologue begins the “guerrieri” section. A pair of six-voice madrigals with a smaller instrumental ensemble segues into the next section, which contains several duets and trios “without gesture.” The subsequent piece, Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, tells the story of a tragic battle in which Tancredi deals a fatal blow to Clorinda before lifting her visor and realizing, for the first time, that she is a fair maiden rather than a male foe. It is in this piece that we first see an important innovation of Monteverdi’s: the stile concitato. Consisting of rapid, prolonged repetitions of single notes, this “agitated style” underscores poignant images such as the comparison of the combatants to “two rival bulls full of burning anger.” To the performers the composer provided some rather detailed suggestions: “Clorinda should enter on foot and carrying a weapon, followed by Tancredi, also armed, and atop a horse…The movements and gestures of the singers should be determined by the requirements of the poetry — not too much, not too little.” The Combattimento is followed by a ballo, which includes singing, pantomime, and dancing. The second half of the book closely mirrors the format of the first. A prologue is followed by a group of “senza gesto” madrigals, which in turn lead to a group of more theatrical pieces. Here we find the famous Lament of the Nymph, a heart-wrenching soprano solo with mournful sidelines by a male trio, over a relentless four-note ground bass. Adding to the drama of the piece is the composer’s instruction that the soprano exercise rhythmic license to accentuate the harsh melodic dissonances, while the remainder of the ensemble observes tempo strictly. The book then ends with another elaborate piece, the Ballo delle ingrate (Ballet of the Ingrate Women). For this number, scenery must be built showing “the mouth of Hell, with four openings on either side spewing flames, from which the Ingrates enter in pairs.” Monteverdi instructs further that “The Ingrates should wear gray costumes decorated with teardrop shapes.” (This must have been quite a spectacle, particularly since in an early performance the chief ingrate was played by the Duke of Mantua in drag!) As the sullen souls emerge from hell, they warn the women listening to heed the amorous entreaties of their suitors: “Those who oppose love and arm themselves with cruelty…will see how it burns and pains when their elegance and beauty fade…[despite the] false remedy of creams and ointments.” The closing line of the madrigal encompasses the overarching theme of the entire book, and the idea behind much of the late madrigal repertory: “Learn pity, ladies!” ~ All Music Guide, Rovi

      • shoegirl says:

        louannd, great description. These are amazing pieces. I sang a few in a group at college myself, and was trying to get a choir to sing them for an early music festival here -- unfortunately they’re only a small group and losing their 2 key tenors, which reminds me that the tenor lines in the madrigals are operatic bonanzas extending over 2 octaves for 2 almost operatic soloist tenors. I’m hoping they can find some new tenors in time for October.

        The Ballo indeed sounds great. The descriptions which accompany nearly all of Monteverdi’s great dramatic works truly make us realise how much of a spectacle early opera must have been.

  • Avantialouie says:

    Fortunately, Monteverdi did not have the benefit of a really AWFUL novel on which to base his work. So he could turn out a considerably better product than Mark Robson did. Robson couldn’t even work up to “sheer camp” standard, but Monteverdi managed it pretty well.

  • louannd says:

    I am sure I saw Piotr B. behind one of those paper bags.

  • La Cieca says:

    Nadja Michael acted as the artistic counterpart by performing her self-composed song “Day of the Days”.

    • la vociaccia says:

      You have to hand it to her; it takes a serious amount of gall to make a shitty transcription of “La Luce Langue” and pass it off as a “self-composed song.”

      Such Kunst! Such a Stahhhhhhhh

      • Valzacchi says:

        Thanks, vociaccia -- I kept thinking during this, “Where have I heard that motive before?” In any case a bit over the top for a wine commercial, nicht wahr?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

  • CwbyLA says:

    wow. I like this a lot. Brava Anna Prohaska!

  • shoegirl says:

    While we are at it, there are plenty more camp novels/films for setting as operas. Myra Beckinrigde? Check. The Girl Slaves of Morgana de Fey. Check. My Cousin Rachel. Check. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant . . . on, hang on.

    • doktorlehar says:

      You forgot ‘Coffy’, which seems to me to be aching for operatic treatment.

      Coffy’s final lament to Howard, orchestrated to music of Mahleresque richness, culminates in an impassioned declamatory vocal line in which she sings her final soul-bearing summation of life:

      “These last three days have been like a dream, Howard. And I’m still in that dream.”

      Incanted immediately before shooting him in the groin with a rifle.

      ‘Carmen’ has nothing on this.

  • Ilka Saro says:

    I can’t remember. Were the doctors so sexy in VoD as they are in this vid? Were the hospital scenes so erotic? They might have been.

    I remember the first time I saw VoD. I was a late bloomer and it was on the late late show on a hot night in the summer of ’87. I was breaking up with my boyfriend, and tossing and turning, unable to sleep. Every 10 or 15 minutes, I would turn the tv on and flip desperately through the channels.

    I didn’t recognize VoD at first. As I would pass it I was thinking “Oh god, that is awful. Not what I need.” But with each interval of tossing and turning, I would turn back on the TV, and each time this movie looked a little more interesting, and finally attractive and enjoyable. At last, I realized that I had reached queer film El Dorado. By the time Susan Hayward sand “I’ll plant my own tree” I was transfixed and I had gotten all about my silly old boyfriend.

    I am eternally grateful to the higher powers that produced that film and restored me to sanity at just the moment that I needed it!

  • stignanispawn says:

    La Cieca’s satire of an operatic version of VD is one of my favorite things on this site — it was my introduction to
    I revisit it a couple of times a year when I need to smile and shared it with someone two weeks ago.
    Perhaps we could produce a production with some new singers: Alexey Markov or Stefan Kocan as Lyon Burke, and Stephanie Blythe as Helen Lawson — seems a logical progression from Kate Smith which,btw, she does exceedingly well.

  • tannengrin says:

    This reminds me (unfavorably) of the magnificent performance Lorraine Hunt Lieberson delivered with the Bach cantatas 82 & 199. I think Sellars directed that, with her in the hospital bed. Haunted me for days after I saw it.