Headshot of La Cieca

Cher Public

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The Life and Death of Colonel Canard

La Cieca can’t even

“…the grandest opera houses, where the better tickets are exorbitantly priced, are attended by people who want a good evening out, but are actually presented, as often as not, with what are often called ‘radical rethinkings’ of familiar or even not very familiar works, where the director has chosen to ‘deconstruct’ or ‘subvert’ the opera, so that instead of sitting there passively—this is the idea—the audience will be, in best Brechtian mode, forced to think rather than feel, to feel themselves ‘challenged’ rather than moved.” [The Spectator]

189 comments

  • Opera Teen says:

    I think a lot of the problem is that it’s that your damned if you do and damned if you don’t (I think someone may have said that exact same thing earlier in this thread.). As much as I’m not interested in opera being marketed as “on its last legs” all the time, I, and I’m sure most everybody on this side, do think that people need to care about opera in order to “get it”. That’s why I think we need to look at operas in a different way, especially those verismo operas that are so often written off as being “lower level” and kitschy. Take Adriana Lecouvreur for example. Not many people can or should be able to fit the mold of Adriana the way Cilea wrote her, but with good direction, that story, just like any other, can be made to feel significant to a larger cross-section of people. The director’s job, however, should be to bridge those gaps. While some may be far flung, operas are stories of the human race. I bet there were Duke of Mantuas and a Carmens in everybody’s high school. When opera can finally strike a cord with somebody is when somebody can be both challenged and moved.

  • La Valkyrietta says:

    I think it is unfair to call traditional productions boring and reggie exciting, the opposite is often true. Last year we had the dreary Bayreuth Ring with the motel and the crocodiles, and the appalling Met Ring with the machine, poor Wagner, and different newspaper accounts of opera in England mention the Proms Ring as a highlight of opera in England during the year. I agree, I was lucky to get the stream of all four of those operas with Barenboim, and it would have been a vast improvement if the Met had done away with the machine and presented that. I’m all for opera houses to put a good show, but if it only means to clown up the operas to call attention to something different, then spare me the bore.

    Here Rossini introduced reggie in his opera. He even dared to change the lyrics of the song :) .

    • liza says:

      Right on.

    • Batty Masetto says:

      I’ve never been that big a fan of Reggie’s, though some here swear by him. “Regie,” though, can be very interesting.

    • semira mide says:

      Rossini didn’t actually “do” this, but I’m sure he would have loved it ( after we explained to him about all the modern “conveniences”) Humor was not lost in this “updating” by any means.

  • liza says:

    I can’t tire of the story of Olivier and Hoffman. Hoffman came onto the set looking horrible. Oliver said “Dustin, you look like hell.” Hoffman replied. “Oh, I was up all night to get into character..” Olivier responded, “Dustin, why don’t you just try acting?” (paraphrased)
    Like most people, I want to go to opera to hear outstanding singers interpreting the works of great composers. All the nuance, meaning, and relevance is found, quite honestly, in exquisite technique. The rest is window dressing, for better or worse.

    • m. croche says:

      The Chinese, traditionally, have had what I consider to be a much more holistic description of the performer’s task. They divide performing skills into four categories: “singing (chang)”, “speaking (nian)”, “moving (zou)”, and “striking (da)”. The first two categories relate to vocal production and pretty much speak for themselves (though I would add that if educators placed greater emphasis on speaking (nian) a vast repertoire of opera-comique might be received more favorably). “Movement (zou)” encompasses everything from pose, to gesture, to physical motion across the stage. Amateur performers of Chinese opera, who often sing quite well, because they have not spent enough training the body to enter into a character and to convey that character to an audience. “Striking (da)” encompasses a set of skills more particular to Chinese opera, related to acrobatics and to martial arts. Only some operas and some roles really require an outstanding competence at this -- but the idea behind it is that physical prowess is often useful, even necessary, in establishing the extraordinary qualities of a stage character.

      Obviously there are both similarities and differences between, say, Beijing Opera and Aida. But I think the Chinese conception of “chang-nian-zuo-da” can serve as a useful complement, even a helpful corrective, to the exclusively vocally-oriented aesthetic espoused by some opera enthusiasts.

      • m. croche says:

        Er, one sentence mid-paragraph should read “Amateur performers of Chinese opera, who often sing quite well, do badly with “movement (zou)” because they have not spent enough time training the body to enter into character and to convey that character to an audience.”

        • manou says:

          So you could da a pose, zou towards a pretty girl/boy and nian to them all evening, leaving them changing your praises.

          • m. croche says:

            On less successful ventures, the sequence of chang-nian-zou-da might be somewhat different from the one you’ve outlined, Manou….

            • manou says:

              Indeed -- but all might be resolved if you could nian them into seeing Eisenstein’s Da. That would be a good <zou, and you could chang from the same hymn sheet.

      • liza says:

        Lovely comment. Very thoughtful and provocative.

  • redbear says:

    Guess who just called American opera “a bit dead.” This is cut and translated from a Der Standard (Austria) interview and published on January 3:
    “Renée Fleming: Opera is a very broad phenomenon, it can not be represented as something unified, because composers have written operas for 400 years -- even in different countries with different tastes. In the U.S. it is very different than in Europe. For me, the refined works are the most interesting. The Marschallin is a very complex woman, but in most operas I sang as a lyric soprano, women are not realistic, but witches, etc.
    What I find very important, and I say this always in the United States, are new operas, which should always be done, for in every opera house the genre is a bit dead. The audience should be curious and not always see the same pieces. There are very few pieces that you can really sell well, Carmen, Aida and La Bohème, and that’s a shame. I do not always want to see the same thing we were shown 100 years ago.”

    • m. croche says:

      She called opera a bit dead in every opera house in the world, not just the US -- at least, that’s how I understand what she’s saying. .Was ich sehr wichtig finde, und ich sage das immer bei uns in den USA, sind neue Opern, die sollten immer aufgeführt werden, denn in jedem Opernhaus ist das Genre ein bisschen tot.

      • redbear says:

        Yes, the remark is most likely not just for the US. FYI, I did check the Operabase list of non-standards for January and the American contribution is respectable: (Long Beach) Ellington: Queenie Pie, (Houston) Weinberg: The Passenger, (Washington-Lafayette) Philidor: Les Femmes Vengées, (Pittsburgh) Muhly: Dark Sisters

      • pobrediablo says:

        The only thing dead is the look in her eyes.

      • La Cieca says:

        Am I reading this wrong, or isn’t the “Genre” she’s referring to specifically “neue Opern,” i.e., saying that the practice of presenting new opera is “slightly dead.” To me that doesn’t sound like a particularly controversial thing to say, and it’s fair enough, because Fleming has sung her share of new operas and especially new concert music.

        Please do not interpret this defense of Fleming as a new leaf or anything on my part; rather, maybe just a bit of residual goodwill from the holiday season.

        • m. croche says:

          Here is a link to the original interview. I think Fleming is just saying that opera (tout-court) is a “little bit dead” because people are seeing the same works over and over again. It’s not at all a controversial statement. Fleming places a certain amount of blame on “the public” for lacking curiosity. One sympathizes.

  • decotodd says:

    Speaking of traditional versus regie as well as the supposed good old days — one trend I am happy to see is the eschewing of wigs for the men in many productions. That RIGOLETTO 1977 clip above illustrates this well. Why would they put those awful wigs on Domingo who had (and has) a full head of hair? I also recall the Luisa Miller from 1979 where I think his wig was flaming red! Of course there are situations which warrant a wig (singer is bald or period dictates long hair etc) but I think this a positive direction toward naturalism.

    • Porgy Amor says:

      Blond.

    • La Cieca says:

      The reason I can give is that real hair on stage tends to make the wigs look fake or at least makes the natural hair seem somehow “off.” In most cases real hair just doesn’t move like a wig or reflect light like a wig, but the contrast is not apparent unless wig and real hair are seen in close proximity.

      There is also the issue of perspiration: a wig holds up really well under hot lights whereas on many singers, real hair rapidly loses its fluffiness and gets all lank. An example of that phenomenon was the first time Karita Mattila sang Salome at the Met: she entered with her own hair styles in a soft 1940s long pageboy, but by the end of her scene with Jokanaaan, she looked like she’d got caught in the rain. For her return engagement in the role a few years later, Mattila wore a wig.

      It it’s a natural look you’re going for and assuming the singer has decently full hair the right color for the character, a 3/4 wig or fall is a good solution, with the front part of the hairpiece concealed under a pompadour of the artist’s own hair.

  • pobrediablo says:

    This is what a Tchaykovsky Juliette would sound like

  • marshiemarkII says:

    Sometimes Qs disappear for no reason, and sometimes there is a reason, which the soothsayers of doom immediately ascribe to a harm done, as something bad must have happened. Ahem…. in this case my beloveds, they were right….. the cough that I had carried for a few weeks, and had taken very poor care of, developed last Sunday night into a phlegm build-up in the airways that but for a quick megadose of antibiotics who knows where I’d be right now….. Felt terrible the whole week bed-ridden, incapacitated by the discomforts of the illness, and the strong medications, I had never taken at such strength. Spent New Year’s Eve in bed, naturally, and have just started to feel out of the woods, the phlegm pretty much cleared, though a nasty dry cough persists when I am not in a stupor of medication-induced headaches and half-consciousness. For a G that has always had very good health, this is the first serious ailment in eight years, you can imagine it has been devastating to my morale overall not to mention wrought havoc to all the New Year plans. In the moments of clear-headedness I still head for parterre for a little solace and have seen my beloveds’ inquiries, that’s why I have taken the liberty to give you this quick update, until the old Marshie can be back in style hopefully very soon…..

    • grimoaldo says:

      Sorry to hear you have been unwell marshie, get well soon and hurry back, you have been missed!

    • bluecabochon says:

      Oh dear, Marshie, what a scary time you had -- thanks for letting us know. Now you must take care not to rush back into activities too soon and give the drugs and your system time to recover. Antibiotics can be a blessing, and if you haven’t been sick or needed them for so long then no wonder they did the trick. Coughs can be devious and like to hang on, so it will take a few weeks for it to resolve. At least you are not going outside in this unfriendly weather, and I hope you’re taking advantage of home delivery for your needs. Sleep as much as you can, drink up, and feel better very soon!

      • Rory Williams says:

        Oh, MMII, things have been way less fun with you absent. Batty has temporarily reduced the hours at the Rumpus Room! See how it all goes to hell when you aren’t around? Hope you feel way better ASAP. Just listen to Heilige Hilde and you will cheer right up. And Blue is right (again! she gets so tired of hearing that), stay home out of this fierce cold and ease back in carefully.

        • bluecabochon says:

          Rory -- how sweet! Now Marshie, as a veteran of a cough that has been in residence for 1.5 months, I suggest eliminating dairy for awhile to cut down on the phlegm factory; old Dr. Grabscheid, late doctor to opera singers, always roared that at me when I saw him for my yearly bouts of bronchitis. I’m sure that you are worn out from the coughing alone -- one can easily pull a muscle. If you have no one close by to help (unlikely as that may be), you have my email, let me know what you need.

        • marshiemarkII says:

          Oh Blue! I am especially touched by your offer, you really are a sweet angel, but I finally will be going out tomorrow, Dr appointment first item of the day, and in truth my friends did bring all that was necessary early on, but I just couldn’t eat, the first three days I would/could not even drink, hence the headaches becoming ever more intense because dehydration making everything worse. Now of course I am drinking tons of fluids… and the food that I ate, I have now developed a strong dislike for as I remember the foul taste in my mouth….. it was all something very insidious that I sure never experienced before.
          Curiously enough the only food that I took with a remote sense of liking was the warm cup of chicken soup delivered from my local restaurant once a day. The proverbial Jewish Penicillin does work indeedy!

          • bluecabochon says:

            The antibiotics can do a number on your digestive system and if you’re not eating, can cause a very bad taste. I love chicken soup too and if I have a premonition of illness I will buy the makings before it kicks in.

            The best chicken soup ever is from the Park East:

            http://www.parkeastkosher.com/

            Their pre-cooked chickens are fab too -- we always got stuff from there when I lived on the East Side. The split pea is also excellent. They may even deliver to you in your area. Who really has time to cook anymore?

            That said, with all of this sickness going around, flu shots or no, it might be healthier if we cooked and ate at home? That might be the safest way to stay healthy, that we can control!

    • Rackon says:

      So sorry to hear you ushered in the new year indisposed. Please take care and get well soon.

    • Batty Masetto says:

      Get well soon, Marshie, and don’t forget to take that there acidophilioussy stuff.

    • pobrediablo says:

      Marshalette! Good to hear from you. Sorry for your illness. Get well soon and don’t forget to drink copious amounts of water.

    • m. croche says:

      Best wishes for a speedy (or at least speedier) recovery.

    • Clita del Toro says:

      Marshie dearest— feel better and take care of you fabulous self. Xoxox

    • oedipe says:

      Marshie,

      Those horse strength antibiotics are the only way out of such a nasty bronchial infection, but they almost kill the patient too. I had something similar once and I got a very powerful allergic reaction to the antibiotics; it almost killed me, but at least the bronchitis was also gone when I came through…
      Hope you feel better soon.

      • Feldmarschallin says:

        Speaking of antibiotics, I see that there is still no cast change for this evenings performance in regards to Kaufmann. I know that the Staatsoper has a policy that one has to cancel by noon. Of course this means nothing since they can change the cast when they want and it can even happen that you get to the theater and think one singer is singing and then someone comes out. But as of now Kaufmann is still listed which will certainly please Manou and Fidelia. I look forward to meeting both in the intermission.

    • manou says:

      Poor Marshie -- struck down by the dreaded lurgy! Still, it seems that you are getting better now, and no doubt reclining on those Italian silks has soothed your fevered brow. Take care.

    • -Ed. says:

      Please get well soon! Listen to your body, but force plenty of healthful fluids. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you could always listen to Dr. Mary and her Joy Oil saga. I’ve never seen it all the way through, I keep nodding off.

    • Camille says:

      Dearest Marshie-Madeleine-Claudine!!

      Stay in bed and complete that course of antibiotics, if not lready finished, and stay down until you are thoroughly and completely better!!!!!!!! I remember back a month ago when you were sick and stayed abed a day and then were forced by duty to attend some seminar or conference in Brooklyn. At that time you sounded as if a few more days in bed wouldn’t hurt, so it does not surprise me that you may have been carrying around something for a while which has now felled you into a silken slumber. Please get someone to get some decent food for yourself. Perhaps a round of Jewish penicillin (chicken soup which is homemade) may be in order!!!

      Whatever you do, do NOT jump up prematurely and go out into this hideously foul weather, in search of a gym!!!!! Those bubbles will STILL be there!!!!!

      Love, and I am so sorry you have been so gravely ill with this infection—as I have been there and done that, and know how awful an experience it is. But please, please eat properly, drink a couple or three liters of water a day, and GO SLoW!!!!

      Love from
      Mamma Grizzly Cow Bells

    • Something soothing:

      :) :

    • Lohenfal says:

      Liebster MMII, sorry to hear about your illness. It is, after all, an especially severe winter, and I’ve been spending most of my time indoors listening to Wagner/Strauss instead of venturing outdoors. You have been missed. :(

  • marshiemarkII says:

    Oh my beloveds all, this G here is literally out of words, yes she herself :lol: , at your generosity and care. I just hope once I am back in full to be able to repay a fraction with my full love back to you!!!!!
    I think I am finally on the road to recovery, appetite is back for the first time, and the phlegm is now all liquid memory….. but I’ll never forget that night a week ago when I woke up in the middle of the night, shallow breathing, and the phlegm so thick, and so rapidly growing that the lungs were whistling back like a noisy double chorus. Suddenly all systems went “Critical” all at once, I’ve never been so scared in my life before!

    • Camille says:

      Marshie!!!!! Tomorrow it will be rainy and on Tuesday there is a high(!) of 12 degrees!!! Wednesday will be sunny—so wait until then to leave your silks!!

      What are you eating?? Lots of soup and juice and warm things.
      Be careful and do not go out, thinking you are all better yet!!

      I am watching you! Be good!!!

      Love
      Mamma Grizzly Camille

    • marshiemarkII says:

      My beloved CammiB adoree, how I miss our nightly repartee, but we will Blanche we will!!!!!
      You know tomorrow my Dr expects me in his office first thing in the morning, we spoke today and he is OK with it. He had wanted to see me last Friday but we decided that would have put the death-knell…….
      And then I guess I will return promptly home. You know you are so right, I was going 100 miles/hour from morning to night, for so many years, and suddenly kaboom, the door slammed shut on my face, and now will need to learn to walk again……. God and his mysterious ways… and music his medium to communicate with us :-) . Weirdly enough, not one note of music has sounded here since last Sunday night.

      • Camille says:

        Here is Hilde, wishing you well:

        She tells me you should stay in your silken boudoirsafe and sound, until she gives the sign to go out again.

        Love and please breathe deeply from your lower abdomen for a while, as much as you can, and do avoid dairy as Dr Granschied and blue both say to. Chicken Soup is Your Friend. Lots of lemons, too.

        Stay tight and pray and be good Marshie-Madeleine-Claudine!

        Mucho besitos!
        Mammita Orso Camille

    • Stay warm!

      Since there is no kiss smilie, this will have to do (one for each cheek):

      MWAH MWAH