Cher Public

Dead European white males once again in jeopardy

Our old friend Heather Mac Donald (not pictured) is back, ostensibly to mourn the loss of “Petrarchan intimacy with the past” in the study of the humanities, but, reliably enough, she can’t help taking a swipe at Regietheater while she’s at it. So naturally Our Own JJ is ready with the counterpoint over at Rough and Regie.

  • “Petrarchan intimacy with the past”

    Oh, I think I heard about that one.

    See also:

    “Embracing the Corpse: Necrophilic Tendencies in Petrarch.” Dead Lovers Erotic Bonds and the Study of Premodern Europe. Ed. Basil Dufallo and Peggy McCracken. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. Pp. 57-70.

    • Oops, I left off the author of the second citation: Prof. Alison Cornish, of the U. Mich. Italian faculty.

  • grimoaldo

    JJ says “For example, he saw or heard of a stage effect used in British productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a way of presenting Banquo’s reappearance as the ghost at the banquet, and he insisted that this effect be duplicated in the first production of his opera.

    But what does that practical detail reveal to us of Verdi’s broader philosophy of how his operas should be staged? He chooses a technique that is tried and true and insists it should be applied, from which we may infer that his approach to opera staging is fairly conservative.”

    Wasn’t the thing that Verdi was outraged that the singer of Banquo did not want to do the appearance as the ghost as there was no music for him and wanted an extra to be costumed and made up like him and do it instead and Verdi said “in London the actor of Banquo always does the ghost and so will you!?”
    Maybe fairly conservative but it shows he was not willing to accept operatic conventions or sacrifice dramatic integrity to singers’ egos.

    • armerjacquino

      grim, JJ goes on to point out how the same anecdote could be used to illustrate that Verdi *wasn’t* conservative. It’s a great example of the pointlessness of trying to second-guess what the composer ‘wanted’. Extraordinary, too, that MacDonald should say this exercise in ESP is the ONLY thing that matters in a production. The ONLY thing.

      Love the whiff of the 1980s in her objection to ‘cell phones’. If a production is to be set in the present (and many operas give their time as ‘the present’, whenever they happen to have been written) then people will have phones. I’ve noticed a lot of this among a more conservative crowd: daily details of modern life being pounced on as ‘directorial cliche’. A 2014 Don Giovanni or Scarpia or Violetta would carry a phone. They just would.

      • manou

        Indeed they would -- they would also have iPods, iPads, cameras,any number of electronic gizmos, backpacks, wheeled suitcases, even nasal inhalers*. Would they be required to use all of these in any modern production?

        *would go down well in Cyrano de Bergerac

        • oedipe

          You haven’t mentioned headphones. Headphones would look great on Don Giovanni, don’t you think?

        • armerjacquino

          No, why would they? Bit of a disingenuous question since I’m saying phones *have to* appear, just that there’s a perfectly good reason if they do.

          • armerjacquino

            ‘NOT saying’, obv.

          • No Expert

            A problem with introducing too much modern technology is then you have to explain why the characters don’t use it to change the outcome of their stories. (I suppose Juliette wouldn’t be able to get enough bars in the tomb)

            • When Desdemona, having been throttled some moments before by Otello, cries out “Inguistamente … uccisa inguistamente … muoio innocente … Al mio Signor mi raccomanda … Addio”, I always feel the need to stand up and shout “Oh, come ON! You have to explain how a strangulation victim can still breathe!”

              I have the same problem with the end of Khovanshchina: “ARE THERE NO WATER BUCKETS?!?!”

            • armerjacquino

              Fractured hyoid. She passes out from the strangulation/smothering but comes round. However, since the hyoid is broken there’s no support for the palate so she suffocates.

              (We had a doctor come into rehearsal)

            • Grane

              Wouldn’t Desdemona be almost gone anyway, about to overdose on a combination of alcohol and presription drugs, which she uses to cope with her chronic anxiety? Or maybe she’s bulimic and her heart fails from malnutrition and laxative abuse.

        • Clita del Toro

          Or the old Faust watching porn on a laptop and trying to get it up?

          • oedipe

            …with a box of Viagra in the other hand.

  • pasavant

    She’s just another right wing crackpot. Will probably end up in jail.

    • Regina delle fate


  • Krunoslav

    Mac Donald is a tiresome cant-spewing artifact like unto A.C. Douglas, who seems to worship her. About as deep a thinker as Camille Paglia.

  • Porgy Amor

    As the director of the Frankfurt opera declared, no one should care what Handel wanted in his operas; what matters is “what interests us… what we want.” Actually, the only thing that matters is what Handel, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky wanted.

    Well, Christ only knows what “the director of the Frankfurt opera” was actually talking about, and I’m hardly going to get into whole thing of trying to parse the meaning of a badly attributed, unsourced translated quotation taken out of context.

    It’s the same quote from Michael Gielen that she used in her 2007 anti-Regietheater piece, and it may have been quite old even then, because Gielen has not been director of the Frankfurt Opera since 1988.

  • redbear

    Great story of Philip Glass. It was a new opera and he worked on all the details with a long-time collaborator. It was produced successfully and was exactly like it was conceived in his mind. The next year he saw the same opera in another country with an entirely different approach,
    He gulped and understood that his work, once it is out of his hands, is, well, out of his hands. Verdi knew this. Any artist knows this.
    Is opera dead or is it still a living art? Is an opera house a museum? Verdi certainly would not want his operas in a glass case.

  • Cicciabella

    Rusalka Regie Rubbish, thankfully not upcoming at that venerable family institution, the Metropolitan Opera:

    • Clita del Toro

      Cicciabella, this Rusalka production is AMAZING and FABULOUS! Now, at the Met we have reliable, rehashed Reneigh in a quaint, pretty production.

      • Cicciabella

        I believe this Herheim production has done the rounds in European theatres. It is indeed both intellectually challenging and visually mesmerising, but also very emotionally intense. Judging by the few clips I’ve seen, the Met production is beautiful and dreamlike and will be carried, of course, by a strong cast. I think there is room for both kinds of productions. Traditional productions don’t have to be soporific or totally derivative, just as Regie productions are not always revelatory or coherent. But art involves taking risks, including the risk of partial or total failure.

  • perfidia

    Somebody should make “Heathers: The Opera.” I wonder if the musical is any good.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Verdi also mentions “la bionda Avignonese”.

  • redbear

    A rehearsal photo of “Brokeback Mountain” opening on the 28th in Madrid.

    • redbear

      According to Teatro Real website it will be streamed on Feb. 7 IF i read correctly.

  • luvtennis

    God, I love that movie. And Winona Ryder is just the freakin’ pinnacle of everything wonderful.

    Okay, carry on.

    • Porgy Amor

      Like she gives a shit. Everyone wants her for a friend or a contributor. She’s worshiped at the Manhattan Institute…and she’s only a Fellow.

  • Le Jester

    “Don Giovanni, is infallibly a charmless, drug-addicted lout wallowing in the detritus of consumer culture and surrounded by sluts, psychopaths, and slobs”

    Hmmmm, sounds like an episode of The Real Housewives of (fill in the blank.)