Cher Public

Enough with the whirling!

It’s time for lazy stage directors and lazy sopranos to find some other gesture besides the chain of clumsy pique turns (AKA “whirling”) that is the cliché go-to opera shorthand for “joy.” Nobody but drag queens actually twirl in real life, and they’re doing it ironically. Sopranos, take note that the waltz music the orchestra is playing doesn’t really exist in your character’s reality, so there’s no need to dance all the time, even if the director can’t come up with something interesting for you do do. And it looks just plain silly for a big middle-aged woman to go pirouetting around like some eight-year-old fairy princess. Stop whirling!

  • Satisfied
    • papopera

      why what ?

  • DeepSouthSenior

    Some of y’all will remember the “hipster” subtitles in the MET’s “Vegas” Rigoletto from last year:

    Questa o quella:

    “This girl or that girl,
    I’ll give any girl a whirl!
    . . . . . . . . . .
    . . . . . . . . . .
    . . . . . . . . . .
    My sights are set on a swingin’ girl,
    so hop on, baby, let’s take that whirl!”

    Man, that is super cool! (Or not.)

    • armerjacquino

      I don’t object to the idea of subtitles fitting the production. Those are rubbish, admittedly, but if a production is set in a particular mileu it makes sense for the subtitles to match it. There’d be a certain dissonance about seeing a Vegas club where someone is saying ‘This or that one, they are equal to me, no matter who I may see on my travels’ or whatever.

      • turings

        They were excruciatingly badly done – whoever did it couldn’t sustain the register or the idiom so it kept swinging back and forth between ‘Let’s swing, baby’ and ‘look, a gentleman approaches’ in style. I had to turn them off, because of the crushing bathos.

        I don’t know if it would have worked if they had been good, but I sort of think it’s better if subtitles are as unobtrusive as possible – I just want to catch the gist as they go by, rather than consciously read along.

      • Batty Masetto

        Titling is extremely difficult, and bad ones can have a very serious effect on enjoyment -- witness Ivy’s view of Parsifal, which I still lay down in part to the ghastly, inaccurate, hyper-religious titles that the Met production used. (The Met clearly economized by recycling an antiquated singing version, and either Girard didn’t notice how violently at odds with his concept they were, or he was confronted with some kind of fait accompli that he just had to accept.) If you didn’t already know that the text is a study in complex ambiguities, it was extremely easy to arrive at Ivy’s jaundiced attitude. They certainly did a much greater disservice to the production and the work than the “Vegas” titles did to Verdi.

        The Hofmannsthal libretti are another example: the language is beautiful and often witty, and Strauss set it (often to music that is better than it gets credit for) because it was enjoyable in itself. But if you can’t understand how lively the words are, you can fall into the trap of thinking that things are just chuntering along for no good reason.

        At least with the Verdi/Boito operas, a titler can cadge some good lines from Shakespeare.

        • turings

          I’m sure you’re right about it being extremely difficult to do well. I didn’t realise the Parsifal ones were so far off.

          It can be differently disconcerting with the Shakespeare operas, when a very famous line is translated back into English from the translation into Italian – so instead of jealousy being a ‘green-eyed monster’, the new Met Otello titles give you ‘it is a dark, spiteful, blind monster’, which I found odd enough in the moment that I looked up the libretto later, and of course it’s fair enough for ‘è un’idra fosca, livida, cieca’, just strange to an English speaker. Lots of similar moments.

          • Hanna

            Those Parsifal surtitles were truly awful. Amfortas “des siegreichen Geschlechtes Herr” became a “lord of a victorious race” -- all hail Amfortas? No. He´s the lord/head of a victorious dynasty/family. And so on…

  • javier

    reality? who are you to say they don’t hear the music?

  • I actually don’t find twirling as annoying as the two other big stage mannerisms:

    1. Rolling on the floor. Now THAT is something people in real life almost never do. And it’s really irritating and overdramatic.

    2. Side-hugging. When a soprano and a tenor sing a duet and both of them want to face the audience but they’re supposed to sing about how in love they are so they stand stiffly side by side with their arms around each other. Again, that is also something that rarely happens in real life — most real embraces involve a lot more eye contact and bodily hugging.

    • -Ed.

      Well, it’s opera, after all. To sing and act while closely embraced is sometimes required. I often wonder how they manage it without blowing out the eardrums of their partner. Side-hugging is a good solution.

      • redbear

        Not to speak of avoiding the flying saliva.

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka

      The 2nd point has to do with voice projection. It won’t reach the audience as well as when facing forward.

    • Rackon

      I am completely with Ivy on her #1. Enough with singers on the floor already. WHY?

      Not a huge fan of #2 but it’s sometimes a reasonable (if not absolutely necessary or graceful) solution.

      And speaking of graceful…I’ve never really seen a diva do pique turns. Variants of chaine turns- yes.

    • Loge

      A friend who was a Verdi soprano in Germany and who was not petite said that stage directors explained that they had her on the floor because of her size. Even when she came to the US for a production the stage director, upon seeing her size, stated that because of her size she would spend a great deal of the evening rolling on the floor. I don’t know why it makes it better to have a fat woman rolling on the floor but apparently that is conventional stage wisdom.

      • Regina delle fate

        It’s to punish big Verdi sopranos for being fat :)

        • oedipe

          Now, now! Has any of you thought of a director’s conundrum in trying to stage a scene with a short frail tenor kissing a tall big soprano? Having her roll on the floor solves a lot of problems!

          • Batty Masetto

            Exempli gratia: Bergonzi and Carol Neblett in Ballo in San Francisco. Bergonzi (a short meatball by that time) was constantly scrambling for the nearest set of steps so he could sing eye-to-eye with the statuesque Neblett.

            Neither of them rolled on the floor, however.

          • Does he kiss her while she’s rolling? :)

            • Batty Masetto

              Given his dimensions at the time, rolling around was more in his department. (Though to be fair, he had not reached Pavarotti proportions.)

  • CwbyLA

    My pet peeve stage business is the entrance of the heroine (always the heroine) and “greeting” the ladies in waiting, who are usually in a line or semi-circle, by holding their hands for a short period of time. Very much overdone as well.

    • Krunoslav

      Plus tenor heroes patting cronies on the shoulder before launching into cabalettas ( as in many a “Di quella pira” staging).

      • armerjacquino

        If we’re getting specific, no Tebaldo has ever looked remotely like they were actually playing that bloody mandolin.

    • Grane

      Mine is singers running back and forth across the stage to indicate agitation, often during a lengthy instrumental that sounds plenty agitated already.

      • turings

        Especially when they could just clutch their heads and sway gently back and forth instead.

  • Marcello

    Looking for a replacement for a replacement (Marguerite in the Baden-Baden Faust): Gheorgiu has now cancelled as well (after Netrebko). Which other soprano is available to justify 310 €?

    • Regina delle fate

      Yoncheva had quite a success in the part at Covent Garden. Apparently she told the DNO that she wasn’t ready for the role when she pulled out of the Amsterdam Faust. Ooops. Bryn and Keenlyside were beginning to sound their age, and Calleja didn’t quite have the success with the audience I was expecting. Biggest ovations for the Netrebko stand-in and the home boys.

      • oedipe

        Calleja didn’t quite have the success with the audience I was expecting.

        Maybe your expectations were too high?

        • Regina delle fate

          lol, Oedipe. Self-evidently, they were!

      • MontyNostry

        Sadly, I think Bryn has being sounding more than his age for a while now.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Did you see it last night, Regina? I did -- agree with everything you say. I found Calleja’s phrasing rather four-square and a bit clipped. I enjoyed Yoncheva very much without loving her. It’s a serious voice though.

      • Guestoria Unpopularenka

        Indeed, twitter is abuzz.

  • phoenix

    -- Did I miss something? I didn’t know the previous thread had been ‘closed’.
    -> Has there been any explanation from the management defining exactly why this closure occurred?
    -- I didn’t go back and re-read any of the thread after I posted my comments -> and I’m not going to since I disliked Ivy’s nit-picking, superficial, amateurish take. If my opinion resulted in the closure of this thread I would like to know about it.

    • Explanation on page 1 of the comments.

    • grimoaldo

      It was nothing to do with you, phoenix.

  • Feldmarschallin

    You and I both missed it. Hopefully they are make on their meds and everything is fine.

    • turings

      That’s a nasty thing to say.

      • bluecabochon

        Yes, it is. True to form.

  • manou

    OT (but interesting):

    Metropolitan Opera ?@MetOpera 13m

    Kristine Opolais will sing Mimi in today’s matinee performance of Puccini’s La Bohème, replacing Anita Hartig, who is ill. #MetHD

    • peter

      That’s too bad. I enjoyed Hartig’s performance the other night and was hoping to catch it again.

      • manou

        Well you can now compare and contrast. Opolais was a great Butterfly here, and a disappointing Tosca. I am curious to see what she does with Mimi.

        • peter

          Without Hartig, there’s not much incentive to listen to another Boheme. Certainly not for Grigolo.

    • Krunoslav

      A shame after Hartig’s well-documented success in this part.

      One has to be cynical and wonder if the bigger star isn’t being handed the HD/DVD opportunity.

      • Anita Hartig said she’s very sick with a throat infection and fever on her Facebook. It’s a private page so I don’t see why she’d lie.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Do you really think Opolais is a star? I am not yet so sure having heard her in 4 different roles. She was badly miscast in two of them (Vittelia and Amelia), pretty good in one of them (Tatjana) and great in the last (Rusalka). But I wouldn’t call her a star.

        • Krunoslav

          I personally wouldn’t call her a star, but Mr. Gelb does, and his plans reflect that--just as with Just a Grigolo. I thought Opolais was greatly disappointing in LA RONDINE, with some quality asserting itself only in Act Three. The BOCCANEGRA CDs were indeed very uneven and disappointing from her ( and everyone else save Calelja and Pisaroni).

          She is good in the RUSALKA DVD, as a ‘total performance” , but not vocally in the league of Ana Maria Martinez.

          • Lady Abbado

            She’s in about the same league as Alagna’s newest wife, isn’t she?

            • armerjacquino

              I’m not quite sure what this comparison means- their reps are almost totally different so it seems a bit apples and oranges.

              I love everything I’ve seen of Kurzak, fwiw. Never heard Opolais.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Well Armer there is no need to run out and buy a plane ticket to catch her. If you have to cross the road fine.

            • armerjacquino

              I’m going to see her as Puccini’s Manon in the ROH cinema relay in a couple of months.

          • m. p. arazza

            In regard to who Gelb considers a star (and not), I was struck by the quarter-page Met ad on p. 3 of today’s Times “Arts & Leisure” section. We have La Boheme “starring Vittorio Grigolo & A

            • m. p. arazza

              whoa, sorry.

              In regard to who Gelb considers a “star” (and not), I was struck by the quarter-page Met ad on p. 3 of today’s Times “Arts & Leisure” section. We have La Boheme “starring Vittorio Grigolo & Anita Hartig”, Chenier “starring Marcelo Alvarez and Patricia Racette,” and “Malin Bystrom and Michael Volle star” in you know what. But for Puritani, “Olga Peretyatko makes her Met debut in Bellini’s showcase of bel canto fireworks.” Even in this context of bel canto fireworks, Brownlee isn’t mentioned. (Just as in the large tile at the top, “Gorgeous”: “Madama Butterfly STARRING Kristine Opolais,” the tenor isn’t mentioned.) I found this almost shocking. How did this stupid “star” system get started at the Met anyway?

            • Krunoslav

              You know, for BUTTERFLY, which really lives and dies with its heroine as few other operas do-- KAT’ KABANOVA, which Janacek meant as his version of BUTTERFLY, is another-- I think that’s justified, especially with a tenor whose main qualifications are his looks. If Alagna, Calleja or Kaufmann were the Pinkerton i think they’d be mentioned, and merit it.

              But for PURITANI it’s ridiculous, especially since Brownlee and Kwiecien are far better known to the NYC and HD/international public than is Peretyatko ( another Sony Pretty Person, but she *does* have a wonderful voice) at this point.

            • armerjacquino

              The idea, I guess, is that the debut is the noteworthy bit- that they’ll sell more tickets pushing a ‘star is born’ moment rather than publicising the other two singers who are familiar to Metgoers.

          • PetertheModest

            She has star potential. She looks good, has presence on the stage, can act and sing a bit. That could be enough to make her a star but it does depend on the suitability of the roles she undertakes to bolster her reputation.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              And she does karate, too.

    • oedipe

      Not happy about it! I’ve already seen Opolais as Mimi, with Hartig as Musetta (in Vienna). I liked the Musetta, didn’t like the Mimi -who didn’t convince me for a split second that she was ill and dying.

      • Color me bummed too. I woke up at 9:45 so I could buy standing room tickets on the dot for this afternoon’s performance just to see Anita Hartig again. I’ll still go but I am indeed bummed.

        • Krunoslav

          Do let us know what the Tarleton Twins think!

          • Not doing GWTW again. But I will write this review in the voices of another character.

            • Krunoslav

              Maybe R2-D2, or Cat Ballou?

            • Grane

              Pick someone less controversial, like a Droogie from Clockwork Orange.

  • A. Poggia Turra

    Speaking of La Boheme, there’s also a webstream of the Puccini opus live from the Carlo Felice at 20:00 CEST / 2:00pm EDT:

  • ilpenedelmiocor

    Not to put too fine a point on it (even though that’s exactly what I’m doing), but pique’ turns are something else altogether. Like pirouettes, pique’ turns are done on one leg only, but unlike pirouettes (which are done in place), they travel. Probably the closest thing to twirling is chaine’ turns, which travel on both feet.

    • You’re right, In penance I will perform 32 fouettés en tournant à la seconde.

      • manou

        …in a black swan tutu?

      • Rackon

        I would pay to see that.

  • Rackon

    Oui, I agree, ilpenedelmicor, as I mentioned earlier in the thread. Chaine’ turns, not pique’ turns, are the closest ballet step to any opera twirling I’ve seen. Not only are pique’ turns performed on one leg, traveling, the free leg is normally in coupe’ position (or higher.

    Balletomanes are every bit as picky as operaphiles ;-).

  • Guestoria Unpopularenka

    I found an old video of Stoyanova singing a spiritual. I’m astounded by her perfect English pronunciation considering she is far from fluent in it. It’s a TV report but you can hear her starting at 2:50.

    • Rudolf

      Most interesting. Thank you for sharing! :-)

  • Feldmarschallin

    Nach dem Matteo sehnt sich nichts in mir….

  • Feldmarschallin

    • Camille

      Danke Feldschen!
      I was remembering it the other day. For some reason I was very intrigued with this recording when growing up. Believe it was in a Seraphim album, which I managed to conserve for years.

  • Feldmarschallin

    • Camille

      So schön, aber wie war das? Danke, einmal.

  • Feldmarschallin

    Das war Tiana Lemnitz.