Cher Public

La vie de broham

Imagine the good fortune of attending La Bohème with someone who’s never seen it—you can spout any kind of pedantic rot you like as the curtain is going down with no serious risk of side-eye! “Don’t worry if you’re bored at first,” I said to my companion. “Bohème takes a good fifteen minutes to kick into gear.”

It’s true, though.  I don’t know about you, but I usually spend the whole first act trying to remember which non-Rodolfo character is which. At worst, I resort to a protracted game of “Marry/Fuck/Kill.” This proved futile and unnecessary in present company, given the fine quartet of Bohemians put before us, their easy brohamnal chemistry, and, sure, their perhaps atypical attractiveness quotient.

John Caird is perhaps primarily a theater director, but one with a great deal of opera under his belt. His approach to Bohème is respectful of tradition, of the spit-take upon Benoit’s entrance and all that, but not lazy about its characters and their emotional lives. I am now going to overuse the word “ensemble,” but yes, he was fortunate to have his vision brought to fruition at various, appropriate levels of hamminess by such a vibrant ensemble. Let’s all say it with a really exaggerated French accent, shall we? ENSEMBLE! He was fortunate, too, in their overall vocal endowment, though in one particular it was a bumpy night.

Far be it from me to play dress-up vocal coach and pretend I know what went wrong for Alexia Voulgaridou, making her local debut after many prominent international engagements. She has a lot to recommend her, including good dramatic instincts and that plangent, urgent tone that for some reason pops up a lot if you’re from somewhere near the former Yugoslavia but lacking a Slavic vocal tradition.

Unfortunately something that may have been opening night nerves found her tone souring at the end of lines, her artistry writing checks her technique couldn’t cash. A number of arching phrases ended in decidedly non-diegetic sorrow. The first act ends, as we know, with an option for the fellow singing Rodolfo to sail to glory or take the gentleman’s option, come scritto. In this case, Michael Fabiano’s trip into the rafters was an act of gallantry; if he hadn’t sung the climactic C, it seemed nobody would have.

Still, Voulgaridou never withdrew from the character, and Act IV, with fewer purely musical hurdles to jump, was an unflaggingly effective ensemble effort, both as music and drama, reducing this critic at times to rubble. Weary as I am of scrambling for superlatives to lob at Christian van Horn, his serenade to outerwear was the tragedy’s beating heart, delivered with simplicity and poetry. (I’ll confess for a moment, when he began the piece with the coat draped over a chair, I found myself uncomfortably back at the Republican National Convention.)

Picayune as it may be to critique scene breaks, given that the last twelve thousand times I saw it were in the Zeffirelli/Rockettes Christmas Extravaganza at the Met, but in the moment, watching Caird’s take on the thing, I will acknowledge some sense of relief upon finding that designer David Farley’s evocative garrett folds into Cafe Momus in about a minute, as does his subtly cubist toll gate at the Barrierre d’Infer, where Fabiano and Alexey Markov spun out “O Mimi, tu piu non torni” with luxurious reserves of vocal glamour. Momus itself lacks the “Wow” factor of flashier productions, but I would lay this equally at the feet of conductor Giuseppe Finzi, for long stretches of the opera surprisingly pedestrian.

Well, you must know why I went to this at all, other than I’m a Big Fancy Critic now. It was to hear Fabiano, the most promising young tenor we have, though really now the promise is fulfilled. Fishing around for the right superlatives to describe his singing, one is drawn to old-fashioned descriptors. Verily his singing is splendid, the kind of thing (not to minimize the hard work he doubtless has done) you can’t pick up at conservatory and really don’t even learn through experience. It’s there or it isn’t, and in his case, it’s all over the place. The sound is youthful but rock solid. The phrasing might be described as immaculate if it weren’t also spontaneous. Fabiano’s Rodolfo now goes on that list, next to things like Deborah Voigt’s Chrysothemis, of roles I do not expect ever to hear sung better.

Nadine Sierra was a just-right Musetta, a little chirpy in tone but not in a bad way (we do still like variety in voices, don’t we?) She and Caird found a happy compromise between the harridan she sometimes gets portrayed as and the drag parody directors sometimes ask for instead–I still recall a college friend who archly said at a voice department recital featuring the whole lapdance routine “She’s a vamp, not a stripper. It isn’t quando m’en blow.”

Indeed, if you are playing with Schaunard’s hair a little, you’re probably fine. If you’re playing with his g-spot, you’re in the wrong opera. In any case, she didn’t camp it up enough for the last act’s redemption to ring hollow or cheap, though one did wonder for a moment if certain gestures were Kardashianesque.

You know, it’s possible to listen even a beloved work into sonic wallpaper, to chew all the flavor out of it. I first listened to La Bohème when I was sixteen, on records from the public library, and it’s lived with me in various ways, through “Verdi is better than Puccini” phases and “Puccini is better than Verdi” phases. For a while I would try only to listen to it on the first cold night of a year to see if I could find fresh ears for it again. To this fine ensemble (with a quick box on the ears to the San Francisco opera for not pairing Fabiano with the lovely Leah Crocetto on any evening) I am grateful for bringing Bohème back to me.

Photos: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

  • Thanks, Greg. We had the same production in Toronto (it’s a co-pro) with Fabiano and Van Horn. I agree entirely with your enthusiasm for Fabiano. And Van Horn is a real comer.

  • quoth the maven

    Excellent report. I bet Fabiano was fantastic. But that wig! Couldn’t they have made Rodolfo a bit metrosexual?

    • Flora del Rio Grande

      Well Maven, we all know poets have long untended hair, usually
      rather greasy! But I agree with you, because we know Fabiano
      is basically bald, thus to have him with this great mop of long hair
      is somehow not right. But it is authentic. I find Fabiano has many
      wonderful vocal qualities, but I am not as swept away as some by
      his tone. I think he’s headed more into spinto, whereas for a few
      years I would like to hear more of him in Mozart and Rossini — just
      to give that tone more color, or the artist more ability to color — and
      if his voice at A-natural and above could take on a bit more brightness
      ‘twould be even finer. Yet, be thankful for what we have, eh wot!! I
      find the Mimi’s basic vocal tone most attractive and right for her role.
      I hope she’s recovered from not having her high-C!

    • Greg.Freed

      Hoo boy, yeah, the wig…

    • MontyNostry

      I wondered whether the designer was referencing Max Wall here …

  • La Valkyrietta

    I like Rodolfo’s first lines,

    Nei cieli bigi
    guardo fumar dai mille
    comignoli Parigi
    e penso a quel poltrone
    di un vecchio caminetto ingannatore
    che vive in ozio come un gran signore!

  • toitoitoi

    IMO, Boheme should be everyone’s first opera. Wonderful review -- thanks for sharing. Michael Fabiano’s got the goods. And so young -- yikes!

    • basso profundo

      I think about that often too—what would be the perfect “first opera” to get someone hooked. I find Boheme to be kind of boring to be honest.

      I think that the perfect first opera would be Lucia.

      • MontyNostry

        I think Tosca would be a good choice because it’s so exciting and is as ‘operatic’ as you can get, whereas Carmen is a hybrid with spoken dialogue and harder to bring off in the theatre. I found Bohème drippy and inconsequential the first time I heard it and still do, 40 years on. I know it has some lovely numbers and is beautifully crafted, but the characters are so uninteresting, apart from maybe Musetta.

      • verliebtenmadeleine

        Elektra.

        • WindyCityOperaman

          First opera . . . follow the ABCs . . . Aida, Boheme, Carmen

      • Satisfied

        Agreed. I too attempt to avoid taking new operagoer to the ABCs and prefer to take them to things a little further from from center, like Lucia, Queen of Spades, or Traviata (especially the Decker production). Or something more taut like Salome or Elektra.

      • I think Lucia requires too much adjusting to what constitutes drama in bel canto. Puccini’s operas are more veristic and so make an easier transition for first-timers coming from the world of cinema (and maybe straight theatre).

        Tosca is plot driven and has high drama and genuine suspense, plus one or two tunes that the newcomer might recognise.

        But ultimately, I think Boheme is best for most because the story is so relatable. Both of the love stories speak to contemporary audiences as do the highjinx and palling around of the four room-mates, never mind the whole starving artist thing. And Puccini’s music cuts to the heart of the matter so effectively.

        • Podlesmania

          Turandot!

        • Porgy Amor

          Well, it is different for everyone. Bohème actually was the first one a friend of mine (who has now seen 100 or so) saw, in a live performance, and it made him not want to see any others — he thought it was soap-opera drivel and that they would all be that way. Then I showed him Elektra (the filmed version of Friedrich) and that was a very different experience; he found that gripping. Now that he’s seen enough of a range, we have a better sense of his tastes — R. Strauss, Wagner, Berg, Mussorgsky, late Verdi. Hates Puccini, hates Mozart (sigh, I know), hates bel canto, and his comment while watching a Met Luisa was “I like the [production], but this music is not…good.”

          The main thing is just to make it clear to the person, whatever you go with, that he or she is seeing “an” opera, rather than “opera.” It is like any other art form. No one sees and dislikes a movie and says, “I’ve decided that movies are not for me,” although sometimes I’ve seen movies so bad that I was tempted.

      • meowiaclawas

        Barbiere or Tosca are the ideal first opera. Barbiere because how can you be intimidated by something when you’re laughing and humming along thinking about Bugs Bunny? Tosca because it is very compact, has sufficient blood/guts/murder to keep modern audiences engaged, and because it ends (usually) with an over the top suicide.

  • manou

    Dear Big Fancy Critic -- you will infer that I am using a really exaggerated French accent to say out loud Barrière D’Enfer.

    But I am grateful for the addition to my vocabulary of “broham” and its derived adjective “brohamnal”.

    Merci.

  • Greg.Freed

    I have somehow let the entirety of the fall season pass without shaking my puny blogfist and, damn the futility, agitating for more German opera (two works in the last three years, if you count Dutchman!) so I’m doing it in comments, where it will have exactly the same impact.

  • Great review Greg! As for what can be done if the soprano doesn’t have a high C, here’s Tebaldi. She makes a quick transposition:

    • Greg.Freed

      Thanks, Ivy. Yes, I used to know where to listen for the standard transposition, but I’ve sort of forgotten.

    • messa di voce

      Can’t listen to that one without tearing up.

      • mia apulia

        same here, messa di voce, when Björling gets going I lose it

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka

      Your example shows the total opposite.

      • Jesus you’re a pill. Tebaldi takes a transposition.

        • Guestoria Unpopularenka

          OK, I had to check on the piano. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

          • It happens at 1:45. You can hear the orchestra change keys.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Thanks. It sounds so Wagnerian :D

  • Greg.Freed

    Isn’t it rotten to see yourself in print and notice your own tics? Like using the same word twice in two lines? Here to scold me is Miss Doris Day.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

    • messa di voce

      Instantly recognizable tone, perfect intonation, flawless diction, wonderfully musical phrasing: she had it all.

      • WindyCityOperaman

        I assume you are referencing the former Miss Kappelhoff, no? Christmas is a’comin and rather than Rennaaaayy’s new CD I’ll have Doris’ Christmas CD on my Ipod.

        • WindyCityOperaman

      • luvtennis

        Who, Jennifer Lopez? Circle snap!

    • quoth the maven

      Bad echoes always happen to me: a word pops in my head, I like the sound of it, and without thinking use it six different times in the same piece of writing. I rely on the kindness of editors to catch this, but that doesn’t always happen.

  • Guestoria Unpopularenka

    Again, what is the Slavic vocal tradition?

    • basso profundo

      It doesn’t mean anything.

    • Greg.Freed

      You know, I sort of take your point but I also wonder if you’re maybe being a touch disingenuous. If someone played you a clip of Ghena Dimitrova singing La Gioconda, would you
      A) think she was Italian
      B) not know where she was from
      C) assume she was a Slav

      • Guestoria Unpopularenka

        I still don’t understand what a Slav is and what that vocal tradition is like. Gruberova is a Slav, Netrebko is a Slav, Beczala is a Slav, Lucia Popp was a Slav, and so was Milanov.

        Dimitrova never mastered the right way to pronounce L in front of consonants and vowels not being E and I. But again that’s not a tradition, and neither did Christoff and Ghiaurov even after decades of living in Italy. And while the latter studied in Russia, the former did so in Italy. So not exactly a tradition.

        But I can also point out many others who didn’t have this issues at all. In addition, the actual vocal traditions of the Slavic countries (since Westerners seem obsessed with this category) are quite different from each other. Russian folklore music is very different from Czech, Slovenian, not to mention Bulgarian one -- not only musically, but vocally as well.

        • Greg.Freed

          You know, I speak one Slavic language fairly well and can have a conversation in two others, and I have spent years in various folk choirs, but by all means lump me in with this monolothic mass of incurious westerners.

          • Ouf

            I thought she was Greek, not remotely Slavic.

            • armerjacquino

              I mean, can people not read or are they just not bothering? Greece is near the former Yugoslavia but lacks a Slavic vocal tradition, just as Greg said.

            • Ouf

              Thanks, Armer. I was confused. Have now learned she if only half Greek and sang La bohème 12 years ago for Ulf Schirmer opposite Rolando Villazón and Ludovic Tézier.

              Still, “that plangent, urgent tone that for some reason pops up a lot if you’re from somewhere near the former Yugoslavia but lacking a Slavic vocal tradition” is nonsense for several reasons.

            • Ouf

              is

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              She is Greek, from Kavala, which until WWII had a large Bulgarian population, was a contested city, and even to this day in Northern Greece there’s a Bulgarian minority, so she may have some Bulgarian ancestry, but that’s beside the point. Singing and sound production isn’t a national genetic trait.

            • Greg.Freed

              Right, and genetic traits are the only things that determine any categories in the world. Meanwhile, are you really asking what Slavic means and calling it “a stereotype”? This will come as a surprise to all the linguists ever, who for easily understandable reasons categorized certain languages into families.

            • Greg.Freed

              The far stupider thing I have done in this review is effectively smoosh together a category of Greek and Romanian singers, essentially because Voulgaridou’s tone reminded me as much of Gheorghiu and Zeani and Cotrubas as it did of certain Greek singers, but ok, let’s pretend “Slavic” is a concept I made up.

              Here’s a quiz. Click through on these two links with your eyes closed. Guess which is sung by a singer in whose native language gorod/grad means town (is this specific enough to excuse me from charges of forced Pan-Slavism), and which one doesn’t?

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTB9yCjVjH4

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D31r_7mwwBc

              I’m bet you are going to guess correctly.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              It is a stereotype when it comes to classical singing because all it means is Russian to the average dimwit. Same with names. If it sounds “Russian”, it’s Russian. And no, I don’t care if you speak a Slavic language, and no, I don’t care if you sing folklore. You are simply the product of Western ignorance when it comes to this subject.

              Yes, Slavic is a linguistic category. Just like Romance, but you never hear Italian, French, and Portuguese singers getting lumped together in the same group. Well, Slavic languages can also vary tremendously in phonetics and sound production.

              I’m already tired of explaining the same thing over and over again. It’s futile to try to change the rigid mind.

            • manou

              It’s futile to try to change the rigid mind.“.

              Nosce te ipsum.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka
            • manou

              I had imagined you slightly younger.

            • armerjacquino

              I see GU’s posting more of his memes. Oh good.

              (And by ‘his’ I mean ‘other people’s’)

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka
            • Greg.Freed

              I’m already tired of explaining the same thing over and over again.

              It’s only called explaining when you’ve demonstrated that you’re correct but if you’re so weary of it, by all means shut your virtual piehole.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Don’t take it out on me that your review is a complete failure. Better luck next time.

            • This is a warning, Guestoria: you have been nominated for “chatte de le semaine.”

        • MontyNostry

          While there is, to my ear, definitely a Russian sound (which Netrebko has, for instance -- that ‘cream with a sour edge’), I’ve always found it interesting that Bulgarian singers sound so diverse. Though am I alone in thinking there is something of Welitsch in Yoncheva?

          • luvtennis

            I hear similarities in ATS and Ghena. It’s a throaty quality that keeps the sound in the mouth in all but the extremes of registers. Both singers also had intonation issues as a result. And of course sumptuous timbres in their respective primes.

            Btw, I adore early ATS and Ghena, but only the first few years. After that, too throaty and sharpy.

            I also hear timbral similarities between AG and Cotrubas. Also somewhat throaty -- (AG) is a better technician -- so she keeps the voice supported better.

      • DellaCasaFan

        “if you’re from somewhere near the former Yugoslavia but lacking a Slavic vocal tradition.”

        It seems that the reference to the Slavs near the former Yugoslavia is pointing to Bulgaria, no? (All other countries bordering with the former Yugoslavia are non-Slavic.) Ljuba Welitsch, Raina Kabaivanska, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Alex Pendatchanska, Krassimira Stoyanova… I could be wrong, but I personally don’t hear them similar enough to be considered of the same vocal tradition.

        • Bill

          There is a certain sound in some Slavic singers
          which is not typical of Western European singers --
          listen to Christoff or Ghiaurov and then compare
          them to Siepi, Moll, Frick, Pape -- there is a certain
          Slavic slightly gutteral sound in the two
          Bulgarian singers not found in the others mentioned.

          Gabriella Benackova had a slightly Slavic sound (
          (in the best possible sense). And no one would
          think that Gruberova or Popp were singers from
          Italy but they themselves are not entirely Slavic
          having also Hungarian ancestry. One sometimes thinks of Slavic sopranos as being a bit Sgually
          yet singers like Zylis-Gara had pure instrumental
          voices. Jurinac was from Yugoslavia and started her
          career in Zagreb -- but her mother was Viennese actually and there is nothing Slavic in her sound
          to my ear. Welitsch had a very bright open velvety sound but her career started in Austria- Many Slavic tenors were/are a bit bleaty or steely but Peter Dvorsky certainly was not. There are so many
          younger talented Slavic singers around now in Europe particularly in Austria and Germany whose
          voices cannot be differentiated from those trained in
          Europe or America. For me the artistry is of extreme importance and singers from Eastern Europe have tremendous opportunities now for careers
          abroad that they could not dream of during the cold war. Plus more and more of the Slavic singers (and those from Hungary and from Romania) now begin singing their roles in the original languages of the operas and this also enhances their ability to mesh their sounds more to the traditions of Italian, French or German opera than in the past. What I do find interesting, particularly among sopranos, is that USA trained white sopranos seem much less to have a distinctive individual vocal sound than Europeans often do.

          • DellaCasaFan

            Bill says:
            “There is a certain sound in some Slavic singers which is not typical of Western European singers -- listen to Christoff or Ghiaurov and then compare them to Siepi, Moll, Frick, Pape — there is a certain Slavic slightly gutteral sound in the two Bulgarian singers not found in the others mentioned.”

            Agree. I definitely hear this “throaty” sound in some lower male voices and could never figure out if it is the technique or that lower voices pick up on some vowel sounds that might be considered distinctly “Slavic.” Nesterenko, Christoff, Ghiaurov, Pigorov, even Reizen to some extent. But, as you also say it so well, it’s a very different story today. I certainly don’t hear it in Abdrazakov or Nikitin. So it can’t be the language, but at the same time someone like Christoff was trained mostly in Italy so I suspect it can’t be the technique either. Puzzling, indeed (at least to me). But I have to say that I hear this “Slavic” distinctiveness only in the lower male voices from the past.

            • armerjacquino

              I don’t see how it’s possible to listen to, say, Vishnevskaya or Obratszova without the absolute certainty that one is listening to a Russian.

            • DellaCasaFan

              I see your point, armer. But then would you say it’s distinctly Slavic or Russian? Welitsch and Kabaivanska didn’t have much in common with them… and, now when I think of it, neither did Zara Dolukhanova (though she was not an ethnic Russian, I think it was her native tongue).

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              It’s one thing to say that a voice sounds Russian, another to say Slavic which is simply a stereotype and an ignorant comment because most people equate all Slavic languages with Russian.
              Interestingly enough, the Russian language is remarkably uniform throughout its the vast geographic location. There is very little variation in accents, so a person from Moscow speaks the same way as a person from Vladivostok. This isn’t the case with many other Slavic languages where there are vast differences in accents (especially vowels) on a much smaller area.
              About Christoff, I remembered now that he started as an Orthodox choir singer where that dark sound is the norm. I suppose this remained with him forever.

          • Guestoria Unpopularenka

            I have to say, the argument that “this one doesn’t have a full Slavic ancestry” is borderline Nazi ideology. It’s amazing how something like this can be brought up as evidence.

  • Guestoria Unpopularenka

    By the way, why does no one ever mention the English vocal tradition with the repulsive plosive T and P?

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      But they do…

    • laddie

      So, the above posters commenting on a “Slavic sound” are now Nazis but elements of the “English” vocal tradition are “repulsive.” You are clearly vying for the title of Miss UN-congeniality and winning that contest.

      • Guestoria Unpopularenka

        Your analytical and critical thinking skills must be on a sabbatical.
        Plosive P and T are repulsive when singing in Italian, for example. This is due to language/accent, and not to some sort of mysterious and debilitating vocal genes that apparently Slavic people are carriers of, while those with a partially non-Slavic ancestry are lucky enough to have a purer gene pool.
        I hope this cleared this up for you. Oh, and by the way, I have better things to do than worry whether I’m liked by a bunch of usernames.

        • armerjacquino

          Yes, except that you’re the only one banging on about genes. Greg certainly didn’t- he’s talking about language and vocal tradition.

          Re your last sentence: yes, that’s very, very, very apparent. What an odd thing to be proud of.

          • Guestoria Unpopularenka

            I’m not banging on about anything. It was in response to Bill saying that Gruberova, Popp, and Jurinac weren’t of full Slavic ancestry thus they don’t have that sound, even though their native languages are exactly Slavic. This implies that their sound is not influenced by language but by ancestry.

            On the other point: what made you think I was proud of it? I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it. It’s a simple fact. Just like today being a cloudy day. If you choose to advertise your pride about every simple thing, then maybe you have your own issues, but don’t visit those on me. Thank you.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    Alexia Voulgaridou is a typical Greek name. Maybe her mother is Slav and she was born and grew up in a Slavic country. Harteros is a Greek last name and her father is Greek, but her mother is German, and she was born in Germany. With the European Union, intermarriage is very common. BTW, to take someone to see his first opera, it would be Carmen for me and not LaBoheme.

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka

      He’s not saying that Voulgaridou is a Slav. Just the opposite, so she doesn’t carry the Slav vocal tradition gene :D

      • Greg.Freed

        Incidentally, she’s probably ethnically Slavic. Voúlgaros is Greek for Bulgarian.

  • Fritz

    Not so standard transposition:

  • RobNYNY

    You type very well. Maybe substance will come later.

    • semira mide

      I’m sure Oscar Wilde would have wished he had said that !

      • armerjacquino

        The thing about Wilde’s aphorisms is that they actually meant something. The review addresses the strengths of the opera, the design, the conducting, the principals, and the production. Seems pretty substantial to me. Perhaps Rob was wondering what the ushers were like.

    • Greg.Freed

      Yes, it is my fervent hope that one day my online opera reviews will enter the canon alongside Proust and Hardy and the like.

    • quoth the maven

      I’m wondering what “substance” there is in that mean-spirited comment.

      • Greg.Freed

        I’m just wondering why he skips the attribution when he goes to Capote for a takedown.

        • Krunoslav

          Capote stole that from Gore Vidal, who said of the work of Kerouac ( whom he had indeed literally fucked , “That’s not writing, it;’s typing.”

  • arepo

    Non-diagetic?
    I had to go look that one up. (by the way, though I found it in Wiki, it wasn’t in any dictionary that I had close by)
    Wonder why you chose to use it.

    • rapt

      Searching under “diEgetic” might yield better results.

      Re the wonder: maybe he loves language?

      • arepo

        Rapt:
        It didn’t.
        Or maybe he just likes using pedantic words?

        • armerjacquino

          Diegetic is in every online dictionary I can find. It’s not the reviewer’s fault you misspelt it.

          It’s also not his job to second-guess the gaps in your vocabulary.

          • arepo

            amerjacquino:
            You are right. I misspelled it here, but not in all the dictionaries I looked it up in.
            As I said, it WAS online and that’s where I finally found it.
            He didn’t need to second-guess the gaps in my vocabulary. I am accustomed to fine writing using the simplest language possible.
            Sow soo mee!

            • I can’t decide if you’re an idiot or just butthurt, or both. Either way, you’re making a huge deal out of a writer’s not knowing in advance that you, a reader he doesn’t even know, wouldn’t recognize a term that is in fairly general use.

              Should we run all parterre material through an eighth grade reading filter for you from now on?

          • k0000

            Diegesis is a useful term for an essential concept that anyone teaching Literature (or Film) 101 introduces to his students early on. It’s neither obscure nor recherché.

            • Batty Masetto

              Non-diegetic? That’s easy! It means they don’t put you on an artificial liver machine or whatever.

              Either that, or it doesn’t make you pee. I forget.

            • Quanto Painy Fakor

              I agree… diegetic is a very handy word with many uses for writing about dramaturgy. The pity is that it’s not used in English very often these days. One is more likely to find the equivalent in French and in Swedish usage.

        • rapt

          Oh, I see. He’s not having fun; he’s demonstrating a character flaw. I’ll try to remember to be less generous in the future.

          • rapt

            n.b. My “he” referred, of course, to Greg. (Not sure how much fun arepo is having.)

        • arepo: I know Greg and he’s just indulging in the joy of language. Few people are more fun to read on Facebook, for example. And since I know you too (off this site), I’m fully confident that you’d find him a delight and not at all pedantic. Trust me. :)

          • arepo

            I trust anything and everything you say, Kashie.
            Maybe we’ll someday meet so we can giggle about it all over the place.

        • luvtennis

          This has to be the most obnoxious post I have ever read. The word was used on “Archer” in at least one episode. That is a cartoon on FX (an awesome one to be sure) not a scholarly treatise.

          You rudely proclaimed your own ignorance. Feel better now.

  • armerjacquino

    Hurrah for the unfussy scene changes (also a feature of McVicar’s Glyndebourne BOHEME, for me the best thing he’s done).

    If I’m reading you correctly, though, it strikes me as clumsy to change the set under the Act 4 duet. Surprises me that the singers would agree to that. And it really blows the end of Act 3 to have the next act start in the same location, surely? Was there anything to depict passage of time?

    • Greg.Freed

      Ah, no, that was clumsy writing, then. They just didn’t have to do the curtain down, please bear with us for this brief but slightly extended pause routine you sometimes get.

      • armerjacquino

        Oh, I see. Good, then. I was picturing two pissed-off singers trying to carry over bumps and thumps. Which is a funny image but maybe not what you want at that point in the opera.

        • pirelli

          I did see a totally nonsensical scene change in the current Broadway revival of On The Town, though. After Hildy makes a come-on to Chip with “I Can Cook Too” in her apartment, the scene change took us to the next scene in Times Square -- except the randy couple remained onstage, so the literal effect was that all of a sudden there was a shirtless sailor and his date in the middle of Times Square. I know the production was trying for something more stylized and less literal, but the visual still made no sense.

          Diegetic, by the way, is a term often used in a theatrical context, often involving singing -- when characters (as opposed to just the actors/singers) perform a song as part of the plot, it is diegetic. In opera terms, that’s Prunier and Magda fooling with Doretta’s song, or Triquet’s birthday song, or the onstage musicians in the dinner scene of Don Giovanni, etc. In musical theatre terms, at least, I’ve never heard the opposite referred to as “non-diegetic” -- one would just tend to say “book song” instead. Or one could say “character-driven” song/music as an opposite. I assume what Greg was going for with “non-diegetic sorrow” was that the singer’s faulty tone didn’t jive with the meaning of the text or intended effect of the musical line -- she “sounded” sad even though Mimi would not have been. Perhaps it would have been simpler to say so. ;-)

          I appreciate a writer who has a wide vocabulary and can plug in some witticisms to spice things up. However, a responsible writer knows when to use such things as occasional tools, instead of making the entire piece a masturbatory venture all about erudition and cute remarks.

          • rapt

            Whew! Must learn to be much, MUCH less generous….

          • luvtennis

            Actually the word is simple and used in the context of films and television shows. Greg used it cleverly. It is not his fault that you are both rude and uninformed. After all this isn’t paid content.

            Sorry, Greg. I apologize on behalf of these jerks.

            • arepo

              luvtennis: Who you callin’ a jerk?
              You happen to know me very well (and adore me … or did! Way back in the NY Times Opera days. Guess who!)

            • luvtennis

              Hmmmm. Not sure who yet, but only one person gets a free pass from me. And he is on moderation. But I noticed a serious attack bitchitis on Parterre yesterday. So I took a stand against bitching for one day. :-)

            • luvtennis

              Attack of bitchitis. There -- I fixed it so no bitching!

          • Ouf

            “I appreciate a writer who has a wide vocabulary and can plug in some witticisms to spice things up. However, a responsible writer knows when to use such things as occasional tools, instead of making the entire piece a masturbatory venture all about erudition and cute remarks.”

            +1

          • Greg.Freed

            Wow, “masturbatory venture.”

            The wonder of new media is that a critic may pop in to rewrite his review just for your tastes. So here goes:

            Christian Van Horn was really really good.
            Alexia Voulgaridou was sometimes good.
            Michael Fabiano was SUPER EXTRA GOOD.
            Nadine Sierra was good.
            Everyone sure looked nice.
            The production was pretty.

            I hope you found my new review responsible!

  • Greg: When you’re finished with the current words and phrases up for debate, I notice numerous others that have yet to be parsed, and would love to go at them with you in endless detail. Let me know…

    • luvtennis

      But only after we shit on everyone else’s taste, education, bloodlines and genitalia (we have to keep Marshie happy), Kashie.

      Life is so full of fun activities when you are a bitch. :-). Or is that ;-)

  • Batty Masetto

    I am dismayed to see how much of the Parterriat appears to have found this enjoyable review above their reading comprehension level.

    • armerjacquino

      Very well put.

      Let’s hope they can understand your post.

      • luvtennis

        Word.

  • SF Guy
  • manou

    Is there a particular reason why one cannot link from La Cieca’s comment at 5.41 warning GU of his nomination? Has the comment been rescinded?

    • armerjacquino

      Listed at 5:31 for me, but only in the comment feed.

      • manou

        Yes -- at 5.31 (typing in the dark here). The link to the comment from the feed (and from top left) is broken.

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka

      The reason is that it doesn’t concern you.

      • manou

        It is true that you are the one who should be concerned.

        • Guestoria Unpopularenka

          Io tremo.

          • manou

            “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              So in which category do you fall?

            • manou

              The category that quotes Oscar Wilde.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              That’s nice, honey.

            • manou

              Pobre Diablo…

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Good night and sweet dreams.