Cher Public

The hole truth

Finally the reason for all that screaming at La Scala begins to emerge. It appears that maestro Riccardo Chailly (right) insisted directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier (not pictured) expunge some gay gay gay gay gay scenes of satanic buttfucking from the action of the opening night production of Giovanna d’Arco. []

  • Will

    Several years in Denmark, Dnish friends took me on a tour of the many 1000 year-old churches whose interiors were being cleaned of their Protestant whitewash to reveal the original Catholic frescos. Lo and behold, many of these lively, very graphic images were devoted to acts of Satan to scare the congregation away from his works. And what was Satan doing in many of these images? He was shtupping farm wives from behind — and also male farmers. I was told that in many cases the frescos were considered so pornographic that they were being carefully photographed for archival purposes and then whitewashed over again.

    There was also a column capital in a monastery that showed a man on his back, legs arched over, enjoying auto-fellatio. Now, my point is that if the Catholic Church had no problem showing these activities on the walls and in the architecture of its churches, then in a work that explores demonic influence over a young woman I see no reason the same activities shouldn’t legitimately be part of the action.

    • Cicciabella

      In an illiterate world, imagery was the quickest way of teaching people what would send them to hell. Plus, it were fun for the artists to make and alleviated the boredom of hour of mass in incomprehensible Latin.

  • Cicciabella

    Are Dagospia the same people who gave us “Madonna is dating Kaufmann”? In which case, the reporting source is suspect. On the other hand, the expletive could be related to the excised sex. With or without copulating devils, the staging was very good and saved the terrible libretto.

    • manou

      AFAIK Dagospia is (or was anyway) a mixture of scandal sheet but also often very reliable scoops.

      It can’t have been difficult to find out what the controversy really was about, as so many people backstage and onstage must have been aware of the facts.

  • Timur de Morte

    I’m delighted to hear (from Cicciabella) that anything — anything — is capable of saving a Verdi opera from its Temistocle Solera libretto. They are all of them terrible. Even Anna Russell couldn’t save Nabucco. (She did try!) I did not watch the show and turned off the sound at intermission, though after a really hectic shriek through the Prologue, Anya seemed to be calming down and there are pretty tunes galore in the last act.

    As for the obscenities of pre-Reformation fresco, this is often credited (snicker snicker) to Catholic authorities (and wonderful scenes of Hell and how to get there survive in Italy, in San Gimignano and Bologna, among many other places), but the point is, especially in England and Denmark, that the Church did not run a terribly tight ship. They were not paying attention on the parish church level. They were distracted by their wars against Saracens and Emperors and (now and then) the Eastern Catholics and the Albigensian heretics. And then, in the fourteenth century, there were two rival popes and in the fifteenth three. (Briefly.) It was the tightening up of the papacy into a functioning bureaucracy with taxation powers that set off an explosion in the early sixteenth. There is nothing like enforcing extreme unity of outlook to cause outbursts of irreconcilable rage, part of which whitewashed the churches, broke the windows and ripped down the statues.

    So these cheerful obscenities are not proclaimed by the Church; they’re what was going on when the Church wasn’t paying very close attention.

    So, for that matter, was Joan of Arc, who deeply troubled the Church and was burned alive by it. She wasn’t a saint till 1912, I think. So Schiller and Solera and Tchaikovsky could give her a boyfriend and no one objected. Shaw, in 1920, was not so permitted. So he gave her a nationalist political outlook. Maxwell Anderson — well, I haven’t seen that one. The one I wish they’d revive is Ethyl Eichelberger’s version for Black-Eyed Susan, which played the Pyramid Club in the ’80s.

    • Camille

      I happened to have seen one of Anna Russell’s last incarnations, about thirty to thirty five years ago in Los Angeles, and the Nabucco portion was a screaming delight to the audience. Very funny and I have a hard time listening to some of the priest’s music without picturing her, may she still be singing and carrying on, wherever she may be.

      That’s funny, I thought Jeanne d’Arc became a saint sometime in the 1920’s? Google to the rescue……….

      • PCally

        Camille that nabucco performance is a personal favorite of mine. Russell is a goddess.

        • Camille

          You HAD to be there, PCAlly! It was, really and truly, one of the most hysteria-inducing performances I’ve ever seen — the kind where people are really and truly rolling side by side in their seats.

          Since my discovery of Nineveh, or Babylon, or wherever in hell it takes place!--had been fairly recent — I think due to the advent of Ghena the Great, I’d just made the acquaintance of this opera and so it was all very fresh in my mind, therefore the impact of the parody was just one of those things that one always cherishes.

          As I had listened to her somewhat whilst growing up and never hoped to have the chance to see her IRL, well, it was doubly sweet for that, too.

      • Sir Ferris

        I wonder, if Joan had been canonized earlier, whether Verdi would have written an opera about her in the first place. Putting an actual saint of the church upon the wicked stage…..what would the censors think?

      • gustave of montreal

        she’s underground, she died in 2006

    • BB

      Not so fast. It’s pretty well established now that Solera was the real author of the scenario for AIDA. As for things like the abrupt end of ATTILA that was all Verdi’s doing over Solera’s objections.
      And for modern sensibilities, Solera stressed heroic, empowered women in (especially) his last three texts for Verdi. And in a context where the tenor leads are pretty much wimps at that.

    • mrsjohnclaggart

      My goodness, how do you know Ethel Eichelberger and Black Eyed Susan? No one here will know what you’re talking about. I mentioned Charles Ludlam’s Galas the other day where I should have made clearer he not only wrote the play (the best about Callas) but played her, with the still living Everett Quinton as her sidekick, Linda Bruna Rasta.

      Ludlam always said he was an actor, not a drag queen, and his portrayal of Callas is the best I’ve ever seen. He had her manner down precisely, heightened it and humanized it and her. It was hysterically funny (especially her audience with the Pope over the pasta scandal, which become a contest on who was the bigger queen) and absolutely heartbreaking without sentimentality. Ludlam understood and embraced her grandiosity and craziness and also the terribly lonely striver after the impossible that he knew first hand.

      As for Ethyl Eichelberger (born James), I wonder if you saw his Lola Montez or Carlotta of Mexico? He was another wonderful actor but less successful in my opinion in transcending the “drag” stigma to “become” the character he was playing irrespective of gender as Ludlam could.

      I wonder if you knew one of his sidekicks, the amazing Katy Dierlam. His death, a suicide (I think with at least one other sometime member of The Ridiculous Theater (AIDS ran rampant among those performers) was horrifying. He’d been supporting (barely) a small group of people too sick to work and living in poverty. He had a small house on Staten Island. I was told his last words were, “And to think! A great queen has come to this! DEATH on this garbage dump!” (It’s how I feel in Philadelphia).

      I was struck by your knowing of his Joan of Arc for Susan (born Susan Carlson), still around as is the great Lola Pashalinski who discovered his body.

      • marshiemarkII

        Well my darling Madame C! your humble servant here for one, knew exactly what you were talking about with Galas since I only saw it like several times (3?)) and you are right! it might have been the most human of the Only Maria impersonations, certainly the campest!
        And you surely would have noticed that at the very least caro Hibla Hebla Habla Krunoslava and myself are familiar enough with the great Ludlam to have ceded our queenly coronas on behalf of your Imperial self in order to avoid queenly collisions :lol:
        I also wanted to heartily agree with your discussion on how voices project at the Met (down to the singer). And last, sooner or later I’ll have time to address your brilliant deconstruction of Lulu, which I ended up seeing 5 times, including the closing performance. Alas it is end of semester and I’m pretty overwhelmed with work. But keep them coming, you are on a roll, and it’s a pleasure reading you!

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          Why, thank you Marshie! I think no one reads me here so it’s nice to meet an exception. I’m trying to stay out of trouble.

          You’d think that with the phenomenally documented Kater books (with her incriminating and disgusting papers and those of many others), the fabulous letters of Pfitzner (the only group he hated more than Jews was Nazis and his contempt for her is devasting as are his stories about just who she was servicing and how), the comments of Klemperer in his “Conversations” book with Peter Heyworth (Klemperer was good friends with Pfitzner), that Schwarzkopf was nothing more than a slut who made her Nazi career on her back and by informing (2000 pages of her Gestapo records have been available for three years but curiously have not circulated — how many people did she get deported? — got the Americans to look the other way on her knees (according to Henry Pleasants who was in the OSS and one of those overseeing the “DeNazification” hearings, she seduced an American official and all the enormously damaging intel on her got buried or destroyed) and then sold herself to a reeking sadist, named Walter Legge, who used the enormous publicity of EMI to sell this baggage as something other than an opportunist shit. (Michael Scott who was Legge’s secretary for a time, saw him slam the car door on “Elizabeth’s hand” just to show her who was boss. SHE LOVED IT.)

          One of her chief boyfriends was Hans Frank, SS-Obergruppenführer -- and Governor-General of the occupied Polish Territories October 1939-1945 (their liason is documented in Kater).

          A reassuring quote from Frank was: “We cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews, we cannot poison them, but we will take measures that will somehow lead to successful destruction; and this in connection with large-scale procedures which are to be discussed in the Reich, the Government-General must become as free of Jews as the Reich …..We must destroy the Jews wherever we find them and wherever it is at all possible, in order to maintain the whole structure of the Reich… ”

          Under Frank Poland disappeared as a nation and became a slave state, Poland’s leaders, educated elite and clergy were murdered, nearly all of Poland’s Jews were exterminated.

          During WWII over half a million Polish soldiers, and 6 million civilians died. Approximately 5,400,000 were the victims of prisons, death camps, executions, annihilation of ghettos and starvation. There were one million war orphans and over half a million invalids … She was on a first-name basis with his schwantz and went to parties that he gave in Poland (Pfitzner describes one).

          Yes, she settled in England. Pleasants documented all that he knew about her, but if Liberace could win a suit against a newspaper claiming he was gay, when he was the annual winner of International Screamer of the Year for thirty years AND DIDN’T HIDE IT NO ONE was going to call her a filthy, unrepentant vicious collaborator and shameless whore in print.

          Oh yes, she was great — she took an ordinary light voice that she damaged by screaming (she was initially a chorister but got some parts in Berlin) and after “somehow” getting the money it cost to join the Nazi party (it cost a fortune, Karl Schmitt-Walter, the Harlequin the night she lost her voice as Zerbinetta, was a party member and helped her raise funds on her back and then introduced her to Maria Ivoguen to rescue her vocally.)

          Ivoguen also cost a fortune. The whore is quoted somewhere thusly (is it in Legge’s book?): “Oh, how will I afford you, Madame?” “A pretty girl can always manage”. And then, Elizabeth’s eyes rolled in the direction of Ivoguen’s husband, the hugely influential Michael Racheisen, also a passionate and connected Nazi who had enormous influence on radio b’casts, all of which have been released, and guess who sings often and quite badly? But the lessons got paid for.

          I love the story (also from Pleasants) of the Queen of Belgium, roughly around 1950, for whom the English (influenced by Legge, who ran the very powerful ENSA, the English equivalent of the USO but far more influential) arranged a concert that included our Elizabeth. The Queen received the others in the concert but personally struck Elizabeth’s name off the list.

          The lead English diplomat asked her why. “I don’t receive whores,” said the queen. When the Englishman remonstrated saying she was receiving other Germans who were on the list, she cut him off: “I can only pity and never judge those who had to fawn on gangsters to feed themselves and their families, but a slut of that sort went MUCH further. I will NOT soil my eyes with her, having already soiled my ears.”

          Even someone not in the Mein Camp calls her “beautiful”. The stories of her looking like a cleaning lady until she took hours to work her magic with rubber bands, sculpted hair, and Titianic cosmetics are legion. But I saw her up close a number of times. Even with makeup caked on her face, the ugliness of the rotting peach where her soul should have been shown forth along with the many, many lines in her face.

          And the fakery of her singing!!!! The constant shifting of registers, the weird vowels, the white tone (she’s flat a great deal), the frequent gasping breaths, the essential thinness of her sound — this is greatness?

          • Gualtier M
          • Tubsinger

            People don’t read you here? I figured you got tired of the sycophantic gratitude from me all the time--but I enjoy every post and learn something from each one. I’m also among those who read your blog but haven’t gotten around to registering as its friend. I suspect there are many lurkers and lazy-ass people like myself who enjoy your posts--as well as those from other excellent correspondents we’re all privileged to read here.

            • armerjacquino


            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Thank you Tubsinger and you too CwbyLA for your kind responses. It is easy to get lost in the endless sea of Parterre, and my posts are so CAREFULLY composed and thoughtful with many the sob and blotting of Christian tears that I NEED acknowledgement (either that or I am a born attention whore, you do the math). But I do appreciate your kind attention. And Tubsinger I need to get back to that Blog — I have so much hating to do and it’s Christmas!

              I also see that The Duke of Mantua looked up some info about S by Kater, but I have seen the evidence that she was involved with Frank closely, and also with other members of the elite, even if she had a steady boyfriend. But I thank him for his link.

          • CwbyLA

            mrsjohnclaggart, i read your posts with great interest and learn a lot.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              And thank YOU Amerjaquino! I am innumerate, so this new fangled style of + plus a numeral addles an old lady’s gin soaked brain.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Despite what Kater says, ES was a chorister, she was a member of Favres Solisten Vereinigung, which provides the chorus for Beecham’s Magic Flute. Both she and Legge, separately and together spoke of her being part of the chorus. When she went to the Deutsche Oper it was as an apprentice, and she found that putting out got her more solo opportunities and they grew.

            • Camille

              Missus Claggart: better if you weaned yourself off that gin bottle and got to work on your blog as it’s X-mass time and there’s a whole lot of hatin’ for you to do!

              As *IF* no one ever reads you!!! Magari!!! What a shy and virginal little maiden thou art!!!

              Tanti distinti saluti ed un BACIONE!

          • damianjb1

            I also love your posts and learn some new and fascinating fact in each one.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

      • Batty Masetto

        How could anyone who ever saw them forget Ludlam and the sublime Ms. Pashalinski? I no longer even recall the name of her character, but the seduction scene in “Bluebeard” called for Ludlam’s head to become entrapped in an unmentionable part of her anatomy – no, not that part, the other part – shortly after the moment below, I believe. Nothing will ever equal their grimly determined efforts to disengage themselves.

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          Sadly, Batty, I think quite a lot that was wonderful in that time is not known of, and even those who were around have forgotten.

          AIDS swept many of those artists and so many of their witnesses away, but times changed fast and radically.

          It is the nature of humans and of history. Theater may be the most ephemeral form. If you visited off-off Broadway you saw wonderful plays that are gone, most not even published (I don’t think there’s even a reliable collection of Ethyl Eichelberger’s plays) and you saw many great performances, often by people who were regular workers by day and became magic at night.

          Almost none of this was filmed, certainly none was filmed (or videotaped) in a responsible way. This wasn’t “commercial theater”, these were works thrown on in small, sometimes dangerous places that reflected the crazy enormously varied life of “downtown Manhattan” when the greatly gifted could afford to live there.

          And there wasn’t the portable technology of today where reasonably affordable instruments allowed extensive taping of performances. Eichelberger was an amazing performer, Ludlam was a gifted writer and great actor who wrote for himself, but aside from stills and bits and pieces of film (much of it silent), you can only get a sense of what they and many others were like.

          But I am very happy that there remain people who retain a first-hand memory of how wonderful these people were (and there were others…)

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            Divine Esclarcamille!!! I must hope the grammar fairy does not read my explosion contra Blackhead! Goodness is that a veritable flux and catarrh of English!!!! Schlaf wohl mein kleine Engelein!!!!!!

            • Camille

              Well tell me now, just how are you and Sybil getting along? Is she helping you sort out your whistle register, perhaps? Has she lent you her pearls? O no — Mary escaped with those!

              It would be a loverly thing if you would see fit, now that youse a widder woman and don’t spend your evenings frying up fish ‘n chips for your spouse, to set down some recollections of those theatrical days of the seventies and eighties--and to recall and record for those of us left behind (or out of the loop) all that transpired in those heady days. I never actually saw “Galas”, but many was the time I picked up a Village Voice and read about something about The Ridiculous Theatre Company or saw an ad for all those fascinatin’ goings-on which you, and others, have mentioned above.

              It would indeed be ‘a good thing’ to commemorate the lives of the many who perished and those who were the originators and bold pioneers of that certain genre. O Pioneers! O NO! Willa Cather is making herself known herein — o well, she lived in the Village, didn’t she, too, Missus Reverend Claggart, Ma’am, just like you?
              Just Village people, after all.

              Distinti saluti ed un altro bacione ancora!!!

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Oh, Camille, I have met and been defeated by the Patrick J. XXXXX of Parterre. Patiently you will have to scroll down to see what I mean, and the vicious insult of me. And perhaps you won’t want to bother.

              (The person in question seems to think being a has been is the worst, but you have to have DONE things and even MATTERED for a time to be a has been, as I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s always the never-weres and never will be’s who have TREMENDOUS opinions of themselves, for example, Patrick J. XXXXX, QUEEN of Opera-L especially on Facebook, who KNOWS ALL AND IS GREAT — but raises dogs in Kansas and steals Callas material.

              Maybe we can laugh about it if we see each other again as we did at Lulu, a wonderful night for me socially.

              As for Sibyl I left you a comment here that you missed. I’m afraid I disagree with you a little. She must always have been bi.

              She blamed her lesbian affair with Madame X on Massenet. But note, they had an affair, not a cognac-fueled one nighter or even a wine soaked short fling. An AFFAIR. I don’t think those disgusted by certain sexual acts HAVE affairs with those who practice them.

              An experience? Perhaps. My perception working in LA with all the pretty men the Web tells us are gay — and Parterre’s Patrick J XXXXX is even now GOOGLING AND GOOGLING TO SKIM AND NOT UNDERSTAND — is that an experience — well maybe. And not just for advantage: too many drinks, curiosity, experiment, actor loneliness that leads to a night or two… Affairs? No. Unless they are gay or really bi.

              That writer, Jack Winsor Hansen, and his ENORMOUS documentation of everything, reports that at the end she was trying to pick up women at Nice. That she was rarely or never sober really doesn’t explain that.

              And he’s inclined to believe that Mary Garden’s candid interview with Carl Van Vechten in 1918, though inevitably self-serving, is essentially accurate as far as it goes since she used it again word for word fifty years later. He also thinks, as I do, having read Mary’s book (and yes, she was a conniving, ruthless manipulator with a gift for the well-placed lie), that while she was dead broke and living with Sibyl the two probably had an affair.

              Sibyl’s last chevalier was a notorious queen and it’s not clear she had so much sex with men. Her husband certainly but I’ve known some heterosexually rapacious divas, and Sibyl reads as written, at least, as conflicted.

              It may be a condition of the high-flying coloratura. For a woman I knew and adored, dead now, started as shamelessly pursuing all the good looking men around (very successfully and had some big scores) and even seduced a genuinely phobic friend of mine into a brief hetero fling but then found women, love with one in particular, Christ, and cancer in that order. She was a wonderful and even when sick healing person but sexually — all bets were off.

              A pity Sibyl Sanderson didn’t feel able to make the records Massenet arranged for in 1902. It was probably too late but to have an idea of how she sounded and her manner…!

              Speaking of lesbians Willa Cather was one, (my first apartment in NY was at Waverly and Bank, perpendicular to the building where she lived for thirty years — there was even a silver plaque outside!) and there are those who think she was Olive Fremstad’s lover even though Olive married (an advantageous match for her indeed, given that Gatti rather monstrously cut her career short and didn’t even answer her letters begging to be allowed back “to do what I am here to do, the only thing I am here to do” — she was great and those letters will break your heart. But wait. Our Patrick J XXXXX would say SHE WAS (DONE). Forget about her, she doesn’t matter.

              Olive you know was the inspiration for The Song of the Lark, one of the great American novels, along with My Antonia, also by Willa. I hope you’ll see my friend Phyllis Nagy’s movie Carol. It’s about a lesbian affair. Phyllis is a great playwright and tried to get her plays up in NY on a small scale. Our Patrick J. XXXXX, says that sort of thing is THRIVING. She couldn’t, and she couldn’t live. I was very lucky to see her work in London, where she was adored by cognoscenti but where Americans can’t really work in a sustained way (unless an American company is paying the bills and it’s an American project or they marry Amerjaquino.)

              She has worked for 20 years to get Carol made, getting by on TV jobs and movie rewrites, like everybody else out there and sad that NY is closed to her plays (although if Carol wins that might change, but she has already taken two big movie offers so maybe she’ll be sending her regrets).

              Goodnight my Camille!!!! And I have found Carla Gavazzi’s Risurrezione!!!! Less showy but more heartbreaking than Magda’s even, with the MUCH better tenor, Filiacuridi.

            • Camille

              OKAY — that does make sense to me — the cognac-infused one-nighter theory…I mean, who hasn’t had one of those, or two, or three, or maybe more? And so, you have a very valid, good point there. So far as actors in H.wood and elsewhere, well, I mostly only knew the ones I shagged myself, so don’t know much about the other bi-kind, sorry!!!!!

              BUT, you have a point about povera sibilla, however, I think she was just desperate and confused and would just do about anything, that’s it in a nutshell. AND inebriated, unfortunately….but if you have adjudicated her situation in this manner, I would trust your judgment over my own.

              AND, I think Willa woulda but hardly coulda with wiley old Olive, an exceedingly sharp woman. Yes, the way Gatti cut her off was horrible, but he had an entire zoo of these temperamental creatures and he could get Gadski or whomever it was, CHEAPER! and then there was the First World War, when she was ready to come back then Wagner had to be sung in English, and then, and THEN.….Thanks for reminding me that it was Waverly and Bank, I had forgotten where it was she lived and have always wanted to pass by there.There are a couple interesting reviews of operas in the Met Archive by Willaissima, I think there was one on Lohengrin, for example, written by Willa from around the turn of the century. She was rather caustic in her criticism of a great diva, who the hell was it, was it Lehmann? I should go and check that one out again. Oh, I think she was making light of Nordica, that’s who!!

              AND Yes, of course, I know all about The Song of the Lark, and yes, I am glad you consider it to be a very worthy novel, as do I. It was such a great conjuration of an entire vanished world; one may lose one’s self in that world and stay and live there for quite some time. I have read and re=read it many times, as well as all her wonderful short stories and have made a stab at other of the books, including the Archibishop, which reminds me, never finished it, alas. Her ability to draw characters was what I always so particularly loved

              I must away — into the loving Arms of Morpheus! My cellphone has dropped onto my piano pedal and suffered an horrible end! Ohimè! I must arise to resurrect it on the morrow and therefore am so happy to hear you have resurrected Carla G., una SIMPATICONA!!!! Lascia perdere tutti le stronzate lì vicino e spera, e scrivi qualcosa bella! un abbraccio forte e i miei distant salute!!!!!! non ti buttare giù!!! Ciao, per ora ed un altro abbraccio!!!

          • Gualtier M

            The Theatre of the Ridiculous does live on -- Everett Quinton still acts and directs. “The Mystery of Irma Vep” gets revived quite a bit. The Theater for the New City is trying to keep some of the flame burning of the old Theater of the Ridiculous. They do the plays. last year they revived this double bill that initiated the Theatre of the Ridiculous:

            BTW: Andy Warhol’s Factory was the genesis of the Theatre of the Ridiculous -- it was founded in 1965 by John Vaccaro who presented some plays by Ronald Tavel that were written as (unfilmed) scenarios for Andy Warhol movies. Ludlam came in later as an actor in 1967 and later became a major playwright/director/star.


            BTW: On November 30th I went to a Memorial presentation in honor of Norman Glick who was the partner of Harvey Tavel (Ronald Tavel’s actor/director brother) who were friends of mine. Huge opera fans (and Renée Fleming superfans). Lola Pashalinski was in attendance (looking like a Polish grandmother) along with Ruby Lynn Reyner and Augusto Machado who performed.
            I don’t know of films of Ludlam, Tavel, Pashalinksi, Black-Eyed Susan et al. in actual performance. But their acolytes are still producing those works and they are being filmed. At the memorial there were videos of presentations of Tavel’s “Kitchenette” from the TFANC presentation last year and also “The Life of Juanita Castro” as performed in Germany by Vaginal Davis under the direction of Ronald Tavel before he died.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              I don’t get the point of the above. Ludlam does not live on, not even on film or video and he was the genius of the movement and the greatest influence on anyone connected with it.

              You didn’t see it, or him or the people around him. You weren’t part of a culture of wild, omnisexual abandon and you haven’t a clue as to what he could accomplish. You don’t know all, and this makes it seem as though you know nothing.

              Quinton has the style, of course, and also has helped see to it that Ludlam’s scripts and aesthetic writing can be found. But the manner is not the matter. Ludlam had a sublime gift of craziness and profound insight that was unique, certainly in that period and in that context.

              I knew the other people you mention and with all respect to them, they had a different sensibility and different skill level. And to know some as old men remembering their friends who had died young gives you no authority or insight or authenticity.

              I knew Ludlam and know Quinton and doubt they’d even understand your juvenile grandstanding. Warhol had very little to do with what Ludlam developed or his method; he worked as a clown on the street, improvising plays, his research into original texts and performance styles, his sharp observation of the conventions of gender presentation were entirely his own.

              You MUST know ALL? But then know nothing and trivialize what you haven’t experienced or understood. That starts with the courage these men had, and especially with Ludlam, a remarkable and singular vision that amounted to genius.

              What he had was thrown away, probably inevitably; what he sought is now impossible in a culture spiraling far away from where he was anchored. I’m sure you’re proud of your ability to google and link. He did not have the opportunity to do either but dreamt and delved into being as it might have been, as it was, exploding in a then new and wild, Dionysiac and dangerous gay scene, now in comparison sedate and safe.

              Stick to what you’ve seen and know first hand, relay gossip as gossip but do yourself a favor and stop the desperate bullshitting.

            • Gentlemen, let’s keep this civil, please.

          • Krunoslav

            Since I started taking acting lessons at HB Studios when I was 13 or 14, and would come into NYC for that, I managed to get to see some of those Ridiculous shows ( and some Ethyl E.) --though not the early ones and not, alas, CAMILLE or GALAS.

            Fortunately, something survives of those exciting theatrical times:



      • Timur de Morte

        Thanks for the kind words, Mrs. John.

        I knew Ethyl slightly and saw her as Fricka and Gunther (with Susan as Sieglinde and Gutrune), as Medea, Nefertiti (the BEST!), Mad Carlota, Jocasta (she married her kid), Auntie Belle M, Lucrezia Borgia and Delbert Dingle-dong. And of course the dad in Salammbo and the mom in The Artificial Jungle, Charles’s swan song.

        Charles was a genius, the greatest actor-writer-manager of his generation. He could play ANYTHING, and his men were quite as much a part of his repertory as his women. Everyone gets that wrong. You, I know, would not. He could bring tears as well as laughter, often in the same few syllables. And he could switch personalities on a dime. True, they were 1980 dimes.

  • gustave of montreal

    Oh damn, just a mediocre opera from Verdi. Let it repose for another 150 years, we will not miss it.

  • Cicciabella

    Giovanna d’Arco is not mediocre, although most of it is not that original, even very predictable. It is interesting within the Verdi canon because it points to what he would achieve in his astonidhing middle period. It also contains some beautiful arias and at least one lovely duet and trio, which mediocre singers with mediocre technique can’t handle. The libretto, however, is a shambles, This production set me thinking that someone should write a new libretto for it, not an imitation nineteenth century text, but something new, with modern insight into the Joan of Arc phenomenon. The libretto would be no loss, but some of the music would be, so why not replace the one to shore up the other? Probably every Verdi foundation and association in the world would object, but if libretti can be translated into other languages, they can also be replaced, if disposable.

  • Often admonished

    Jeanna d’Arc’s best battlefield partner was Gilles de Rais ” whose distinguished career ended in a celebrated trial for Satanism, abduction, and child murder. His name was later connected with the story of Bluebeard.”

    This doesn’t appear in Verdi, though the chorus of devils (a banal waltz) requires some “help”…

    • Camille

      The bit about Gilles de Rais is truly quite a cause for concern and gives pause. Last summer I was thinking about this as the opportunity to see the great Ingrid Bergman as Saint Joan (in the movie version), came about and I googled a bit of information on the subject which is, to say the least, a bit remote and quite murky.

      Whatever happened, Charles (José Ferrer in quite an excellent performance, but then I love him anyway) did become le Roi, and the rest, as they say, is HERSTORY!

      n.b. — The “Coro di Malvagi Spiriti” is the one time I have thrown down a Verdi opera and started to laugh until I cried. Utterly, utterly risible lyrics.

      • Camille

        And according to some Wiki source, Jeanne d’Arc was canonized on May 16, 1920. I don’t know as I wasn’t there, although gustave de montréal may insist I was.

        Best thing, if you want to know more about Giovanna d’Arco, is to refer yourself to Julian Budden, that’s what I think. The end is quite beautiful and Giovanna’s music is, as well. It is interesting what is done after the first aria, with the insertion of an a cappella trio and then that sort of duetto/cabaletta — or WAIT? did that happen!!???? I can’t remember now……………

  • grimoaldo

    That is a truly wonderful picture, La C, hilarious!

  • Timur de Morte

    Of course Verdi (and even Tchaikovsky, though in a land of a different Church) would never have dared an opera on Joan and her amours if she had been canonized. But she had not been. That is the important thing to remember when attending Verdi’s utterly silly opera (lotsa great tunes though), and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent one.

    Solera had nothing to do with the scenario of Aida. He was living in Egypt but so what? Lots of people were living in Egypt. The very fact that the opera’s plot makes sense proves he had nothing to do with it.

  • Timur de Morte

    Gualtier --

    Mrs. John is right about Charles. John Vaccaro’s Theater of the Ridiculous had nothing at all to do with Charles’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company except a single word. Their styles were entirely different. Charles’s was rooted in study of the classics (you know, Boucicault, John Drew) not in Warhol AT ALL. Vaccaro, a silly fellow who fizzled early, feuded bitterly with Charles over the name thing; Charles ignored him. Tragically, he was just exploding into mainstream consciousness (guest star on his pal Madeline Kahn’s TV series, directing opera in Santa Fe and Shakespeare in Central Park, first appearance in a Hollywood film wildly acclaimed) when AIDS caught up with him. There was and is no one remotely in his league. The human race only gets a Charles every other generation or so.

    • lorenzo.venezia

      I knew some of the players, but I never thought of it that way. wow. you’re right, of course. Thank you.

    • Gualtier M

      I am not saying anything to belittle Charles Ludlam but was just relaying some history which I knew from the individuals that were there. Decidedly there was a break in the Theatre of the Ridiculous when John Vaccaro parted ways with Norman Tavel. At that point in 1967-68 Ludlam started performing his material and became the driving force behind the company as director, playwright and star.

      But the common misconception is to think that the Theatre of the Ridiculous started with Ludlam when in fact it didn’t. Read this article:
      (Notice by the way the reference to the Ludlam chef d’oeuvre “When Queens Collide” and read Mrs. John above)
      It ended as Ludlam’s baby and a lot of it died with him but the influence lives on. Younger artists are picking up the pieces and running with it. No it isn’t what it was then, neither is New York City, the Off-Off Broadway scene or Mrs. John Claggart.