12 November 2007

Gaia, isolata, bianca

Legendary opera diva Anna Moffo spreads her wings in a straight film role -- but as a gay character. La Moffo plays the lesbian "Lia" in Das Mädchen Julius. The film concerns the heroine Jules (a girl with a boy's name) who, according to the plot synopsis, as a teenager had a lesbian experience with her governess, Lia, who has taught her to hate men, whom she considers beasts who can bring nothing but harm to a woman.

So, if you ever wondered what a Moffo performance of Gräfin Geschwitz might be like (especially in a production set in the minimalist late 1960s) here's a scene from Das Mädchen Julius.

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03 October 2007

Opera Queens

A composer I know, a neighbor,
once dropped the electrifying news
that the great Anna Moffo has sung his songs,
and telephones him every New Year's.

Whenever I see him on the street,
scurrying along with music scores
clutched to his chest,
I stop him to ask
if Miss Moffo, as I,
in my utter adoration, like to call her,
has phoned him yet
to wish him a Happy New Year.

But he invariably
dismisses my ultimate goddess
with a flick of the hand,
and switches the subject
to Zinka Milanov --
he accompanied Milanov on the piano
during the years of her retirement
as she coached divas with their vocal problems.
"They all came to her,"
he says, in utter worship,
"and Madame Milanov
told everyone the truth.
When Anna," --
my Miss Moffo is merely "Anna" to him,
in distinction to Milanov,
who is always Madame Milanov --
"When Anna came to her
for coaching,
Madame Milanov asked," --
here the composer's voice purrs bitchily --
"'How old are you, my dear.'
'Fifty-four,' Anna answered.
'My dear," the composer's eyes
search poor Miss Moffo's neck
for wrinkles, her face for evidence
of a face lift,
"we must be truthful
with each other,
or I cannot help you.
He cackles in triumph,
as Milanov must have cackled
every time she repeated the story,
and goes on to say
that the last time Anna called him
she said she was working on Norma.
"Norma! "
He howls with laughter
at the thought.
My tattered queen....

His latest story
is of Renata Scotto
arriving to ask Madame Milanov for help
in singing the dramatic role, La Gioconda.
"You want to sing La Gioconda?"
purred Madame Milanov.
"Yes," said the reigning diva of the Met,
"it suits my voice."
"My dear," said Madame Milanov,
"Cats are cats
and dogs are dogs,
and you

And with a dismissive wave of the hand,
he sails down the street
with Milanovian mirth.

-- from A Frieze for a Temple of Love by Edward Field (www.edwardfield.com). His latest, just released, is After the Fall, Poems Old and New (U. of Pittsburgh Press).

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02 April 2007


Anna Moffo in a non-operatic facet of her career, as leading lady in the Italian film Una storia d'amore (released in the United States as Love Me, Baby, Love Me!) In this melodrama, La Moffo seems to be playing the "Lana Turner" role, a sexy matron involved with a good-for-nothing pretty boy gigolo.

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