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2 days of silly Christmas (random rant roll)

some people don’t like opera as much as operatic singing

As I said on other occasions, my current opera knowledge pertains to the past 15-20 years. Every once in a while I make time to get further acquainted with the past in order to enrich my understanding of the art. Sometimes the best part is the risible fussiness, spice of the comment section.

The other day (by which I mean last July) I was reading what I thought was a very intelligent and relaxed interview with the great Romanian lyric soprano Virginia Zeani. Later I scrolled down to the comments to find a longwinded, passive-aggressive hissy fit from someone who accused the interviewer of “gross lack of respect” for Zeani because he didn’t blindly worship every note that has ever come out of her mouth (surprising reaction considering the interview was a very down to earth conversation with Zeani; all I can suppose is the poster didn’t like to hear an old school diva talk like a very together and often humorous human being).

I’ve read a lot of bollocks online from opera fans but this one took a certain cake. It illustrates a way of writing about opera that has always irked me. Terms such a assoluta, perfection, magnificent, stratospheric, voice of the century are thrown about with wild abandon and make up the heart and soul of such posts.

they were sure milking it, eh?

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful to feel you have witnessed a special moment; there’s nothing quite like when you get exactly what the singer expressed through singing, to the point where an interview on the subject is superfluous. It’s even great reading about others’ similar experiences, when the writing is so vivid it’s almost as if you feel the same thing they did.

What I am objecting to is posts/comments that consist of little beyond continous fawning over human beings as if they never burp or fart. You’re not talking about something threedimensional anymore; you’re not telling me anything, either about the interpretation or about what it made you feel. It’s a diarrhea of superlatives.

The amusing part of the comment came when the poster chided the interviewer for sloppiness in regards to the exact number of times Zeani had sung Violetta – this in the context where Zeani herself said she wasn’t sure! Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.

3 different albums or re-packaged for different tastes?

I admit I like a bit of cheap drama, so 9 times out of 10 (and sometimes 10 out of 10) I venture in the comment section. I’ve never believed that comments should be disallowed on youtube or anywhere else. Moderation at the discretion of the poster is ok. Anyway, I was re-listening to Choir Accentus’ (and all) beautiful rendition of Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor reccommended by Rob and checked to see what others thought.

Well, a random conversation sparked up on the subject of clapping after a Mass, especially if a Mass is sung in church, such as was the case here. I tells ya, some people have a talent for zero-ing in on the important stuff. My take is it’s not religious worship, it’s a concert, so clap away. But what do I know, I got shushed whilst visiting a cathedral just the other day. If people want perfect quiet they can pray at home not in a public place. The rest of us are alive. Also, god does not actually reside in “the house of god”.

Blogspot’s at it again (rant)

You may or may not remember my foaming rant at blogspot. Well, things were manageable for a while but of late it’s gone pearshaped again. Issues:

  • blogspot (google) is obsessed with identifying you by your google ID
  • it tends to revert to that even though apparently giving you the option of choosing something else (WP, LJ etc.)
  • though it reverts to it, it still won’t post your reply (it goes on an endless loop)
  • I think I have to restart the browser to be able to post, but by this point I’m sick and tired of this inconvenience

I despair! I have already lost more than a dozen posts on various blogspot friends’ blogs due to this glitch or whatever it is.

There is only one musical choice to go with this:

read only if you love rants

Who’s that girl?

ffwThis is a rant against the Fach and/or Gender Police. There’s no way to rant other than in a shrill tone… so here are some disclaimers to help you adjust to the higher pitch:

1) Alcina is one of my favourite operas (as the amount of random and related posts shows)

2) the show at the Barbican was my most expected this year

3) 3 mezzos

Based on these disclaimers I grant you that I’m always full of enthusiasm when it comes to the subject. There might be worthier operas out there but I like Alcina and with as many mezzos as possible, regardless if they look “too manly” when singing a woman or “too womanly” when singing a man1. According to some, apparently last month’s concert performance managed the curious feat of failing on both accounts. There’s no winning for them mezzos, eh. Stick to Carmen and Rosina, girls (unless sopranos appropriate those roles, in which case suck it up until you’re old enough for Azucena or Ulrica; you might still end up too manly for the first two and too girly for the latter).

Really, though, why rant? I share the opinion that everyone is entitled to their view, that we can’t all like the same things etc. This doesn’t preclude me from finding certain views either silly or suspect. Take this rant as an elaborate “oh, come on!” My biggest eye-roll inducer is people getting hung-up on non-issues.

But onto the hang-ups at hand:

(All quotes come from this review of the Barbican show. I have no qualms with the reviewer’s take on anything else beside the fach and gender business.)

1) Alcina sung by a mezzo

Hi, Fach Police, how are you? Who gives a shit if the person singing a role is usually labeled something else? It’s hardly a new practice and frankly, what is so unnatural about transgressing an illusory line such as a vocal label? They are there to help the singer out rather than box them in.

So if the singer can cope with the role’s tessitura, why the hell not? Which segues right into:

2) Singers either not of the “correct” gender or eschewing gender espectations altogether

Gender Police, is that you? Haven’t seen you in a while. Let me reiterate:

If the singer can cope with the role’s tessitura, why the hell not?

It’s theatre, right? For hundreds of years theatre has played with gender either out of necessity or purely theatrically. Why do we care about theatre in the first place? To discover stuff about ourselves we might have not considered; to turn our expectations on their head; to “virtually” try out different things. I hardly think it’s strange to imagine that in 2014 this should be one of the least common hang-ups. But apparently it is quite common.

“Did they really have lesbian affairs shown on stage in Handel’s time?”

They most certainly showed people faced with the possibility of same sex attraction, what with all this disguise business (which was a very common plot device up to the first quarter of the 19th century – lots of it even in Meyerbeer’s Italian operas). That people didn’t think about gay sex the same way we do today is a different thing and hardly important in this context.

The real point is, what about showing lesbian affairs on stage? Is it harder to accept this possibility rather than Alcina’s being a sorceress? It’s theatre; Alcina, Ruggiero et all can be whatever as long as the story holds. There’s nothing in the story that can’t be viewed from a gay angle.

While we’re at it, were the characters sung by castrati supposed to be gay because they sounded effeminate? No? Right. But they could be perceived as such by 21st century ears. Is that a problem?

“He was utterly dumbstruck when I told him that Ruggiero is supposed to be a man, and Bradamante a woman, since he’d decided – perfectly reasonably on the available visual evidence – that it was the other way round. And he isn’t stupid, just unfamiliar with this neck of the repertory:”

Don’t people read the bloody synopsis? They might not have shown lesbian “relationships” on stage in 1735, but in 2014 we’ve mass literacy and Wikipedia. If not stupid then surely ignorant and bigoted.

“I wonder how many of those present actually knew who was who, or more pertinently, what, given the appearance of it all?”

That’s not patronising at all… I’d like to hope quite a few present had brains and imagination enough to work with what they were presented. Aside from actually knowing beforehand what the bloody opera was about… Some of us can even negotiate regie productions. Weird, I know. They didn’t have those in Handel’s time. Except they kind of did (hint: they painted saints/biblical stories in contemporary clothing/settings).

“(certainly not the woman in front, who laughed like a drain from first to last, as if somebody had told her Handel could be funny, whereupon she’d decided it was a flat-out farce, all three hours’ worth of it)”

I laughed too, I thought it was a funnier than usual take on Alcina and I’ve heard/seen a few (specifically, the surtitles were a hoot and the Morgana-Bradamante interplay hilarious, but that one is more or less meant to be; yes, Handel is funny sometimes). I don’t normally think of Alcina as particularly funny but I don’t mind being convinced otherwise. Different takes on the same subject – funny concept, I know. Funny like not sticking to one Fach or to one gender.

But, you know (in regards to JDD’s coiff):

“from the neck up she looked like a male rocker from the cast of Grease”

Buddy, if you think JDD ever looks anything like a man – short hair, long hair, sideburns, whathaveyou, she’s sported them all on stage – I might have to introduce you to a couple of blokes. Or blokes who are a couple. Or to the 21st century.


  1. I go to the opera for singers’ voices first and foremost. Eyecandy, whilst highly appreciated, is a bonus. Which is why this blog isn’t called mezzohunks/babes ;-)