Theory Thursday / Uncategorized

In Which Your Professor Goes To the Opera and Wants to Burn it Down

Why, hello there my beloveds!

Are you frozen?  I mean, holy shitballs is it cold.  I am so bored with the weather that I could barf.  Perhaps you are, too.

To change the subject, last night I went to the Opera.  In case you don’t remember, I love the Opera a great deal.  Opera means “work,” which is something an old director of your prof’s used to bellow constantly in between sexually harassing her and casting impossibly young coeds as lead roles their voices couldn’t handle yet.  (But I’m not bitter, darlings)

Wait, what?

Yes, I went to the Opera.  The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Cosi fan Tutti, or “Women are Like That” or “The School for Lovers”.  Fun footnote! Which I’m going to put right here, because this is my blog and #imagrownwomanicandowhateveriwant.  Did you know that the title “Cosi fan Tutti,” which is always translated as “Women are Like That” means something along the lines of “everybody does it.” BOOM! Sexism.  Anyways. . .

Let me start with the good stuff: The singers were all quite good.  The Despina (Tracy Dahl) served up a delightfully comic Despina, digging into her arias with gusto and striking a good balance between beauty and comedic voice.  Fiordiligi (Layla Claire) in particular wowed me several times with the power of her upper range, but her lower range needs more meat, IMHO. Overall, I think that the COC is putting a lot of emphasis on “exciting new stars.” As of late.  This seems to be spin for “young singers who work for cheap, because we are putting our money into expensive big name directors.”  Please allow me to state the following: opera is about singers.  The COC is Canada’s Met, and it is high time that it begins to act like it.  Opera fans want singers, first and foremost.  The lighting at the COC is unparalleled.  The Humming Chorus at the production of Madame Butterfly a couple of years ago was stunning.  How did you do it? With minimal staging and lighting.  No big name director.  An amazeballs soprano.  Do more of that.  I don’t want “exciting new stars.” I want goosebumps and trembles in my tenders.  I DO NOT WANT two elements that were very strong in last night’s performance, wherein. . .

I turned into a raging, eccentric purist who was ready to start a riot.  A real, live Sacre du Printemps stylee riot in the manner of setting the entire “doesn’t it look like they bought this entire centre in a flat pack at Ikea? but the acoustics really are wonderful here.” Four Seasons Centre For the Arts on fire and getting some pitchforks and torches and chasing down both the conductor and Atom Egoyan through Queen Street West elbowing hipsters and drunk UT students out of the way in the process.

Let’s start with the conductor.  The moment I peered down into the pit and saw the concert grand with the lid off in the middle, I smelled trouble.  Your professor is no purist, beloveds.  She enjoys the remix and the mashup and dropping the bass and rolling up the partition and the dancing and the whathaveyou.  So, she opened up her mind and she listened.   Then, the first recitative happened, and the conductor Johannes Debus started to play.  The piano.  Let me try to put this as delicately as I can.  It was bad.  It was really bad.

Why was it so bad, beloveds? Many reasons.  The first reason: balance.  The concert grand, as an instrument, is formidable.  With the lid off, at pit centre it is tres formidable.  (FRENCH!) Played with the sustain pedal and a not delicate at all touch, it is molto molto temibile.(ITALIAN!) Played with the sustain pedal, a not delicate touch, some interesting chord voicings and shall I say improvisations it is, as the Italians say che casino.  Un fiasco!  Or, to put it in the parlance of our times: a motherfucking mess.  To put it in academic terms: it was an insult to the performers, who could not be heard over whatever masturbatory utterings Mr. Debus was about. Neither the singers, nor the dialogue could be heard over the violently loud and self-indulgent playing of the conductor.

Perhaps Mr. Debus did not pay attention in his Classical Musicology, so allow the Professor to remind him a bit of Opera (it means work) and what the purpose of recitative is.  The purpose of recitative is to move the story forward.  Recitative contains dialogue that is crucial to the story and the characters.  One of the best composers of recitative in the Classical era was Mozart, whose recitative has a lyricism and a matching of text with melody that is unparalleled.  So shut up, Mr. Debus.  Furthermore, by shut up, I mean not only to not play super loud, with the sustain pedal on– but perhaps to also consider leaving out your “improvisations.”  Last night, during the course of  one performance, I am pretty sure I heard “improvisations” that consisted of quotations from the following pieces of music:  the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata 14 (popularly called the “Moonlight”) several of Bach’s Goldberg variations, and shades of several of Danny Elfman’s Hollywood Movie Scores.  To further borrow from the Italians, BASTA.  If you want to noodle around irresponsibly, please go play at a terrible piano bar somewhere in the land that taste forgot and get no tips ever from anybody.

Now, on to Mr. Atom Egoyan.  I understand that Mr. Egoyan is a highly regarded film director.  Highly. Regarded.  I like the movie shows. I do.  There is something in all of Mr. Egoyan’s work that has always left me flat.  Now it must be told, beloveds.  Mr. Egoyan appears to really, really hate the womens.  Perhaps he would disagree with me.  Maybe he would.  Perhaps we could have a fabulous debate about it. I would LERVE to talk to him about it.  Love. It.  Because there were many things and reasons in the production last night that got your professors back right up. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

Thing the first: Mr. Egoyan was only too eager to go with the secondary title of Cosi, “The School for Lovers.” Yay! I get to put the women into private school uniforms!  Yay!  This instantly got a side-eye from your professor, who hasn’t forgotten Exotica. Nope. SIDEBAR: as you know, your professor really, really loves pretty dresses.  Putting the show here means that our beloved lead women were in said private school uniforms forever and there were no pretty dresses.  Le grand rip off, especially considering what costume designer Debra Hanson did with the few butterfly or boat hats and veils and the like she got to play with–if she had been given the budget the company no doubt spent on Mr Egoyan to spend on fabrics and shinys I would have fainted into a never-ending bliss. END SIDEBAR.

Thing the second: Mr. Egoyan never, ever, ever missed an opportunity to have women on their knees, or rolling around on the ground.  You know what’s cool about Fiordiligi? EVERYTHING. She has a vocal range that is enormous, even for a Mozart woman, and the role requires a woman who sings her ass right off.  But, by all means, let us put her on her knees all the damn time.  Not just once or twice for dramatic effect, but so often that it is weird when she gets to deliver any part of her role standing up.  Time any male spent singing on their knees? Exactly once.

Thing the third: The Two Fridas.  the-two-fridas1

Alright, beloveds. For those that know me, you know he’s coming at one of my quirky weird and possibly permanently damaged nerves here.  Frida. My Frida Kahlo. She of the Broken Column and the Surrealism that would knock Dali over on his ass and I love her forever and ever and she is all that is beautiful and right in the world and I love her communist revolutionary ass and she is my crip role model hero and did I mention that she is my Frida?

Perhaps Mr. Egoyan saw the painting and was just struck by it– struck by its beauty and perfection and fell in love. He fell in love so HARD that he didn’t feel any desire to, well, I don’t know find out ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT FRIDA, OR FEMINISM, OR THE PAINTING, OR WHAT IT MEANS OR ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT ANY KIND OF KNOWLEDGE BECAUSE ESTEEMED FILM DIRECTOR OR WHATEVER BECAUSE REASONS.

The painting features very, very strongly in the production. In a hugely distracting way. Seemingly as a metaphor for the pain of romantic love– or the way that a woman can wound a man’s heart or scissors and flowers or something because Egoyan’s IDEAS. I don’t know, because frankly at this point I had my eyes closed so I could listen to some of the most beautiful music ever written in all of music without thinking about the fucking patriarchy.

Dearest, Dr. Mr. Atom Egoyan: The Two Fridas is a painting about Colonialism.  xo, PLPB

A bit of a palate cleanser for all of us:

3 thoughts on “In Which Your Professor Goes To the Opera and Wants to Burn it Down

  1. You might enjoy Egoyan’s bit in “Slings and Arrows”, if you haven’t seen it already. If not, I think you might enjoy it, a sort of satire/spoof of Stratford.

  2. However, I realize just now that I read the article in order to see your objection to the architecture. In future, please supply a brief abstract for the sake of your reading public? Now that we have to call you doctor, you in turn have to preface each published work with an abstract. Thems the rules, I didn’t makem up.

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