Saturday, October 25, 2008

A real child

Puccini knew how to pour real feelings into his music. It's all there to be delivered to the receptive audience. It doesn't need "help". Madame Butterfly has a real child, flesh and blood, which makes the drama poignant, painful, excruciatingly human. When that child is embraced at the end the audience will hurt with her. No distractions. Nothing else on that stage. Butterfly, the child and the music. I don't have time to scan every Butterfly-child image in my archive. This image, Gilda Cruz Romo, will stand for all the genuine interpretations. It is a heart-searing moment, meant to be. To distort this is a crime against art.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Waste and Twitches

It makes me sad and angry that perfectly good sets and props are discarded. We live in an age of economic uncertainty and waste money on glitzy productions that will have a short life span because shallow becomes boring very fast. How nice it would be to have revivals of operas that have been done with honor to the music. Or will the audience not be able to tolerate that which requires some concentration?!

I've chosen the NYC Opera MEFISTOFELE because it was enthusiastically enjoyed and I'm sure now demolished. Current theory: anything that was has no merit. Well, think again. If the treasures are worthless then why is there a hunger for recordings of performances from the past?

I'm waiting for the day that the medical community does a proper study of human brains now that they have been exposed to excessive electronic devices. There is much written and commented about the use of cell phones and texting devices during performances. I think people are addicted, can't sit still, can't function without the adrenalin fix of an electronic device, brains too neurologically impaired to be able to relax. If the audience can't sit calmly, can't let themselves be wrapped in the greatness of art then we're all doomed.

"Can" music. Do great art work as cartoons. Close the theaters and museums. Shovel out "plastic imitation".

Simple is good. Composers and artists knew what they were doing. Traditionalists got it right. Heritage should not be thrown away. And there should be a law. If you can't speak proper English, can't spell, don't know proper manners and common sense then you can't own an electronic device.

Monday, October 13, 2008


There has been much written about nudity in SALOME. At the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils in the current Met production Salome is staged to strip to nothing. Nudity does not a Salome make. And if any singer doing this role doesn't feel comfortable doing this there are suitable alternatives. It's something that should be discussed before a production reaches the stage. Certainly movie stars have been known to balk when asked to do nude scenes.

I have been lucky to have heard and seen brilliant Salomes all of whom were sexy as could be and kept their clothes on. They used their voices to conjure up this willful, spoiled, obsessed female. And when it came time for the dance they used their legs. But mostly the characterizations were vocal,.. mesmerizing, sending chills up your spine.

I prefer a true biblical setting where the interaction between Salome and Herod is clear cut with both performers working face to audience. You can not have Herod with his back to the audience. In fact both Herod and Herodias must show their facial expressions clear for the audience. That's half the fun. Salome is nuts. She didn't get that way accidentally.

The words and action are so spine-tingling that the work could be done on a blank stage. I saw the Oscar Wilde play once in a stark room and was totally gripped by the drama. The only props were a knife, some fruit, a goblet, a silver tray and the head. Nothing else was needed.

Nudity is a gimmick, unnecessary if the performers have it in their voices and being to encompass the roles. Try a lacy skin costume if necessary. Very sexy and alluring.
This is Birgit Nilsson, SALOME Jan. 19, 1966. The head was William Dooley.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Peter Grimes

If time permitted I'd scan more old films, but that's hard during the shooting season. The Vickers Peter Grimes stands as the epitome of this role for me. My heart bled for Grimes from the first measure of the score. There was a giant on the stage, an anguished man, supreme artist. It made work thrilling and torturous,.... capture what's happening, do justice to greatness, get into the soul of Grimes. Exhausting endeavor. Yes, there are many more images, but there isn't time to scan everything. I wish the digital tools had been available in 1977.

Monday, October 6, 2008

April 7, 1966

This was one of my first FIDELIOs. It didn't get better than this. The magic couple. There was no gimmickry. It was Beethoven. I was there to learn the opera. This is a memory that will live with me forever. Vickers, Nilsson and Milnes, then Nilsson and Vickers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Precious memories

One of the segments during the Stratas Tribute program last week was a video clip from the 1978 "Bartered Bride", a duet between Marenka and Vasek, Stratas with Jon Vickers. I remember that presentation. A photographer is supposed to remain impartial, capture the truth, don't let feelings interrupt the work responsibility, but I can't do that and could never do that. Stratas and Vickers were giants. What they did radiated out into the house. It was impossible not to be consumed with feelings, not to fall totally in love, not to laugh or hurt according to what was happening, not to try to soak it all into the camera.

One thinks of Vickers as Peter Grimes, Siegmund, Parsifal, Florestan, Otello,- but he was also a wonderful comedian and as Vasek, a perfect bumbling, sweet, endearing town boy. Every word, every inflection had that Vickers quality. Perfection. It was delicious.
There will be more Vickers entries in the future. The hard part will be looking at the images and making the editorial selections. It will be done with enormous thankfulness.