Monday, 19 October 2009

A virtuous weekend and a bit of opera gossip

This has been a weekend of virtuous tidying, sorting out and clearing-up activities. Very tiring, and not terribly creative, and I’ve probably inhaled a lot more dust than is good for me, but I feel I’ve achieved something useful, and my conscience is now clear if I spend most of the next few weekends sketching or writing or birdwatching or baking biscuits.

On Saturday evening I flopped in front of the dvd player and gave my brain some time off. I bought several new movie dvds recently and I watched one of these; “The Red Violin”. I won’t say it’s a complete masterpiece, it’s a bit too rambling for that, but it is completely haunting. There are some odd holes and peculiarities in the plot (for example, at one point the whole story hinges on a bizarre act of grave-robbery which is completely unmotivated), and there are times when it feels a little bit rushed as the director tries to cram in all of his ideas; some of the plotlines are cramped for time and feel underdeveloped. On the other hand, it looks stunning, although it’s episodic it is very moving, it conjures the magical and transformative potency of music brilliantly, it has Samuel L Jackson in it, and best of all it has a gorgeous score by John Corigliano – I shall have to buy a recording – played, wonderfully, by Joshua Bell.

Now he’s another of my big heroes, is Mr Bell. The technique of a Heifetz and the passion of a god; delectable. I’d be happy listening to him playing whatever is the violin-equivalent of reading aloud from the telephone directory. It’s the same thing I was burbling about a few weeks ago, in re. Maestro Salonen and the Philharmonia; absolute technical mastery combined with absolute sincerity of emotional engagement.

“Emotional engagement”, nb; not emoting. No ham, please, I’m a vegetarian.

Thinking of ham, talking to my mother on the ‘phone on Sunday I learned that the so-called “Golden Couple” of the opera world are getting a divorce (I have my own views on who could be said to constitute a golden couple; not Mr Alagna and Ms Gheorghiu but Favourite Baritone and the Ballerina Missus – now that’s class).

Mr Alagna seems a nice chap, and judging by what I’ve seen of his work he can take direction (always a big help in an opera singer who is not a great actor), but Ms G has always struck me as a truly awful example of what happens if you believe your own publicity. For my money, her speciality, right from the start, was what my Dad called “ham, spam and strawberry jam”. She emotes, terribly (in both senses), but she can’t act to save her toffee. I’ve never liked her voice that much, either; I’ve heard more than one young soprano at the Coliseum in the last couple of years with as much talent in one finger as Ms G has in her whole glamour-puss person…

Now, I’m being bitchy, and I don’t want to sound as if I’m glad they’re divorcing. After more than a decade, sadly, this particular marriage hasn’t worked out. I’m the child of a divorce, and I’ve now witnessed several friends going through it, and I know how painful it can be. It is always, always sad, no matter what the circumstances, no matter who the people. I’m very sorry for the Alagnas; if the breakdown of a marriage weren’t enough pain and mess to be dealing with, they are also having to do it in public. True, they have brought their own lives, voluntarily, into the public eye; but then, as performing artists (whatever my personal opinion of Ms G’s abilities as such), they really had less choice than the rest of us about that particular issue. One cannot hope to make a career as a performing artist while shut away in a nice sealed box of privacy.

I must say, though, by avoiding Ms G I have avoided some desperately over-priced opera productions. I’d really rather not see or hear her in action. (If I ever learn that Covent Garden has a new production of “Tannhäuser” fielding Stuart Skelton as Tannhäuser, Favourite Baritone as Wolfram and Ms G as Elizabeth, I will want to jump in a lake). I think she’s an overhyped ham, and, too, rather like Callas, hearing her in action one is always aware first and foremost that this is The Great Performer, and only secondarily that this is Violetta, or Mimí, or Amelia, or whoever.

Hm; I’ve been rude about a Very Famous Singer and implicitly rude about two others, one of whom is possily The Most Famous Singer Of All Time (to my bewilderment). Will anyone now be rude to me, I wonder?!?

No comments: