Friday, June 06, 2008

 

Alex and Jonathan at the [mostly] opera blog Wellsung (a delightful pun on one dynastic strain in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung) published this link to a big rap ensemble number from the new musical “In the Heights.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSTjRUMfOKI

I’m not normally into rap (although Beastie Boys really caught my attention—as if Kurt Weill had cross-pollinated with hip-hop) but this is very different—witty, filled with character and put together with startling similarity to a big act-ending finale to a Rossini opera. There’s the layering of voices, complexity of the shifting but always forward-moving tempi and the sheer delight of hearing everybody involved keep the big structure up in the air and speeding to the finish.

There are also related links to the author talking about how he got hooked on the idea of writing for the musical stage and other related material.

*******

Sunday afternoon I went down to Boston for Chorus Pro Musica/Boston Concert Opera’s performance of Bizet’s Carmen at New England Conservatory of Music’s Jordan Hall. The place was packed to the rafters and excitement was tangible in the audience.
Victoria Livengood was back in Boston as Carmen.


Livengood did an important part of her vocal training at the Conservatory—I still have a program for her in Menotti’s The Medium when she was just starting out. Her last appearance here, two years ago as Dalila in Saint-Saens Samson et Dalila, was close to sensational. Her voice is a dramatic mezzosoprano with a very strong lower register and a brilliant top. Despite the size and weight of her voice, she’s retained her ability to sing the grace notes and to feather the voice down to a slender thread of tone when required. When I complimented her on this at the post-performance reception, she was delighted since she works hard to maintain that kind of vocal flexibility.

She’s also a totally committed actress, and Carmen has become a specialty. It’s an opera that’s done all the time, but rarely done really well. It makes huge demands on the woman singing the title role: four major solo arias, a variety of duets and ensembles, a great deal of physical action (some of it violent), a broad emotional range, and some flamenco accompanying herself with castanets.
Livengood aced it all, and she directed the semi-staged production into the bargain (quite well, this lady knows what makes effective theater).

For me, the highlight of her performance was the short, fatal fourth act. I’ve never liked Carmens who go to their death kicking and screaming. She’s read her fate in the cards and specifically tells friends who warn her that her former lover is in the crowd that she fears nothing. Carmen’s a fatalist who knows there’s no escaping destiny. Livengood stood magnificently still and let her Don Jose, the very effective Adam Klein, stalk her, plead, threaten and finally snap. In a way it was passive-aggressive suicide; the more determinedly, contemptuously calm she became, the more he was driven frantic. Finally there was nothing left for him to do, no place to go or words left to say; just a blade in the gut and a sharp cry. She was dead, he destroyed.

This wasn’t a pretty or picturesque Spanish entertainment but a stark drama of life, death and fate. The audience exploded.

*******

Fritz got a call the other day from the head of the state's Democratic Party organization asking him to run for State Representative for the local district. I’d been away overnight and when I got back he was mulling over the pros and cons. There were many of both. My first reaction was what a wonderful capstone it could be for his career; my second was that he’s one of the least political people I know and I wondered if he wouldn’t be frustrated out of his head.

After we talked about it, he sent off emails to two very experienced, well-connected friends seeking their opinion. One of them, a guy who’s been part of our Sweat Lodge group for years and who’s done extensive public relations and event planning for our pioneering gay Bishop Gene Robinson, wrote a beautifully reasoned and composed reply that focused all the reasons why Fritz shouldn’t do it. In truth, Fritz already knew he shouldn’t, but having it so clearly and logically laid out enabled him to pick up the phone and say thanks, but no thanks.

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The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush

Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to ptactice their, their love with women all across this country.


Comments:
Why, Fritz you old poltician, you. I can just see you slapping the backs of your constituents, holding babies, and crying with mommys. Wait! No, it's the other way around: Slapping babies, holding the mommies and crying BECAUSE OF your constituents. May I be your chief of staff?
 
Even knowing you guys only through this blog and some e-mails, I'm glad he's not doing it. Politics can be a very nasty business, even at the local level. I decided during my years in government that I didn't want to run for office, despite having been well positioned to do so. For one thing, I don't suffer fools well, and that doesn't mix well with successful politics. One is expected to value all opinions, as if they all are well-educated and carefully contemplated views when the opposite usually is true. No, not the life for me. And I suspect that Fritz will be happier without it, too!
 
yucko
there was nothing 'lovely' about doing OB-GYN. it was hard work, often messy and full of hardships.
Bozo is right though many OB-GYN MDs are calling it quits; it is too difficult and too costly to do.
 
That 96,000 finale was a really sweet thing. Liked it a lot. Most accessible--- it has rap in it, sure, but with a stong smooth-jazz vibe taking care of sharp edges, one would have to be a churl not to surrender at the moment.
 
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