Saturday, May 09, 2009

Scratchings from the world of mingy cultural minutiae

Getting pissed about yet another dumb generalization about Maria Callas (I'm not an avowed Callas freak but those comments still make me nuts; fat/thin/slumping/good posture/savant/hardworker/whatever) led to Playing YooToob for a while this afternoon, opera-style. Clicking and clicking and searching and comparing and listening and getting all worked up, aria after aria. Thing to thing to thing.

It's a very short hop from Callas to Tosca in general (with some serious Rossini tangents...note: I am determined to see the Met HDTV Cenerentola encore). And that landed me, as per usual, at a Te Deum fest, one of my fav things in opera, period, full-stop, since the time I was really way too young to yell "illanguidir con spasimo d'amor" along with Scarpia. I usually try the Ruggiero Raimondi, the Bryn Terfel, the Sherrill Milnes, others; today I tried a little Dmitri Hvorostovsky, whom I'd never heard sing that. Anyhow.

That's how I found a clip from Quantum of Solace that incorporates in one scene the Te Deum from a futuristic production of Tosca, actually recorded (so I read) at the Brengenz Festival in Vienna in 2007, with Sebastien Soules as Scarpia. Which is kind of cool and chic and internationale.

But in actuality...oh meh. Ehhh...meh. The music in the scene is so bad! Twerked and ProToolsed and edited or something. Lacking (very) the qualities that make that music--and that scene--so great: the strong orchestral role; the tolling rhythm; the layers of types of music; the slight but daring drone in Scarpia's part; the sheer evil! It's incredibly flattened out.

Soules himself is extremely meh, although who knows how he actually sounded before he was sound engineered. He sounds a little like a yelping tenor rather than a baritone, Scarpia being the baddest bad baritone who ever toned. Even the visuals of Soules make him look more like Cavaradossi, the beleaguered poet shirt-ed tenor, than Scarps. He looks all...anguished. Scarpia's a bad-ass. Did they think people wouldn't get that it was opera if there wasn't a tenor?

The other thing I'm noticing (which seems related in a 3T way) is that this piece of music seems to be in a fair way to be nessundormaed, if I may coin a snooty phrase; people are kind of glomming onto it the way the Turandot aria was commandeered in the 90s ("I love this song!").

Which was painful--this phenom led to a lot of really really bad recordings of that piece. And I know I'm being a crashing snob. And people have done this since the beginning of time! (Remember all the John Williams commercials for classical music turned into popular music in the 70s? "You may know Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto as 'Tonight We Love.'") But the Te Deum is so incredibly cool in situ; it's not a snippet, it's not a gobbet, it's not a commercial. It's dramatic and subversive; a guy ranting in church about disavowing god and seducing a woman! Somehow that stuff all goes away in scenes like the one in Q of S.

Which I guess it's supposed to, except that somewhere they are leveraging its oomph. Maybe that's just life. I know I am being a bit ridiculous and everything is commandeered for everything now. And look at me saying this after a bunch of YooToobing, which is totally gobbets and blips and snippets. There is just something about how modern movies borrow scenes from opera that is kinda lame, period, independent of the fact that I like opera and would rather see the opera itself than a kinda lame movie that kinda lamely uses a lame version of the music to lamely leverage the unconvincing drama of its lame plot. It's just often too referential, in a lazy ways. Too second-hand. Not sure about Cavalleria Rusticana and Godfather III, btw, since I don't want to watch Al Pacino get greased.

[Sidebar: The Quantum of Solace logo has been driving me nuts in a needly underground way, and I know why now that I've actually looked at it. Those Os...the O in "of" and "Solace" that are linked by font/placement and part of the "007" bit. NO! Oh man, no. It's bad to emphasis that O in of, first of all; you don't know where to put emphasis in your head correctly as a result, having it dumped on the preposition there. Plus they are Os, not 0s, which also clanks when you link it up with the seven (and the gun). It's not horrible, it just...does not please.]

And with this, I think I've used up my cranky gouty old bachelor lawyer gripes about cultural matters for a couple weeks. But there you go. The other possible name for this blog at one point was Cahiers du Whatever I Think, so...yeah, fuck it. There you go.

Nel tuo cuor s'annida Scarpia!

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