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Opera Outside of the US

June 21, 2013
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Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 1.34.20 AMI’m on an opera binge. On Thursday, The Pink Flamingo complained about the lack of coverage of the Summer Olympics of Opera.  My complaining is going to continue for awhile.  What drove me over the cliff was waiting nearly three months to finally get to see Un Ballo in Maschera (on television) only to discover the local PBS station doesn’t bother with opera.  Sure, if I lived in a more civilized region of the world, I wouldn’t be required to drive 3 hours each way to see the Metropolitan Opera, live in HD, but I live in the middle of New Mexico.  Where I live is so remote that I lived here ten years without access to Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on local (crap) PBS radio.  I was locked out of that until Sirius began carrying the Met.

And, yes, I’m complaining.

One of the things that is truly dismaying The Pink Flamingo is the increasingly barbaric tendency in this country to thumb one’s nose at real world culture, arts, sciences, and learning. We truly do have a war, not only on women in this country, but on the arts, sciences, research, culture, learning, and manners. These same GOP uneducated barbarians want to cut scientific research in this country.  I suppose their Koch Machine handlers will be doing all the research for themselves.  It’s like the euphemistically named ‘Pro-Life’ (what a joke that) movement which has basically outlawed the use of RU-486, which is basically a gynecological wonder drug for women.

We have a war on culture, the arts, and things of beauty.  For some odd reason, Republicans think the only thing their constituents want to hear are has-been country artists, patriotic jingoistic stanzas designed to rouse the tea party crowd, and heart-wrenching gospel favorites sung with a nasal twang.  If it isn’t about God blessing the USA, proudly as they wave their flags, stomp out wasteful spending, and declare war on the National Endowment of the Arts, then it just isn’t patriotic.  A list of the so-called ‘artists’ who performed at the coronation of Mitt Romney last summer should show how culturally backward my once great Republican Party has become.

One of the casualties of this new austerity, designed to punish anyone who isn’t part of the Koch Machine crowd is classical music.  Opera companies and symphonies throughout the country have been forced to either close their doors entirely, or so severely cut back and change their schedule that their version of ‘classical’ and opera is almost entirely different from what it once was.  While The Pink Flamingo is all for a night at the symphony made up entirely of symphonic versions of popular commercial tunes, I do think musicals at the opera are barbaric.

In other parts of the world, opera is big news, headline news, with performers being given rock-star status.

Hvorostovsky.com

Hvorostovsky.com

This is what a presser in Europe looks like when two of the most important operatic voices in history converge for a one night operatic stand.  Here in New Mexico, our local PBS affiliate can’t even be bothered showing Great Performances at the Met on the right day and time.  Where I live, the affiliate shows reruns of country music and Lawrence Welk, but no opera.

MuseCube

MuseCube

Now, compare that with a screen-shot, taken at the time of this post’s writing, with a Google search of news about the Santa Fe Opera.

Google Search Santa Fe Opera

Google Search
Santa Fe Opera

I limited the search to 1 week.  There were two pages of ‘news’, very little of it actually relevant.  Speaking of which, considering the 2014 schedule, why would I even waste my time going.  I hate Santa Fe worse than any other place in the known and unknown universe.

Music Cube

Music Cube

If you are a world-class opera star who lives elsewhere, you get rock star status.  This is a shot from Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s facebook page.  He is known as the Elvis of Opera. He performs before heads of states, and hundreds of thousands of World War II soldiers, who consider him a treasure.  In Russia his venues – stadiums – are packed.

Here?

Hvorostovsky Facebook

Hvorostovsky
Facebook

This is, if you haven’t figured it out, rock star status – anywhere but in the US, where Dmitri Hvorostovsky, last spring, could not even draw a full house at Kennedy Center.  The critics who were there were unlearned, patronizing, and had no idea what they were listening too, let alone who they were honored to watch.

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 11.17.50 PMYes, this is rock star status, anywhere but here in the US.  Here in New Mexico, when the legendary Sherrill Milnes did a recital at the Spencer Theater (only decent thing they’ve had there since I’ve lived here) it was less than half full.  I still can’t imagine such a thing, the greatest baritone the world has ever known, and here in New Mexico, forget about it.

Then there is the review in Bloomberg.  It’s all about what the exquisite Anna Netrebko wore. ALso mentioned was the crowd of nearly 8000 and the fact that people shelled out nearly a thousand bucks a pop for the ‘show’.  As usual it was all about the soprano.  As a baritone junkie, The Pink Flamingo should be immune to such things, and the stupidity of critics who know nothing about opera.

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 11.37.45 PM
Typical of such things, Bloomberg’s woefully ignorant critics could not be bothered admitting that Dmitri Hvorostovsky is THE biggest star not only in Russia, but one of the leading super-stars in Europe. We simply can’t have it said that an opera singer might be bigger than some nasal twanging country music twit on Caterwauling with the Utterly Lacking in Talent Stars.

Why am I complaining?  Europe gets the big stars in the summer.  What do we get?  Why bother singing here when you get huge audiences in Europe?  Sure, there are festivals here, but increasingly they are torturing us with really crappy musicals.  Sorry, I hate musicals.  I love the music from South Pacific because of the incredible baritone role.  But, I’ll just stay home and watch Singing in the Rain on DVD thank you very much.

The cultural intellects among us like to cry about how the art form of opera is dying.  People don’t want to go to performances.  Why bother, when they are something out of an S & M orgy complete with naked dancers.  Yes, that happened.  Or, who wants to see their favorite opera turned into a political statement about the Nazi death camps complete with naked Holocaust victims being executed on stage?  And – they wonder why people no longer bother going to opera.

That’s why!

Opera is the perfect blending of all art forms (even ballet which I detest).  It is designed to elevate the senses and put the viewer in a cultural stupor that should last for hours.  You don’t get that with the disgusting stagings of today.  Don’t worry, The Pink Flamingo is working on a special rant and rave just about this very thing.
Some wonderful soul has put the entire concert on YouTube. Bless them!

The Pink Flamingo is an admitted Dmitri Hvorostovsky and unashamed Barihunk junkie.  This said, even I am blown away at the vocal quality of this concert.  I think it is one of the best vocal orgies I’ve experienced, the greatest being a performance of the Met, in Atlanta, featuring the late Richard Cassilly, Sherrill Milnes, and I think it was Renata Scotto.

This performance is incredible.  Hvorostovsky is beyond belief.  When right on, his voice is the perfect musical instrument.  He is right on here, with a concert that makes one realize the great Sherrill Milnes has a worthy successor.

Truly, this may be the greatest operatic paring since Sherrill Milnes and my beloved Beverly Sills.  I truly cannot think of anyone else to compare Netbreko too.

P. S.  Her other half, Erwin Schrott is arguably the greatest base-baritone in operatic history, in my humble estimation, and I’ve had the honor of hearing the late great Jerome Hines many times.

 

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6 Comments

  • Sharon says:

    My son wrote our two OK Senators complaining about their votes to cut funding for Endowment for the Arts and also Humanities which is such a small part of the budget. He received back condescending replies. That is typical of the hard right who don’t believe in science, arts, or humanities.

    Why are conservatives afraid of the arts, science, and humanities? Are they afraid they might actually get enlightened?

    Since PBS gave into the Koch’s and pulled a documentary, I have wondered about some of their selections. The Kansas Koch brother seems like he is out of the dark ages when it comes to arts and humanities.

    Opera is a big part of the Arts and should be embraced not shoved aside.

  • unknown jane says:

    They trash the humanities for much the same reason that some progressives have debauched the humanities: the arts are vital to culture and society, to the upbringing and further enrichment of the free and critical mind, the ethical and moral person, the fully functioning adult in a fully functioning, responsible society (think this nasty business with this benighted Kate girl and her transgressions — and her supporters).
    Do away with them, and you will have your cowed in ignorance and debauchery masses of sheep.

    There are some very big problems within the arts (namely that there is no fine appreciation of them, thus truly low tripe is celebrated — think Piss Christ imhao, which wasn’t even creative or innovative, and shocking only in its profound bratiness), just as there are big problems within education (for many of the same reasons) — the proof of the pudding as to any groups’ intentions would be whether or not they are willing to fix that…so far neither the right nor the left have shown me much by way of a vote of confidence in that.

    Just my two cents…spoken as a person who is of the rougher edges of society (some of my kids have tattoos and all — but we know the difference between a salad fork and a dessert spoon…and the necessity of charming table manners and dinner conversation…as well as the need for some semblance of social mores and civic duty ;) ). Lovely video by the way; I very much appreciate it.

  • SJ Reidhead says:

    Good to hear from you. My big complaint with the National Endowment of both the Arts & Humanities is that it should not go to individuals, but rather established non-profit artistic institutions that enrich the public character of the nation. I’ve known too many artists who have made an excellent living supporting themselves. If they can’t get a part-time job and work on the side like we’ve all done at one time or another in our artistic careers.

    Of course tripe is celebrated. The critics must appear to be sophisticated so they do the Emperor’s New Clothes things. I’ve been working on a post about opera productions. People aren’t going. Who would, when half the time the productions are not faithful to the intent of the ‘play’ or the composer? You make it appealing to the masses and the masses (who aren’t as unwashed and stupid as the so-called sophisticates want to think they are) will come.

    SJR

  • unknown jane says:

    LoL…that reminds me of reading a couple of articles, one from Germany the other from Australia if I remember, where the performances featured public defecation, masturbation, and the severed heads of Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha (and Mozart if I remember on one of them correctly). Perhaps I am truly of unsophisticated taste, but I fail to see what those things have in common with Mozart, nor do I really find such things enlightening (or really even pleasant to watch). Now it doesn’t have to be all Norman Rockwell pictures or the like (that would be oppressive and dull as well), but perhaps it might be time to reconsider what is actually tasteful or why productions aren’t attended anymore…maybe because they have turned to tripe and nobody likes it?

    And you’re spot on with the self supporting artist…probably a good half of what’s supported wouldn’t be able to be self supporting, and under the current system some very talented artists are passed over because the “sophisticated” elite don’t consider them…which is really not supporting the arts at all when you think about it. It stifles it as assuredly as Stalin did, just in a softer way, but it’s there nonetheless. Good art and the appreciation of the same cannot thrive in such a habitat.

  • unknown jane says:

    Yeah, I don’t comment much of anywhere anymore — there is really very little to say. I just read.

  • SJ Reidhead says:

    Good to know you are still there. I don’t do much commenting, other than a couple places, either.

    SJR


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