Sunday, March 8, 2009

Grand opera still sucks, but not as much as it did before

I'm now watching La Traviata starring Joan Carden - Opera Australia again.

The drama is much better (they only stopped for a curtain call at the end of each act), the voices are way better, and the leads know how to act (the chorus are just singing scenery - but it's grand opera, they aren't involved in the plot anyway).

And the set is completely brilliant. Dat's what money can do for you folks... I wonder if it would be worth crewing an AO show just once, just to see what it's like.

But still, this DVD does absolutely nothing for me - not even compared to the Utopia Ltd Chris brought home one day. (Everything else is the same - DVD quality, a show I don't know but am curious to find out about, a high budget production, a company in which I know nobody, etc. Uncanny.)

Anyway, I think I can finally put my finger on what it is I don't like about the whole concept:

1. It takes so much training to get a girl's voice to the point where she can be a lead in a pro company's show, that she never makes it until she's at least 40. And there's only so much that makeup and stage lights can do - she may look approximately marriageable age, but if she sang "Were I thy bride" Wilfred would run a mile. With the keys still firmly on his belt.

2. There's no harmonies - you have a lead sop and a lead tenor, and they're singing different notes which are technically in the chord the orchestra is playing, but opera-style singing is all about power, not about balance with the rest. She's singing an octave above him, so no harmonic coming through. They're both on mike and the orchestra are across a few miles of stage and two storeys downstairs, so no harmonic there either. The result is that the sound that comes through the speakers to me is just a mess. I can't even pick up a chord from the orchestra because it's mixed lower than the singers.

3. The plots are so complex they put the Grand Duke to shame. These two guys are both in love with this girl, she favours one, he makes a few cagey advances and her passions overflow towards him, his father comes and tells her a story which makes her give him up (but we kind of guess he's made the story up from selfish motives), I'm lost. Just give me something simple like a girl loves a guy but he's below her station, he points a pistol at his head and she relents, her other suitor abandons his egalitarian principles and falls in love with the fat lady, and they all live happily ever after.

4. The music isn't suitable to the plot - when everything is confused, the music should be at patter speed! That gives the director an excuse to have people running all over the stage like scalded cats, and might even bring on some awesome lighting states. How can you convey the idea that your brain is melting with horror at the hideous situation that has emerged when you have a bunch of dotted minims scored for you?

5. No humour! I guess I have high standards, having been brought up on Willie Schwenck's excellent output. But can't you at least put in a bit of a well crafted insult? Alfredo's dad, thou art a very brute, but even brutes must look after their daughters I suppose!

6. I speak English. Please make the necessary adjustments.

1 comment:

Devout Hypocrite said...

You have highlighted everything that irks me about grand opera. The main one, the age thing, has been my biggest peeve for the longest time. It's not SO bad when you have horrible seats and can't really see the people on stage, which is good for those of us who are cheap. It's bad for those of us who are so cheap we don't go to the theater and instead opt to watch it on TV.