Art, Music, & Film: March 2007 Archives

Took Sam to see Madama Butterfly Friday night and I had forgotten how angry the Opera makes me. It seems that Puccini lavishes his lyrical might in the service of a story that, at best, is a thin tissue of immoralities strung together by implausibilities: a predatory, pedophile, American naval officer toys with the affections of a mentally unstable codependent girl, leaving her with a chld to go off and marry a "real" wife in America, and returning only to steal away the son he had by here, ultimately to her destruction.

My questions--what use her friends, who in the moments of greatest torment run off one direction or another? Am I supposed to be sympathetic to the moral monster that is Pinkerton--please--knowing that you are basically hiring a long-term prostitute even though she thinks she's getting married, running off and marrying elsewhere, returning and then whining about how upset you are that you upset her?

Every syllable a waste in the service of such nonsense. Even the amazingly beautiful aria Un Bel Di basically a neurotic paean to deliberate and cultivated ignorance.

Well, I can say that the performance I saw had the virtue of versimilitude. Madama Butterfly was played by an up-and-coming young Korean Opera star, the voice, the orchestra, and everything flowed together smoothly into an evening of really beautiful, if terribly wasted music.

I know, I was supposed to cry. But I was too busy wondering where in all this mishmash there was anyone who really cared. Even when there are people who do care, there can be tragedy--but this ultimately manipulative melodrama is better listened to without any sense of the story--or with perhaps the few glimpses you get from time to time through television or the movies. Believe me--if you've seen them, you've seen enough.

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Speaking of Music

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As I wasn't, last night I found two of the most remarkable and enjoyable pieces I've heard in quite some time. They're really off the beaten track so you may have to go out of your way to find them, but I assure you, it is worth the effort.

The first is Liu Wen-Jin's Erhu Concerto. The friend who shared it with me did not tell me where it came from, but it might be part of this.

The erhu is a traditional instrument of China--sometimes called the "Chinese fiddle." It has two strings and a sound that is, as with the Koto or the sitar, absolutely distinctive. When you hear this you will say as my wife did, "Chinese restaurant music." Now, she didn't listen to the whole thing, but she also has little tolerance for the tones of the Chinese instrument. And it is displayed to virtuoso perfection in this concerto. You never once leave the bounds of China, and yet the composition is also strangely formal and classically western, with moments that suggest Tchaikovski and Beethoven.

The other piece is a magnificent harpsichord concerto by Henryk Gorecki. The harpsichord is distinctive and yet perfectly blended with the orchestra in this very minimalist, or at least minimalist-influenced piece. It's only about 10 minute long and divided into two very agitated, very rapid movements. I love the harpsichord and I regret its relegation to the closet of antiquities just because of the tonalities of the Piano. It is good to hear it used to such good purpose in this concerto.

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The Shuffle Thing

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In news you can't use--the top ten on the iPod after shuffle:

Cantus - Song Of Tears: Adiemus
Mexican Shuffle: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Come Together/Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry [Transition]:The Beatles
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Carly Simon
Ave verum Corpus: William Byrd
Ave Verum Corpus: Mozart
Temptasyon: Mediaeval Baebes
Hablas De Mí: Gloria Estefan
El Cumbanchero: The Ventures
Rose Garden: Lynn Anderson

That was actually fun and informative. Even if you don't post the results, try it--you might find the results very interesting.

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Alberto Ginastera


In the category of "as if you care" I am presently enjoying the string quartets of Alberto Ginastera--a remarkably fine treading of the sensiblities between utter atonalism and slavish modalism. For all I know reviled by both sides because he refused an encampment with either. But you know, it doesn't really matter all that much, it appeals to me. And critics largely exist to try to drain the joy from everyone else. So I've grown accustomed to ignoring them.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Art, Music, & Film category from March 2007.

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