March 31, 2008

"It is brash, coarse, menacing, ugly — deliberately so."

"This is not to say there aren't moments of beauty; but these are moments, fleeting. And when the opera is comic, as it often is, it is frightening-comic — not pleasant-comic."

That would be Prokofiev's opera version of the Dostoevsky story "The Gambler," which we saw at The Metropolitan Opera tonight. Frightening-comic — not pleasant-comic... Isn't that what you want in your opera?

14 comments:

Tibore said...

"Frightening comic..."

"Comic", as in comedic? Or as in "comique"? I don't know jack about "The Gambler"; the only Prokofiev work I've ever heard is "Peter and the Wolf".

Well wait... that story has got to mean "comic" as in "ha-ha"... the other definition doesn't make any sense in the context of the article.

Anyway... "pleasant-comic". It sounds boring, I gotta admit. I've seen enough of "pleasant-comic" opera. It's cute the first time around, but after the 5th or 6th viewing (I used to be a light tech at the university opera house) it just gets annoying (exhibit A: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld). I wouldn't mind seeing some in-your-face "frightening-comic".

Simon said...

"Peter and the Wolf" is to Prokofiev as Apple is to Newton.

jult52 said...

I only know the suite from "The Gambler" and there is a really beautiful theme representing the heroine, but apart from that it is really subpar Prokofiev. But hope you liked it enjoyed yourself.

rhhardin said...

I always wonder where opera audiences come from.

Manuela Hoelterhoff made her name not as an opera reviewer but for doing a review of Disneyland for the WSJ. I think the two are related.

tjl said...

"I always wonder where opera audiences come from."

Opera audiences come from those who have been exposed to the art form before silly negative preconceptions have had a chance to take hold. The marriage of music and drama creates something richer and deeper than either (when the marriage is working, of course).

Ann Althouse said...

If you want to hear great music played live, with live actors on stage in front of you, playing out a story and singing beautifully, with magnificent sets and costumes -- that's opera. It seems to combine many of the things people love. There's also the element of a night out in a very glamorous setting, where you can put on your finest clothes and see other people in their festive get-ups. Core human behavior, I'd say. The surprising thing is that more people don't go in for it.

rhhardin said...

Hoffnung had a nice cartoon of an opera singer with a knob ``wobble'' on his chest, that he was adjusting upwards to 11 probably.

I always figured it was because they couldn't sing on key and were hunting for it.

Musical it ain't.

George said...

Ever wonder what the opera 'Salome' is about?

Imagine the movie "Carrie" onstage.

Lady in a blood-drenched white gown holding a severed head yodeling for a half hour.

tjl said...

"Lady in a blood-drenched white gown holding a severed head yodeling for a half hour"

The "yodeling" is a throbbingly lush musical rendering, by soprano and 100-piece orchestra, of a depraved princess' necrophiliac orgasm. Musically and dramatically it's a knockout.

J said...

It's gutsy to put Galouzine in that role because, let's be honest, Kenny Rogers just owns it.

"I always wonder where opera audiences come from"

They're people who can't afford Nextel Cup tickets.

John K. said...

I own a Dover thrift edition of "The Gambler," but have yet to read it, though I need to, since Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors and since I've recently come down from a few-year stint as an internet poker addict (an addiction though which happily netted me well over $10k).

"Frightening-comic," or grotesquely-absurd," is a label which would apply to much of Dostoevsky's work.

Chip Ahoy said...

At Santa Fe by the time I realized I neglected to pack dress shoes it was too late to shop. Friends convinced me my penny loafers were perfectly fine because they were new looking and I was, after all, only twenty and could get away with crap like that, and too, it was, after all, Santa Fe. Quit laughing! -- they were penny-less loafers, the cordovan kind that go with anything. Anyway, I was completely distracted. The opera, The Magic Flute, which is apparently a political statement about the Masons, has a lot of magic in it. I think that's what's supposed to make the staging interesting but I couldn't tell you, my attention was riveted by a fantastic electrical storm occurring in the distance behind the stage. Whence all those opera enthusiasts? Dunno. From all over the U.S. as far as I could tell, in Santa Fe specifically for the opera and for the top restaurants and galleries to be found there.

Richard Dolan said...

"The surprising thing is that more people don't go in for it."

Peter Gelb has made it his mission to change that. I think he is succeeding. Marketing has finally come to the Met, and just in time.

BJK said...

I didn't know Dostoevsky wrote for Kenny Rogers...

...must be one of those April Fools Day jokes I keep hearing about.