Friday, October 14, 2011

The Result of My Contribution to Literature on the Arts

   For any of you who were interested, I was given my grade for my profile of conductor James Levine this morning, and I am pleased to report that I received a 92% A- for The Wave of the Wand. For the most part I was pleased with my marks, but I did exert a good deal of effort, and I think that my original draft, had I completed it as I intended to do, should have received a better overall grade. After I claimed my essay, I was given my English Composition midterm examination, and I was completely unprepared for what I saw. Our professor had told all of us students that there would be ten or twelve multiple choice questions combined with an essay question on the test, and we discovered that we should translate this in the future to mean that there shall be eighteen questions requiring a definition with the multiple choices residing in one's brain for extraction and utilization in the specific answer.

   As for the essay portion of the exam, I felt that it was a reasonable thing to find, but I have never known an excellent essay to be born of an author's abilities in half an hour or less. It is, therefore, needless to say that my essay was not my best. Indeed, it was unfinished when our allotted time was expended. I can only hope that I make a C on this midterm exam. I think my essays will give me a low A or a high B for the course itself if I continue to receive A's for my required essays in the class.

   If I may depart from the subject of academia, I should like to focus on the operatic world at present. The Metropolitan Opera's season recently began with Anna Bolena. I have yet to hear the work and how the performers interpreted it, but there have been critical reviews of the production's opening by several arts journalists. However, though I take ample license in saying so without having experienced the quality of it prior to perusing her article, Anne Midgette's telling of events seems rather harsh. To begin the article, she compares Anna Netrebko, who plays our heroine in the production, to Maria Callas. She notes,

"This year, the star soprano Anna Netrebko has taken on the role herself, first in Vienna in April and now at the Metropolitan Opera, where she opened the season in the company’s first-ever production of the work on Monday night. Yet Netrebko’s “Anna Bolena” showed little of the care that made Callas’s so memorable. Monday’s performance was littered with missed intonations, smeared runs and a good deal of running about the stage with clasped hands, which evidently qualifies as operatic acting."
    Of course, I am quite prepared to concede that the acting may have been less than desirable from Netrebko, but Callas's acting was rarely something of praise, especially as her vocal talent began to decline. Later, Midgette mentions that Netrebko breaks character to acknowledge the adoration of an audience, but it is also necessary to intimate that Callas was known to do the exact same thing, and this is evidenced by a recent Opera News feature by Eric Myers.

"Ira Siff, stage director, Met broadcast commentator and creator of drag diva Mme. Vera Galupe-Borszkh, singles out a moment in Act III of that performance that was formative for him. It was the high-lying phrase "Io quella lama" that ends Tosca's narrative of how she killed Scarpia. "By 1965, Callas's high C was not a thing of beauty," he says, "and when she lunged at it in that phrase, the sound elicited a loud gasp from the audience. Callas, entirely in character and a brilliant Tosca all evening, broke it for a split second to glare in the direction of the public, those huge eyes darting toward us for just one terrifying moment. After that, we behaved.'"

  It also bears to be mentioned that Midgette seems to have become rather hostile towards performances lately, especially the high profile ones. My specific reference is to an episode that occurred recently in which she accused Placido Domingo of "sabotage" during a performance of Tosca that he conducted at Washington National Opera. She claimed that the performance was so ill at times that Domingo must have been the culprit, and then she used the word sabotage to describe his action. Now, it begs to be said that Domingo is a world renowned musician of appreciable ability in conducting, and there are times in which he is not his best, which usually come when he has had little time to rehearse, but for Midgette to employ such a remark in all of its scathing connotation is rather much for my taste.

  In the light of all of this, I begin to wonder what credibility arts journalists possess. If they are so expertly knowledgeable about music and how it should be performed, why are they not performing it? Are they more erudite than those on whose livelihood this is based? The question of whether the critic uses their publication as a means to print exaggerated reviews against someone or a production for their gain of notoriety yet remains, and I am curious to know what others think on the subject. As for myself, I try not to judge a performance or a piece until I have heard it. I can honestly admit that I can only think of one piece of music for which I could write a review of its reprehensible vices, and that would be Saariajo's L'amour de Loin. Even though Dawn Upshaw, who is one of my favorite sopranos, is the star of the production, I do not appreciate the monotonous music to any degree. I may elucidate further on this in the future, but I shall leave it at that.

  Finally, thank you for your kind perusal of my post, and I pray that God continues to bless your existence. -Tyler.

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