Sunday, July 12, 2009

Glamor Composers and their Opera

Fragment of a comment from "Pelleas", chez Parterre, regarding Rufus Wainwright's "bringing opera to people who normally wouldn’t consider listening to it,"

...except that I don’t believe his audience is going to listen to any opera other than his. He’s made no secret of his operaphilia over the years, and it’s made no difference so far, in much the way that his Judy concert didn’t really make Garland fans out of people who weren’t in the first place.

There's something not just correct but, I think, significant in this sentiment, and as soon as I work out what it is, you'll know. This is me thinking out loud.


It is true that Josh Grobin help raise money from Congress for the NEA. For some he is an opera singer, but not for everyone. The problem with the Wainwright and others like him is that he represents a triumph of personality over product, all sizzle and no steak (sorry for this analogy my vegetarian friends).

He is not the first or the last of the glamorous being commissioned to compose opera. The bigger question is why are trained composers being ignored? The thing that may be bothering you is this; Mr. Wainwright seems so very, very, calculated. His Judy concert is a case in point. He provided a community with an "event" that was not about Judy at all, but about himself. Unlike Judy, Mr. Wainwright's skills as a singer are perhaps his weakest especially if you like understanding the words.

How can a song writer who writes songs in English compose an opera in French when his stated purpose is to popularize? Perhaps he thinks only the French speaking world will buy in? The French do love their pop music don't you know. [it seems that the language was a non issue with the MET just an excuse it seems from some of the other posts]

Anyway this is a miscalculation as removing the text from understanding puts all the pressure on the music and the composition and I'm afraid you need a composer for that.

Phil Fried

by the way and for the record--you can't turn down a Met Commission and then have it immediately pick up by other companies and also claim to be an "outsider."

a further note: It seems odd as a dramatic deux machina to present us with a charicter who refuses to sing who then sings throughout the entire opera. Also the final "song" is a direct steal of Bach by way of Gounod. Compositionaly there is a difference between a song and a dramatic scene with music. For Gershwin take a look at "Of thee I sing" and notice the how some songs are intervoven with action and used to enhase the stage drama.

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