Esther Williams (1921-2013)



T/J: I saw my first opera last night, if you don’t count Brecht as opera. I liked it — Dulce Rosa, based on an Isabel Allende short story. There were happy villagers, but they got unhappy when bad things happened to the leading lady.

So here’s my question: is there a convention in opera about whether the score is supposed to be melodic (or not) when people are doing bits of business, e.g. talking to each other to set up a big song (“Where is your Father? He is in the garden . . .”).

@Dodgerblue: There’s a convention called “Recitative” where the singers kind of speak the music… Benedict will know more about it, I think, but that’s probably what you’re referring to.

@Dodgerblue: Darling, that’s recitative. Always best when heard in a language you don’t understand. Verdi is full of endless chats about angels on high. Who brought real drama to bear was Wagner who’s chat bits are electrifying when sung in the listener’s language. The idea behind recit is that it carries forward the plot till the next point where the story, as expressed by melody, can take over. The relationship of recit to aria is an ongoing struggle. For me there must be melody as it allows the voice to soar on a singing line of breath. Others would disagree. But I remember well the astonishing experience of seeing Janacek’s Jenufa and being stunned by the torrent of melody and emotion coming across the footlights. And yes, in opera, it is correct to have Happy Villagers. That’s where they come from. Just don’t let them come in to a musical and stink up the neighborhood.

For your next opera I recommend the verismo school. Perhaps Madama Butterfly. You will bawl like a fool.

Lovely woman. The films are so boring they make you want to kick the nearest pug. But bravo, Esther. Single handed you invented the hair moisturizer industry.

@Dodgerblue: Two guys out on the town, no homo. Note the recit aria construction. Blah blah blah then the tenor pulls down heaven and the bass gets in on the action.

Bizet before Carmen

@Dodgerblue: The Santa Fe Opera has chairback translation screens in three languages so the audience can understand what the hellz going on. We’re looking at a couple this year.

Some of you may be interested in the opera Billy Budd, which Mrs RML saw a few years ago at SFO Lots of shirtless sailors, she said.

For those of us “a far piece” from live opera, there are a number of really great HD operas available free on You Tube. Put them up on your big screen and enjoy (also a number of the BBC’s Prom videos).

@redmanlaw: Shirtless sailors are always a good thing. As was shirtless Rafael Nadal after the French Open. Mr. SFL was a good sport and laughed as I yelled at the TV this morning, “Take your time, Rafa, no rush to put on that jacket.”

We were both amazed by Rafa’s oblique muscles. Holy Jesus Fucking Christ, that man doesn’t have a 6-pack or 12-pack, he has an 18-pack. Mr. SFL said, “I didn’t even know you could have a muscle over there.”

@Tommmcatt Can’t Believe He Ate The Whole Thing: @Benedick: Thank you, gentlemen. I may need to see more. The female lead in Dulce Rosa, María Eugenia Antúnez, had astonishing range and power. And the singers were not mic’d, as far as I could tell.

@Dodgerblue: If they were miked (how do we spell that word?) get your money back. One of the joys of opera is hearing real voices floated over the orchestra. It takes a lot of physical strength to produce that kind of sound.

@redmanlaw: I love Billy Bud. In my opinion Britten wrote the best vocal music in English since Handel. Also the best settings, his songs for a tenor voice and piano are, as they say, very grateful to the voice. Plus, sailors.

There’s nothing like the immediacy of hearing an opera sung in one’s own language. Given the way the big companies operate and singers work that’s almost impossible so we have translations, which is good, but not the same.

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