Friday, December 14, 2007

Waking up to Pavarotti

This morning, I slept in. Like, I really slept in. It was amazing -- but that's for another post.

When I came downstairs, T. (who often has Friday's off) was watching The Three Tenors -- big, bombastic operatic virtuosity. This was a performance where Domingo, Carreras And Pavarotti all performed in one night. They did multiple pieces, and it was all about perfection, testosterone, and showmanship.

T. has taken up Opera and Baroque Music study and appreciation lately. He still loves political underground hip hop and R & B divas, but the European traditions are where he spends most of his time. I think his European blood is finally insisting itself upon him.

So, I stood around in my robe and we kibitzed at the screen as the tenors did their thing. It's all so over the top, we just don't have anything in America that is analogous. Pavaroti with his little white hankie, praying before he sings, standing so magnanimous yet proud as he takes in the adoration of the crowd. Oh the drama, I tell you.

Tait would just suddenly start cracking up as one of the guys busted a sustained note and collapsed down into a bow for the crowd, "I love it, it's just sooo over the top I love it!"

I wish I could re-create the kibitzing and peanut-gallery commentary, but it's that in the moment kind of humor that's hard to relate after the fact. We'd make comments like "see, here he's giving the audience a rest. He's riding them like a horse, you got to give a horse some time at the water trough or you are going to wear them out." Or, when they raised their hands to receive the adulation of the crowd after a performance, we'd say "it really is this big, yes -- it's not just the voice ladies, it's the penis, it is THIS BIG, it's true."

It went on and on.

Anyway, here is a taste of the show (we got it on Netflix). I'm no opera fan, but in just a few minutes I could tell Pavaroti was the master, the absolute pole star of this art form. It's not my style music but I know good when I see it. Plus, watching anything that occasionally throws T. into uncontrollable fits of laughter and rolling around is worth my time.

Enjoy virtuosity, wherever you happen to find it,



Giancarlo Farmhand said...

Why am I not surprised that Tait is smitten with opera?

I remember reading somewhere that at least one of the tenors (I think it was Pavarotti) lip synced performances late in his career.

I'd suggest that Mr. T (ha!) check out Puccini's "Tosca" (I like the recording with Monserrat Caballe, Jose Carreras, and Samuel Ramey conducted by Sir Colin Davis with Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) Orch. and Chorus) and Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (Georg Solti and the London Philharmonic, Bryn Terfel and Ann Murray).

"Tosca" if full throttle pretty much throughout, and the final scene, where Tosca throws herself off the Castello Gandolfo into the Tiber is great ("Scarpia, we will meet again in hell!").

"Don Giovanni" is one of Mozart's masterworks, and one of the greatest operas written. It exercises the full emotional range of Mozart's skills. It, too, has a grand finale, in which the ghost of a man whom Don Giovanni killed rides in to take him away (presumably for lunch in hell with Tosca and Scarpia).

One other favorite of mine is Mascagni's "Caveleria Rusticana". It's worth it for the praeludio alone. This opera is flat out Sicilian in its themes, and ends with a stabbing and the tenor crying out "Oh, Mama!" as he dies.

If you saw Godfather III, this was the opera that was being performed when Sofia Coppola was muerdered -- a brilliant touch that was probably unappreciated by most who saw the movie.
This opera is not widely recorded and I heartily recommend the Pavarotti.

Bpaul said...

I'll make sure T. sees your comments. I'm sure he's heard some of those pieces, but not all.

I was actually in Tosca as a child. I think I was 11 -- played an altar boy and a goatherd. Meaning, I got to carry baby goats around on stage with all the folks bellowing around me.

No singing in those parts.

Didn't get me into opera, but it was fun as hell, though the tights itched.

Tate said...

i think that women opera singers kick ass on the guys.
Maria Callas was the best in my opinion.

Dani said...

Please please watch this,'s one of my longest standing favourite internet thingies. My friend Chris and I periodically remind one another about it, because there's no way you can't smile at it.

I love opera, but I do prefer to listen to the guys singing. Gives me the chills when they hit one of those certain notes...I'm sure you know what I'm talking about!

Bpaul said...

Great little internet thingy hun, great.

I'll have to forward to Mr. T.

Stu Farnham said...

Callas ... well, vocally she was not that great (IMO) -- she tended to 'scoop' her notes. I think iot was her stage presence that distinguished her. Many opera singers are very stiff on stage, concntrating on the vocal part of their performance. Callas was physically expressive and very dynamic.

If you want to hear some outstanding voices, check out Lorraine Hunt Lieberman or Renata Tebaldi.

Tate said...

nice stu i have heard Tebaldi before nad there are many comparisons/discussions between Callas and Tebaldi. I Agree that Tebaldi was by far the purer voiced of the two, but I feel that Callas Brought the song to Life, where Tebaldi Sang it perfectly.
Don't really know enough about Lieberman to voice and opinion, but thank you for the info I am gonna look her stuff up.

Stu Farnham said...


Your comment is interesting -- I was thinking about this on the way to the transfer station (to drop of yard waste for composting, just so as not to get into landfill discussions...) and realized that I tend to view the musical voice -- at least in the western classical tradition -- as an instrument first, and so value things like pure musical quality very highly. The best voices combine musical quality and emotional expression, but they are truly rare.
By the way, Tebaldi was absolutely wooden on stage -- but what sounds came out of her, wooden or not!