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Subject: Re: La Castafiore - The Fat Lady Sings
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Date:Sun, 10 Jan 2010 23:34:58 -0500
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On Sun, 10 Jan 2010, Beckmesserschmitt wrote:

> Tintin is a French comic - 

The original versions of those *comics* (known as LES  BANDES DESSINEES
or BD in contemporary French) are written in French. But the father of
Tintin, Herge, was a Belgian - one of the most famous Belgians from the
past century.

really more closely related to today's 
> graphic novels, although it was avant la lettre - which I have 
> followed in a very desultory way. I learned today that there is an 
> opera character in Tintin, Bianca Castafiore, and although she's about 
> the only female character in the male world of Tintin, and not all 
> that sympathetic - kind of a Margaret Dumont than Marguerite Duras - 
> I wonder if anyone knows about her, or has any opinions? 

I beg to disagree. I find her very charming. Let's face it: she is beyond
nice and unpleasant - she is a diva!

Hers is a recurring character, and a favorite of Tintin's fans, so much so
that Herge eventually had to devote a whole album to her - LES BIJOUX DE
LA CASTAFIORE (The Jewels of the Castafiore, although I do not guarantee
that this is the title of the English language version.)

Bianca Castafiore is, of course, the world-famous soprano - the Milanese
nightingale. She is a friend of Tintin and proves to be useful to him on
many occasions. 

Her accompanyist is a German - Herr Wagner. 

For many years, it seemed that her repertory was limited to only one aria:
the jewel song from FAUST. It is only in LES BIJOUX that we learn that she
also sang in LA GAZZA LADRA at least once.

The running joke about her is that, as soon as she opens her mouth to
sing, everyone takes cover. It is not that she does not sing well. No, on
the contrary, she is the world's greatest *cantatrice* and, as such, she
travels the world making exhibitions of herself. Rather, the suggestion
that it is operatic singing itself that is a threat to people's nerves and
sanity. (I suppose that Herge may have been exposed to excessive doses of
opera in his youth, so much so that he eventually developed an allergy and
a strong desire to satirize the whole shenanigans.)

For whatever reason, the one real-life diva who reminds me the most of la
Castafiore is Montserrat Caballe. Mind you, Castafiore had already been a
household name for many years before anyone had  heard of Caballe. The
earliest entries in the Tintin series date back to the inter-war years.
The first editions are worth their weight of gold because they testify all
too clearly to the author's right wing leanings in his youth (racism,
imperialism,  anti-american feelings, a touch of antisemitism, etc.) The
modern editions have been carefully sanitized and they are safe for
readers of all age (from 7 to 77 year old, as Herge himself used to
say.)

I have not read one of the Tinti books for ages, but on occasion I open
one or two, to check on the pages where the Milanese nightingale appears.

Pierre Bellemare

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