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Subject: CALLAS FOREVER, Barber and Miriciou
From: Gene Gessert <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Gene Gessert <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 30 Nov 2004 21:48:02 -0500
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I confess I was pleasantly surprised at CALLAS FOREVER.  Of course, I love
opera, and am not overly fond of movies.  So it does not surprise me in
the least that movie critics did not get the film/movie-- whatever you're
supposed to call them these days.  The movie is about 2 divas--
Zeffirelli, who conceived it, and Callas, the woman who made him realize
he, too, was a diva because she was a DIVA.  I think Jeremy Irons is
sensational as Zeffirelli, he was directed by him, of course, and mimicks
him hilariously.  I have been around Zef with his dogs at the MET in the
80's.  So since Maria is dead, why not go for broke?  In the film Franco
has more trouble with aging than Maria-- so all the beautiful gay boys in
various roles--secretary, bad actors, artist, these "pattern paintings"
this is what they were called in the 70's look like bad album covers.  If
Zef likes this style, I will refer him to a great artist who is now 80 who
does these color field paintings magnificently, not embarrassingly.  And
to have Callas swoon over this shit dressed so magnificently in Chanel is
the only embarrassment I saw in the movie.  Getting older is the theme
here.  Callas is better at it than he is, but he is in a commercial
enterprise and hers is artistic, that is why it is tragic.  To watch her
reenact  BUTTERFLY is heartbreaking.  CALLAS FORVER is Zeffirelli's
reaction to McNally's MASTER CLASS, and Z chose the great Fanny Ardent who
lives up to billing.  And though there will be some who find large and
messy emotions embarrassing, I think most opera goers do not.  And this
movie is filled with messy emotions.  Z wants us to know that Maria was
heartbroken about Onassis, the loss of her vocal powers that do come with
time and nothing can stop them short of singing a limited and not to
emotional rep a la Freni-- who was never much of an actress or ever gave
that much in a performance, and I've heard many of them.  Her live from La
Scala recordings are always better.  Ardant mimicks Callas very well, and
Z has coached her.  Irons comes across as a cross between Z and Karl
Lagerfeld-- the ponytail-- but in their wildest dreams.  The
CARMEN "movie" is great but all the smolderingly beautiful Spanish men are
definitely gay and cannot sing.  Look at their smooth necks with NO
singing muscles.  Ardant does a good job at lip synching but she cannot
sing either.  So the lip synching is a problem.  Z does coach Ardant into
a performance that the audience understands what it must have been like to
work with Callas, and this is beautiful, and worth the price of
admission.  The TOSCA reenactment with Justino Diaz much like a
MASTERCLASS scene is wonderfully done and eery.  And then when Callas has
stopped taking pills and alcohol long enough to "enjoy" a sleepless night--
 we see echoes of Visconti's Violetta, as she sees herself as Tosca in her
Act 2 regalia.  This is Z's MASTERCLASS and wonderful.  The very Andaluz'
CARMEN is great, too, the lip synching less so.  But the costumes and sets
are 1st rate Z.

VANESSA is a 2nd rate opera.  It is good if someone like TeKanawa sings
it, or Steber.  Then you revel in the voices, but it is a 2nd rate
ARABELLA only without the memorable tunes, however, Barber has the soprano
do very Straussian things.  TeKanawa was splendid in voice and costume
here in DC 2 years ago.

Miriciou has a distinctly ugly voice.  I last heard her in Mefistofiles
with Ramey.  She thinks she is the 70's Callas, and imitates that which
Maria hated.  I guess there will be some who love her.  I am not in this
category.
GG

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