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From: Polly Matheson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Sun, 25 Oct 1998 13:14:00 EST

text/plain (87 lines)

Dear Polly:

You were very nasty to rebuke me for lying to Jimmy Jorden about the so called
Aprile Millo's Tosca. She's better than you were in the role :) .  In  fact,
she's pretty good by today's standards -- if you're still standing or leaping
at the end of a performance you're a full fledged professional no matter how
you sounded.  If you can execute a few "diva" affectations at your curtain
calls you must be the real thing.  What else can explain the successes of
Eaglen (as you know, the tape of her Isolde, praised by so many, only shows a
basic adequacy from a bottled up, backwards produced voice, modest in size,
rarely dead on the note with audible limitations top and bottom.  Since she
had enough health after the Liebestod to go out and eat half of Seattle and
still get through the next performance, she's "great."  This explains the
acclaim for Polaski, but in fact, look at Behrens.  That poor lady could
barely croak by 1985 but she's the still the Frieda Leider of our time
according to various Opera-l types.  Millo is probably a little better than
those ladies (not Frieda Leider of course).

Your concerns about "authenticity" are well taken.  Of course all these ladies
are far removed from the creative impulses that gave rise to the operas they
sing.  Maria Callas was the only medium to work the operatic stage ever
documented and that only lasted a decade.  What is left but the imitations of
records by those with enough sense to listen to them (that isn't everybody).
As for the fans, well, they want to go to the opera and cheer and have
arguments.  And it doesn't hurt them they never heard anybody good in most of
the rep they love.  And how does that effect you, Polly?  You stay home with
your CDs or go and see the things that can be pretty well cast today (Mozart
and the Baroque and some 20th century operas) and the one or two "standard
operas" that are fun to see live, pretty much no matter who is in them -- it's
always great to see a professional Tristan for example.  And when you put down
Eaglen just remember Roberta Knie's Liebestod out of the Exorcist, at the Met
of all places (and she was never any good even when she wasn't losing
everything right in front of you).

And give up your annoyance with posters like Jason McVicker.  Surely you know
he does some social work in Chicago and his musical training begins and ends
with memorizing the lesser Ethan Mordden books.  He posts as Enzo Bordello.
And BTW, you're wrong to detest him -- the Chicago types on Oasis think he's a
"sweet schlub".  And just don't read that vicious poster whose name I forget
but who is married to a former coloratura soprano, sub species Roberta Peters
but not that good, it's pointless.  Insisting they only like damaged ladies is
swimming against the tide.  The Judy Garlandization of Opera is inevitable as
standards fall.  The pathetic creature who is lousy or just OK, but gives her
all and seems to be feeling it, is "good", because most of the others appear
to be calculating their income tax during their performances and are no better
or even worse.  Look at Ghouleghina or the various shrieking Radameses this
season.  Of course Garland in her best years was really a great talent -- just
as Millo's imitation of the older Tebaldi captures only the (relatively) minor
flaws, not the amazing vocal endowment that was still in evidence quite late
on a good night.  And of course this dishonors Callas who suffered so much to
be "good" by a vocal standard nature didn't allow her to achieve (and how she
hated the people with really great equipment who were lazy, complacent,
unmusical and/or dumb), and who was never pathetic and would have loathed
anyone who thought she was (and she didn't like gay men).  But do you really
expect discernment from these people?

And of course they identify with the self-invented like Millo.  What else are
they?  Nobodies from nowhere without talent trying to matter in a world that
has all but lost interest in the art form they profess to adore. Smart people
like Mr. Gudas and Ms. Witt have honest problems with Cinderella and Co. Some
of the others hate the Hoelterhoff book (while imitating her style, badly)
because it's honest about what's real.  In the actual (not the virtual) world,
opera has become a bottom line business where a "pop" mentality is the only
way anyone survives.  And as her book makes clear (though with more humor,
wit, and insight, than you have, Polly), that will only get truer as all
European countries imitate America and cut back on their arts funding and as
the global economic situation becomes more unstable.  In their fairy land,
it's what they imagine it to be.  Let them have fun with their fancies and
fripperies.  It does no harm.

And leave my bud, Jimmy Jorden alone!  Think of him if you will as sort of a
King, or I guess Queen, Canute, willing back a Tidal Wave.

And Polly, moderate your tone on Opera-l.  Remember how Jim Legani complained
about poor Elizabeth-Ann Walker (who committed suicide remember, pity she
hated Jason McVicker, too, maybe he would have talked her out of it), because
she called a voiceless fraud a voiceless fraud?

Well, I guess Jason wouldn't have talked her out of it -- none of these people
seem quite human.  But after all Jason is the name of the maniacal killer in
Holloween -- that must have had its effect.


I thought I'd post this letter sent to me.

Polly Mathison.

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