12 January 2005


Size matters

In searching for a replacement DVD player over the weekend, I allowed those Circuit City hustlers to manhandle me into purchasing an upgrade. So what I came out of the store with was an affordable DVD recorder (Panasonic DMR-E55), which I've been playing with the past few days (explains the short absence). This morning, I'm transferring the Met telecast of Leontyne Price's farewell Aida (look at the January 3, 1985 listing here). It's early in Act I, and Fiorenza Cossotto's Amneris is already bitchy.

(As I recall, only Cossotto got the confetti at the curtain calls. Why not for Leontyne too? Dat bitch engineered it all.) Yesterday, I digitized the great moments of opera on Ed Sullivan, broadcast by PBS a few years back. The last segment featured Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli in a full-throated Andrea Chenier finale from 1966. The backdrop was the facade of the new Met at Lincoln Center; Tebaldi looked radiantly glamorous in her pink to-do and towering hair-do (in a 60s kind of way); Corelli is unquestionably every opera queen's latin wet dream (in any decade).

I'm loving my DVD recorder. The amount of storage space that this enterprise will potentially save me is astounding. Or perhaps not, since it is universal law that with every compression comes an inevitable, thorough expansion.

My burgeoning library of opera is both young and vast. Ten years ago, I owned less than ten studio recordings of opera. Among them:

  • Joan Sutherland's Turandot (Back then, I thought Zubin Mehta was a god.)
  • a Tebaldi/Bergonzi La Boheme highlights disc (my first opera purchase, senior year in college, 1992, from the collegetown record store, a move inspired by the film Moonstruck)
  • the Malfitano Salome, just released (because she looked hot on the cover)
  • the Barbirolli Scotto Butterfly (spoiled from the beginning)
  • an Otello with Scotto and Levine (long story ...)
  • of course the De Sabata Callas Tosca (but the harsh mono irritated me)

There was the lone live recording, the Callas/Di Stefano 1955 Scala La Traviata that came with a bonus (my partner!). Today, I own about 6 studio and about 25+ live Traviata sets (spanning 1939 to 2004); I have all the Callas EMI sets, in the first pressing version (glossy libretti, heavy paper; see an in-depth examination of her various incarnations here); I don't even listen to Turandot any more (apart from the Sutherland, my 4 studio and maybe a dozen live sets are nearly pristine); I have thousands of CDs, more than twenty complete Rings, even a copy of Florence Foster Jenkins (The Glory of the Human Voice). Where is the level of saturation? The easy access to such pleasures can't be good for the soul.