30 January 2008


Before heading back to the busy work of writing a grant proposal (sigh), I'd like to inject a couple of sentences into the internets ... about Karita Mattila's Manon Lescaut happening now at the Met. First off, WTF?? Why is she wasting her time and, more pertinently, my time doing a lyric Italian role when she could be burning eardrums elsewhere in the schedule? For instance, the Sieglinde. If she had switched assignments with sweet-voiced Adrianne Pieczonka, the universe would have been better off. Instead, last night Mattila released the Salome within the Manon, and it was frankly offensive. Mattila's forte is, literally, the forte notes at the extremum of physics. Handicapped by a bland middle register, regrettably uninspired in soft singing, she decimated Puccini's little lyric jewel. It was a merciless assault. Why is she not singing Sieglinde at the Met instead?

27 January 2008

26 January 2008

all of us must vote

As Ramesh Thakur, a political science professor in India, wrote: “We foreigners can but pray that the new president, whoever he or she may be, will return America to its strengths, values and the tradition of exporting hope and other optimism. And so help to lift America and the world up, not tear one another down.”

In Japan, too, there are hopes for American renewal. “Already the fixed idea, ‘Only a white man can become president,’ has been broken,” the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun said Jan. 15. “We are witnessing the history, the process of grass-roots democracy turning into the U.S. strength.”

21 January 2008

20 January 2008

luck of the draw, luck be a lady, one person one vote, don't try this at home, vox populi, etc. etc.

What happens in Vegas ... is certifiably nuts sometimes:

You know you're in Vegas when victory at a caucus precinct comes in the form of a card draw ...

Tom Komenda told CNN there was an even number of supporters for the two candidates (Clinton and Obama)— 48 each. But the caucus had five delegates, so they couldn't be split evenly.

How to break the tie? A good old fashioned card draw.

Komenda said a sealed deck was unwrapped. But as the shuffling started, he was concerned that the shuffler might have been shuffling in a way that exposed the faces of the cards to some of the nervous onlookers.

"I said, 'Wait wait wait — if we have to do this idiotic thing with cards, we're going to shuffle them the way they're supposed to be shuffled,'" he told CNN, laughing. "Then they said, 'If you want to shuffle, come down here and shuffle. So I went down and shuffled!"

Komenda says an Obama supporter drew first, and up came the ten of spades. Next, a Clinton supporter drew, and ... (cue the suspense music, switch to tight closeups of sweat on participants' foreheads, slo mo, closeup of the crisp shiny deck of cards, all that Hollywood magic stuff*) ... a queen of hearts decided the tie-breaker in favor of Clinton. So the final delegate count was two delegates for Obama, and three for Clinton.

It all ended, he said, in "cheers from one side of the room, groans and boos from the other."
Ahhh, democracy.

*all embellishments mine

19 January 2008


Looks like Anna Netrebko's Violetta is garnering unanimous praise at Covent Garden. After performances of La Traviata in Berlin, St. Petersburg, and London this season, she moves to San Francisco next season. hovering cautiously, circling above the ultimate prize: the culmination of years of practice as tubercular hooker, tentatively scheduled three seasons from now to charm and die on the world's grandest stage, and beamed to a cineplex near you.

17 January 2008

Write to MSNBC to protest Chris Matthews' Obscene Misogyny

Check out this long list of instances to prove the point beyond any doubt. Then, if sufficiently outraged, please write to MSNBC to protest.

16 January 2008

no rest for mr. noise

With all the race-and-gender battles going on in the Democratic Party contest you'd think tonight's Vegas debate on MSNBC would be the TV show to feature the punches and bitch slaps. But no. Fight night was on PBS's Charlie Rose. For those who missed it, here's a comprehensive synopsis of what transpired.

Our very own Alex Ross for a while was in cruise control, in that elusive zone of tremendous intellectual nuance and personal charm, talking Cage and Copland and Kucinich and Sgt. Pepper ...

...while remaining thoroughly down-to-earth (sort of an enviable combo of Hillary's overbearing competence and Barack's pungent inspiration):

Here he is thinking about his next book project while Charlie fumbles on D-u-d-a-m-wha? isn't he still in middle school?? ("Those left coast people must be snorting again" I believe is the exact quote.):

So Alex insists that classical music ain't dead. Yet. It's just morphed into an Icelandic woman named Bjork. All these complex deductions while checking for spots he missed to shave this morning:

But then Charlie Rose, true to form, brings up the topic of Schoenberg's ambitious sex life ... or is it Zubin Mehta's chest hair ... uhm anyway, it's along these lines that our congenial repartee turns into a Clintonesque moment of human emotion:

So Alex is left with no choice but to shift swiftly into attack mode, clenching his fist in a sort of Power to the People pose:

But Charlie remains recalcitrant on the issue of gays in the brass section ... or something else as hot, I forget. I was busy taking pictures.

What happens next is a sure item on tomorrow's Countdown with Keith O.. To claw the eyes out of their antique sockets ...

...or to slap this muthaf*cka's vile face?

See the rest of the riveting climax here.

15 January 2008

this explains a lot

A profound triviality:

It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science.

If true, it would mean that you yourself reading this article are more likely to be some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space than a person with a real past born through billions of years of evolution in an orderly star-spangled cosmos. Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions.
If the physical world occurs in a probabilistic matrix, then in the fullness of (eternal) time, every possible combination of matter and energy will be formed, and repeated ad infinitum. Thus reincarnation is entirely possible in this scenario, and also the eternal rebirth of the world and the universe. The most bizarre result of these calculations is that it would be easier for the random system to produce your naked brain in isolation than it is to replicate our current ordered world and its complex evolution. In this eternal cosmos, there may well be a huge number of your brains floating around in space, carrying the same fabricated memories, observing an illusory creation. And for all we know, this is just one such cosmic void, and you are just a naked brain freefloating in it and making all this stuff up. Netrebko, Kucinich, Cheney, dildos, teeth, La Gioconda, God ... all of it, shit and all.

can't get on Oprah? well there's Tyra ...

Asked to choose what reality TV program she would prefer to compete on, Hillary Rodham Clinton chose the popular "Dancing With the Stars.''

"In my dreams I would be on 'America's Next Top Model' but in reality I would have to choose my limited talents and of them dancing is better than singing,'' Clinton said Monday during a taping of "The Tyra Banks Show.'' "You do not want me to sing.''

14 January 2008

Late night talk

Alex Ross will be on Charlie Rose Tuesday, January 15; set your DVR/TiVo right now.

first love

From an unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise, by Andrew Morton, arriving at your local bookstore and library any day now, some juicy excerpts:

Page 289: Without naming his sources, Morton spins the following yarn: "Some [Scientology] sect members sincerely believed that Katie Holmes was carrying the baby who would be the vessel for L. Ron Hubbard's spirit when he returned from his trip around the galaxy. True believers were convinced that Tom's spawn would be the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. Some Sea Org fanatics even wondered if the actress had been impregnated with Hubbard's frozen sperm." How'd Katie feel about all this? Morton puts his intuitive powers to the test to produce this gem: "Katie might have felt as if she were in the middle of a real-life version of the horror movie Rosemary's Baby, in which an unsuspecting young woman is impregnated with the Devil's child."
Back in the late 80s, the appointed decade of my sexual awakening, my sister had on her bedroom wall a life-sized Top Gun poster of the picture above. Are you kidding, of course I got it for her for Christmas. But oh how many tropical afternoons I spent lying in my sister's bed staring up at this American Hero--heat furiously circulating in small spaces--dreaming up scenarios of how one day I'd find myself in America, face to face with Tom. (Will he recognize me?) Years have passed, thousands of miles travelled, degrees earned-- yet I'd still claw my way to the front of the line to volunteer to be vessel to Tom Cruise's spawn. I don't care if it's Hubbard, the devil, or whatever else Scientologists give birth to. This is the complete truth.

Renée Fleming is scheduled to do Lucrezia Borgia in Washington, D.C. in the 2008-09 season:

Although Fleming's "Borgia," her first appearance with the WNO, is news indeed, the soprano's forays into bel canto terrain have not been unqualified successes -- this is the role in which she was infamously booed at La Scala in 1998. Still, she remains one of the few sopranos with enough star quality to make mounting such a vehicle worth a company's while. And the supporting cast is excellent: the limpid tenor Giuseppe Filianoti and Kate Aldrich, a full-throated mezzo, will make company debuts, performing with Sondra Radvanovsky (who shares the title role with Fleming) and Ruggiero Raimondi.
Perhaps still keeping an eye toward Irminsul?

13 January 2008

Not so high-def after all

From Long Island (via Newsday):

What the crowd got was a superb production of Verdi's first Shakespeare opera. Maria Guleghina was an electrifying, erotic, domineering Lady Macbeth; Lado Ataneli's Macbeth was strong, yet reluctant and troubled. There was no doubt about who ran that power couple.
From Oregon (via the Mail Tribune):
The roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are long and difficult. Ataneli brought dramatic depth and a nuanced performance to the baritone role of Macbeth. Guleghina's singing was passionate and powerful throughout, with the singer changing her vocal colors as Lady Macbeth ran through her bloody arc ...

We go backstage at intermission, see stagehands work, catch a quick interview with Guleghina and Ataneli, hear an actor passing in the darkness mutter, "Oh, crap!"...

Noble has recognized, correctly, that there must be real sparks between the Macbeths, the only happily married couple in all Shakespeare, and Guleghina and Ataneli do generate that hot, sick heat.
Bravo, Mr. Ataneli!

[Oh by the way, Željko Lucic sang this Macbeth. I'm blaming idiot Chris Matthews on this one too.]

UPDATE: Newsday made the correction; Mail Tribune is still sticking to Ataneli.

chutzpah, II

“I am big, I am big!”

“There is only one opera when you have to get naked, as far as I know: Salome. I want to do Salome, but it may be the last day of my career. It’s very big. Exactly! I want to get naked on the stage!”
Last day of her career, definitely worth waiting for.


MLR's choice for "Worst in 2007":

(H)er performances in Bellini's "I Puritani" and Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette" at the Metropolitan Opera. Call it the reverse Midas touch: Everything this cavalier, inexplicably ballyhooed soprano sings turns to rubbish - all look-at-me chutzpah, no substance, no soul. Study your scores, girl!
Who could she be referring to, I wonder (while suppressing a grin).

[via Ionarts]


Happy birthday!

11 January 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Chris Matthews is really still an idiot.

Previously: Idiot; Still an idiot.

Renée Fleming:

"People are always comparing me to Katie Couric," she said, laughing, "and now I get to be her."

10 January 2008

Exacting = exciting?

Steve Smith thinks so:

Maybe it was that very sense of novelty that made certain characteristics of last night's performance—which might have seemed like fussy obsessiveness in a Phil concert—come across as so sharply detailed, exacting and exciting at the Met. There's no denying that James Levine musters more genuine warmth and sensuality in Walküre, and Valery Gergiev, who conducted the opera's last performances here in 2004-05, wrung out more blood, sweat and passion. What Maazel provided was an extraordinarily lucid account that underscored every little detail of orchestral characterization. No matter how thick and heavy Wagner's music was, Maazel summoned a transparency that approached the quality of chamber music. You could argue that he sacrificed surging momentum, but Maazel offered a razor-sharp clarity audible from the opening bars, and subtly emphasized each passing leitmotif (those musical themes that Wagner used to identify characters and plot developments) for narrative cogency.
I, however, think that extreme enunciation can be, continuing the "ex" thing, exhausting. By evening's end, I was spent from having to shift back and forth between the drama on stage and the numerous "beautiful" packets of virtuosic sound emanating from the pit. Every orchestral phrase pregnant with nuance, carefully fabricated, were heavy beads that threatened to break the chain, the elusive "sweep". Contrast not with Levine but with Christian Thielemann, who can exact exactness as well as Maazel, but who's also keenly sensitive to the arch that holds it all together.

UPDATE: Chris Matthews is still an idiot.
UPDATE 2: Yep, still an idiot.

No. 1

Next to $15 opera tickets, easily the best bargain in town, if it will really just cost 25 cents a "pop".

Chris Matthews is an idiot.

09 January 2008

What's that sound you hear?

Just the loudest "Fuck you!" to mainstream media punditry. The Diva lives to fight another day.

08 January 2008

new year

I'm still around, but lost to other things. Work mostly, but also to an inscrutable sense of suspension, into a self-feeding "slowsand" of introspection. [To everyone who e-mailed with concern (and one with savory delight), I may not have written back, but (1) thanks for noticing, (2) I hear you, (3) I'm still here, (4) I will come back in some form, (5) but don't know when.]

Yet I manage to still drop by the opera, for instance at last evening's virtuosic dissection of Die Walküre and surgical removal of its heart. Dr. Lorin Maazel supervised the articulation of all the notes of the score. I'd never heard that many notes in Die Walküre before. I wonder what Wagner himself would think of that amount of precision. Save for a handful of riveting moments, it was a rigorous refrigeration.

Meanwhile, I lament Diva Hillary's decline, but find myself cautiously warming up to "change we can believe in." Is it really possible?