As amazing as The Godfather series -- and Willis's work in it -- is, Opera Chic's favorite use of an opera piece in the movies is probably Scorsese's in the opening sequence of his black and white epic poem on human brutality, Raging Bull, Michael Chapman -- another maestro -- director of photography.
Give it up for the great maestro Mariss Jansons, who last night amazed la Scala with his Bayerischen Rundfunks, aka "The Fieldmarshals Of Funk" (j/k), in a program that boasted Also sprach Zarathustra, the Tristan prelude, and Bartok's Miracolous Mandarin.
But the coolest part is that, as an hommage to Italy, he also chose -- as a surprise -- the Intermezzo from our beloved Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, horrifying the many snobs here who consider Mascagni, with Cilea, too "popular", too "lowbrow", too "crude" -- when, in fact, Mascagni and Cilea are obviously anything but (I mean, Herbie Von Karajan was one of many famous huge Mascagni fans).
A marvelous friend once related to Opera Chic a great Karajan anecdote: once, a clueless acquaintance had had the bra$$ ball$ to point out to Karajan how his choice of tempi for Cavalleria Rusticana had been a bit -- surprisingly -- on the slow side.
With all the sneering contempt the great maestro was capable of (ie, an awful lot), he explained like you would do to a developmentally challenged three year old that he had followed Mascagni's own tempi.
Little gift to our San Francisco readers: mp3 page of Un Pensiero a San Francisco, from 1903, with scores: it's a little piece, a thank-you note written by the Maestro himself to thank the city for a warm welcome (testament, also, to that great city's historically great taste in music).
And, to quote the Maestro's own words on his conducting his works, here's a rare speech from 1938: "The Most Direct Possible Interpretation Of My Opera", mp3 and transcript and photos.
A recent bout of sickness enabled Opera Chic to peruse her ginormous library, and rediscover some of the old treasures that were optimistically bought, and unfortunately shelved before reading, when hectic social calendars ensued. Nevertheless, they brought me necessary diversion from the bronchial cough that settled in my Mimi-esque lungs. oh sweet lovely books of myne u nevar let me down ;__;
First was "Pietro Mascagni and His Operas," by Alan Mallach; Northeastern University Press, 2002. It is a combination of epistolary exchanges weaved into a biography. Mallach implemented a generous plucking of the 4,200 letters between Mascagni and Anna Lolli, his mistress for more than thirty years, which provided a portrait of a "flamboyant, combative, and emotional man". Well, duh. He's writing to his frikking mistress! Here's an excerpt: “Mia Annuccia: Returned to Milan. Hung out with The Duce today, but instead of discussing The Beast of Berlin's invasion of Poland, all he wanted to talk about was a new recipe he found for filetto ai mirtilli. Super lame. We dined on manzo in salsa verde, and some of the parsley got stuck in his front teeth halfway through the meal...but I didn't tell him. heh heh heh." Looks like someone needs a brush-up on their translations skills, eh? O__O
Next to tackle is, "Henri Duparc: Complete Songs for Voice and Piano"; Dover Publications, 1995. The sheetmusic consists of sixteen songs and one duet (La fuite) set to works by Goethe, Gautier, and Baudelaire. Included are "songs of love and regret, of soulful reflection and protest, of hope and flight and resignation." Whoa, hay...slow down there buddy. This is all a little to emo for my blood. It will be a challenge to suffuse it with a little OC-flava, but I think I'm up to task.
Lastly, my biggest challenge (in Italian) is another epistolary exchange, "Gino Marinuzzi: Tema con Variazioni; Epistolario Artistico di un Grande Direttore D'Orchestra," from Mondadori, 1995. This book divulges the letters between conductor Gino Marinuzzi and his friends, family, and various theaters. Wish me luck with this monster. ::rawr::
If anyone has read a note-worthy lol, music-minded novel/essay/flava of the month/etc, please bring it to my attention!! "Reading is FUNdamental"! [tia]...no stupid jokes like omg u need to sit down and memorize the New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians stat becuz ur musicology is teh suck plz no thnx bi...[tia]
The musician from Livorno is still not talked about according to autonomous evaluation criteria, but still according to old ideas which are quite unfortunately reiterated ad nauseam and used like a worn sock. Important names – and the situation is serious just for this reason - are still relying on these ideas today, making it even easier to perpetuate critical opinions which are more than out of date. For example, the constant allusion, still made in recent publications, to the "verismo" of Mascagni, when talking about any of his compositions, is the measure of the superficiality with which the matter is treated. It ignores that it has been largely shown that the so-called "verismo" period was in fact very brief and that the characterization of this period presents notable difficulties to the point where it appears, after a serious analysis, extremely ambiguous. It ignores or, even worse, it pretends to ignore, that the protagonists of "verismo", with Mascagni at the helm, diverged from it quite rapidly. It does not take into account at all that their artistic production has largely been under the influence of the extremely various and powerful cultural climates that followed each other with increasing frequency since the last century. In the case of Mascagni, this is instead interpreted according to the old idea that his changes of direction were subordinated to a sort of obstinate search to renew the success of Cavalleria. Massimo Mila had this concept of Mascagni over forty years ago. If we used greater speculative reason, instead of constantly playing the same disc that repeats opinions formulated in cultural conditions light-years away from us, we would reach conclusions as provocative, but at least they would be supported by the courage of the argumentation. Or we would realize that the change of the direction of these composers in fact reflected a superior capacity to absorb the artistic needs that appeared around them and that imposed themselves to the times
This is particularly satisfying for those of us who:
a) Have a huge, huge crush on Mascagni's beautiful music
b) Think that Parisina is probably his (forgotten) masterpiece
c) Usually roffle whenever we read something about Gian Carlo Menotti and we run into the famous "mid-Mascagni" quote, a Stravinskyan slur hurled against poor GCM, a big big thing for those hatin on the Livornese composer -- as if, you know, "mid-Larry Bird" were somehow a bad thing to say about a NBA player (because we know Bird couldn't jump couldn't shoot etc, lolz).
For her understanding of Cavalleria Rusticana, Opera Chic owes a huge debt to two essential Mascagni conductors: the modern approach is all Gianandrea Gavazzeni's (CR seen as Art Nouveau artifact, a refined popular gem), and the even trickier, oldskool approach is Riccardo Muti's (CR as masterpiece of precision and clarity, barging ahead through electric shocks of action).
When he left Teatro alla Scala's stage in a huff because the loggionisti had dared boo him, Roberto Alagna was replaced (in supercrazy circumstances that Opera Chic described here) by tenor Antonello Palombi.
Now that the Wiener Staatsoper has not agreed to enable the tenor's crazy cross-over plan (travelling to Sanremo, close to the Italian/French border, on the day before his Manon la prima in Vienna, to take part in super lame Sanremo pop music festival), Opera Chic is honored to announce thet Roberto Alagna's replacement in Sanremo will be...
A 28-year-old Italian singer unknown here, but apparently popular among the Italian immigrant community in Germany, Mazzocchetti will sing Schiavo d'Amore (aka "Slave to Love"), the very song that Sanremo General Manager and MC, Pippo Baudo, had commissioned via two Italian songwriters specifically for Roberto Alagna.
Let's have a listen to Alagna's replacement, shall we?