24 March 2007

the golden age

Or perhaps this is just the first example of the controversy inspired by historically informed performance practices. . . .

John Ruskin laments that current singers are just not as good as they used to be: ". . . and [Adelina] Patti, the last time I heard her, massacred Zerlina's part in 'La ci darem,' as if the audience and she had but the one object of getting Mozart's air done with, as soon as possible."
(from Praeterita, sec. 203)

(I realized yesterday evening that I was whiling away the time before the oratorio -- Mendelssohn's Elijah, ably performed by the San Francisco Symphony -- by reading Ruskin, and I suddenly felt like a minor character in a Merchant-Ivory film, perhaps a high-minded, easily flustered vicar whose inadvertent bit of gossip will cause our turbulent heroine to realize that she, and her heart, belong to the Swinburne-reading golden boy and not to respectable but stultifying Lord Stanley --
"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two. . . .")


Vicki said...

Ah, but you are far too careful to play that part, so you'd have to be written out of the piece. No slips of the tongue or delightful bits of gossip from you.

My mother and I always laugh at how there's an eavesdropper in almost every soap opera scene. I have pointed out to her that there would be no story movement without such people. I have also pointed this out to the 8th grade girls when they come sobbing because they told a friend something in strictest confidence and she told someone and now everyone knows!

But you are the Las Vegas of friends. I am grateful for this, but you must have been a disappointing teenager.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I will confess to the occasional, entirely inadvertent, slip of the tongue! Also, as a high-minded but easily flustered vicar I wouldn't quite be myself, so I think I can still be allowed a cameo (an uncredited appearance by Brad Pitt).
I was a disappointing and disappointed teenager, and it doesn't get better later on in life. I guess I'm just very literal-minded about trust and secrecy, though even I can usually tell the secret that is meant to be secret from the one meant to be shared. But alas! most people's gossip doesn't interest me enough for me to bother repeating it.

Civic Center said...

You sound like the character in Robertson Davies' "Fifth Business," the person who is neither hero, heroine, best friend nor villain, but the character who is vital for the plot to move onward to its conclusion.

As for keeping a secret and spreading gossip, I have never been able to do the former and I tend to enjoy the latter so it's always been a good idea never to tell me anything in confidence.

Looking forward to your take on "Elijah." It was an interesting evening. And so was the San Francisco Ballet tonight, where they performed "Dolly [The Sheep],] one of Steve Reich's "video operas," the third in his recent trilogy. The musicians and dancers were great.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

ha ha ha! Yes, I'm Dunstan Ramsey, complete with the saints! Even there I'm not much good -- I'm more like sixth or seventh business.
I don't know that I have a whole lot more to say about Elijah than I did in my comment on your site, but things sometimes come to me later.
Sorry I missed the ballet -- I did go to the one with the Mark Morris/Lou Harrison piece, so I'll probably post on that soon.