Rino is a man of old-fashioned virtues: He’s a pure soul, with an honest intelligence. And people aren’t stupid, they understand this. Gattuso is energy in rebellion; he’s caravaggesco. This strength of his is what struck us. We Italians are all a bit like that—theatrical, children of the opera… These days not even gays like men who look like little women. —Domenico Dolce
Maybe it’s just moi, but I detect a certain likeness between Pauline Viardot and Ewa Podles, both shown as Gluck’s Orpheus. Alas, as you’ve probably read, the Met has cast David Daniels and not Podles as Orfeo in next season’s new staging of Orfeo ed Euridice.
Don’t get me wrong: Daniels is a beautiful musician and artist, a hunk, yadda yadda yadda, but it was such a safe and predictable choice. And Podles is the opposite of safe and predictable. As she told my friend and colleague David Shengold in a 2004 interview:
I have been condemned to be original. I have the courage to be myself
regardless of the price I have to pay for it. I am like that. Love me
or leave me!
From this week’s Time Out New York, here is my feature on Ewa Podles. Yeah, I broke the news: Podles returns to the Met in 2008 as La Cieca in La Gioconda. Big deal. It’s a stupid role in a stupid opera, and Podles deserves so much better. Thank goodness for Caramoor, Collegiate Chorale, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Oratorio Society of New York, and other presenters not blind and deaf to the contralto’s greatness.
I asked Podles whether she might ever consider another one of Viardot’s roles, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth. Her response was immediate:
No. It’s too high. No one has heard Pauline Viardot, and we don’t know what she did. In that period, they could transpose anything. I’m not able to do this, I don’t want to do this, and I don’t need to do this. In that period, they did everything—sometimes for money. They were like princes, kings. If she had wanted to sing the role of Boris Godunov, she could have, probably. We don’t know how it was.
Mes poules, if you want to know what music and singing are all about, go to iTunes and download Podles’s performance of “Di tanti palpiti” from Rossini’s Tancredi. (The entire Rossini CD is available for the princely sum of $5.99.) Maestro N of Trrill has made available a video of Podles singing this sublime aria at YouTube; other Podles videos, all worth your attention, can be viewed here.
I’ve been spending time with Stendhal’s Vie de Rossini in preparation for tonight’s Tancredi at Caramoor. My favorite passage, when he tells of the Tancredi-mania that tore through Venice:
In courtrooms where cases were being tried, magistrates were obliged to silence onlookers, who were singing
Ti rivedrò !
This is a certain fact, for which I found hundreds of witnesses in the salons of Mme Benzoni.
If you have spent time in La Serenissima or know any Venetians, sweet and fanciful folk, the anecdote rings totally true.
Two more snippets:
The words mi rivedrai, ti rivedrò demand the feeling or memory of the mad love of the happy regions of the South… If our people of good taste understood Italian, they would find there a lack of politesse on Tancredi’s part vis-à-vis Aménaïde, and perhaps utter obliviousness to propriety.
At Tancredi’s arrival, one can see [sic] in the orchestra the sublime of dramatic harmony… that rarest art of making the orchestra tell that part of a character’s emotions that he himself would be incapable of confiding to us.
P.S. Sorry for the thin posts of late: I hurt my back, making computer time rather painful. But for Tancredi, I plan to spend the weekend resting and (knock wood, tocchiamo ferro, ptui ptui ptui) hope to be back to (ab)normal next week.
In every generation, humanity has its share of “meshuganosis,” a social condition that makes pious fools of otherwise intelligent people. These people take the loudest voices in their heads to be the word of G-d and then inflict horrific damage on themselves and others in G-d’s name…
…and after the fire? A subtle still voice. (I Ki 19:12)
From Palermo to Torino, Buenos Aires to Toronto, New York to San Francisco, and Beirut to Mumbai, Italians and those who love Italy exult!
I must thank Roberto and il caro siculotto who calmed and encouraged me, A and K who prayed and lit candles, la sor romana who made me laugh, baby Angela who watched over the Azzurri, L who convinced me that it was Italy’s year… and Hashem, who spared me from having to listen to the taunts of sneering galletti every day of the week.
Saturday night at Caramoor, I heard a splendid performance of I Puritani. That grand old rabble-rouser “Suoni la tromba” went smashingly well, and at that point I was flooded with certainty that the Azzurri would win:
Let the trumpet sound and, intrepid, I shall fight with all my strength. It is beautiful to face death shouting “Liberty!”
“Suoni la tromba” rocked the Parisians’ world at the Théâtre Italien back in 1835, and I had a feeling that the French were about to be reminded of that.
On a more serious note, one Italian proverb goes, Non c’è dolce senza amaro—“There is no sweet without bitter.” Thank you, Germany, for the bitter offense that gave us this sweetness. Der Spiegel, in an editorial now taken off line (and apologized for), called Italians, among other things, “parasites”—a term both hateful and ominous.
I wonder what jackass wrote that. Certainly the German calcisti struck me as gallant (and formidable) chaps; certainly the German people I know are, without exception, individuals of robust goodwill.
Still, the insults were a gift, because they fired up the Azzurri and us fans. Alessandro Nesta answered:
Italians have brought their experience to the corners of the earth. From fashion to the food industry, we are a people of workers. They criticize us for what we are, yet they want to dress and eat like us. Perhaps there’s a bit of envy there…
Apparently the Spiegel article also branded Italian men “Latin lovers” or some such. Gennaro Gattuso suggested that perhaps the author’s wife had taken an Italian lover. To this vilaine fille can only add, with Miss Adelaide:
Perhaps dirt is the necessary condition of beauty… Perhaps hygiene
and art can never be bedfellows. No Verdi, after all, without spitting
into trumpets. No Duse without a crowd of malodorous bourgeois giving
one another their coryzas. And think of the inexpugnable retreats for
microbes prepared by Michelangelo in the curls of Moses’ beard! —Aldous Huxley
TO The States, or any one of them, or any city of The States, Resist much, obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty. —“Walt Whitman’s Caution,” Leaves of Grass
A ognuno puzza questo barbaro dominio. —Machiavelli, Il principe