October 2nd, 2003

Fishy Circumstances

Truth is as strange as fiction

My sister wrote to let me know that the Onion has a headline (no article) reading "History Channel Devotes Entire Day Of Programming To Footnotes, Bibliography" She thought I'd find it funny.

Alas, minutiae of that variety is all too real in my life. Only the other week, I purched an entire book on the history of the footnote. (Anthony Grafton. The Footnote: A Curious History. 2002)

Now the real question is - does the Onion mean the History Channel was finally providing the bibliographies and footnotes to all the shows it's already shown... or would it be devoting a day to the subjects just in general, with historical perspective?
Fishy Circumstances

No Man's Tosca

I have spent entirely too much time this week watching tragedies. Yesterday it was Peter Grimes (opera). Today was both No Man's Land (movie, for a class) and Tosca (opera). Lost in Translation was good and not a bad ending, but hardly bright and upbeat. I need to take a break from unhappy endings. Proof? While watching Tosca tonight, I kept thinking which characters in it were equivalent to which characters in No Man's Land.

It was a good, competent Tosca production, but nothing overwhelming. I saw Tosca once before, when I was much younger. We drove to Omaha to see it, and made a day of it, with time at the rainforest there before an Indian dinner and the opera. I remember the sets, but little else from that production. But from what I remember, I liked those sets better. In part, it was because of the way the sets were treated in this rendition. A huge flight of stairs formed most of the set, going across the length of the stage, running up, away from the audience. It formed a parapet, the shadowed spaces of Scarpia's mansion, and the church. It worked best as the church. That was its one use which really shone - the oversized sculpture fit in that environment in a way which the oversized painting in Scarpia's house really didn't, especially with its heavy-handed symbolism. Even worse, however, in terms of use of paintings, was the abuse which Cavaradossi's masterpiece suffered in the first act. It was huge, it took up much of the central space of the stairs, propped up so the audience could see it. And everyone walked on it. In street shoes. I winced every time, and they kept doing it - all the main characters, at least. In street shoes. Fresh from the street. Trampling all over a large and incomplete painting.

The singing was good - Tosca's voice was particularly nice. Sadly and unexpectedly though, there were almost no moments of magic in it. What I love most about opera are the vocal and musical moments which are transcendantly gorgeous, spellbindingly good. Peter Grimes had a large handful of them. Tosca didn't, sadly, which is part of what failed to keep me from making the following comparison in my head, off and on, over the course of the opera... The costumes were much more fun to look at than Peter Grimes - but what do you expect, when Tosca is set among Roman nobility, whereas Peter Grimes is about early 19th century English fisherfolk on their work days?

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