Appropos of Drew's recent post, David Pryce-Jones at NRO details yet another producer who can't resist imparting his or her own vision on one of opera's classics - Aida. He also brings up a very interesting point which we may overlook when discussing the political content of art: while we tend to look at "politics" in terms of the ideological imprint we see and read about, what about the more subtle political message perhaps being sent here - the lack of confidence in western civilization:
Grand opera is fit to be compared to the tradition of Chinese or Indian musical dramas, while at the same time being a specifically Western contribution to civilization, a kind of cultural citadel. Everything else in our culture might be undermined, I used to think, but this citadel was impregnable. I underestimated contemporary opera producers. Exploiting the culture in the name of creativity while actually making sure to hollow it out from within, they reveal that they have no confidence in what they do, and no genuine imagination either. As Western cultural life goes down, it’s the same in all the arts, of course. Perhaps we have to be grateful that although producers can abuse Verdi’s grandeur, so far nobody has yet devised a way of spoiling his music.
To that I say amen. No matter what, we'll still have Verdi's music. We hope.
This avant-garde staging istn't anything new, of course, as we've discussed here.
Speaking of opera that was really grand, we took note last week of this sad report that the great Beverly Sills is "gravely ill" with cancer. As wonderful a performer as she has been, she's been equally grand as an ambassador for opera, with her ebuillent personality making her a hit everywhere from the Carson show to the Met broadcasts. She is truly a representative of an era, and we trust her fans worldwide wish her well with whatever may follow.