A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I'm Listening To

Benjamin Britten, Billy Budd. Philip Langridge (Vere); Simon Keenlyside (Billy Budd); John Tomlinson (Claggart). London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Richard Hickox.

I've never seen Billy Budd onstage, but I'm told it can make a powerful impact. This recording, however, seems dramatically slack. Langridge, Tomlinson and especially Keenlyside make solid efforts to bring the characters to life. But Langridge is handicapped by one of those high, thin, grainy English tenor voices that make you wonder why Vere is held in such awe by his crew, and Claggart's menace is undermined by the wobble in Tomlinson's voice. This is also one of those opera recordings that are stingy on the dynamics, so that the quiet opening is almost lost unless you bump the volume up.

That said, the recording is almost worth it for the power and nuance of Keenlyside's singing and acting. His version of "Look, through the port comes the moonshine astray" is heartbreaking. Keenlyside's Budd doesn't seem to be available on YouTube, but here's a fine version of "Look, through the port" by Dwayne Croft from the 1997 Met production. In the second part, the Dansker is Paul Plishka.

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