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

Monday, September 7, 2009

What I'm Listening To

Benjamin Britten, Death in Venice. Peter Pears (Gustav von Aschenbach); John Shirley-Quirk (The Traveller, et al.) Members of the English Opera Group, English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Steuart Bedford.

Is it boorish to wish that Britten and Pears had been a little less devoted to each other? As in Billy Budd, it seems to me that the vocal writing in Death in Venice is superior for every part except the one composed for Pears. Here, it's the multiple roles for John Shirley-Quirk and the chorus of minor characters that make most of the vocal impact. Yes, Pears is dramatically intense, but if his voice had had more range and flexibility, mightn't the part have been given more musical challenges, resulting in a greater emotional variety? Still, this is a fascinating opera, here given what must be a definitive performance -- so why is it hard to get in the States?

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