A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rachel and Ridge

If you missed Rachel Maddow's interview with Tom Ridge tonight, you should go watch it all. But here's the highlight: her stern riposte to Ridge's claim that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. The whole interview is remarkable for her politeness and good humor in the face of some pretty unconscionable double-talk on Ridge's part, but also for doing one thing that TV journalists too seldom do: sticking to her guns and speaking truth to power.

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.

What I'm Reading

The long assignment drought has ended: I have three reviews in the works. So for the time being I will spare you my thoughts on what's next on my leisure-time reading list, namely Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey.