Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Daddy, Marilyn and Anna Nicole

One way to pack the opera houses, especially in this video age is to be as prurient as possible. The more things change, right? Years ago Beverly Sills shocked people when she said, "La traviata is an opera about a whore. You can dress her up and the music is magnificent, but she's a whore just the same." And indeed, Verdi's audiences in 1853 were shocked to see a woman living with several men, one for money and another for love, even if she did die in the end.

Wagner's twins have sex and conceive a child. Verdi has murders, rapes and riots. Mozart and da Ponte wrote of the droit de seigneur, where the master gets the bride before the groom. Opera has never been about stuffy people-the stigma of the plaything of the rich-stuffy with money-mystifies.

You'll be hearing more about composer Thomas Ades. His opera The Tempest is coming to the Met in a few months, and you'll see it in HD. It is a magnificent opera! Don't miss it!

Margaret Duchess of Argyll, a lady of many talents
And when an opera has the line: Is daddy squiffy? you'd best pay attention.

Powder Her Face is an earlier work by Mr. Ades. It concerts a ravishing red head of the 1950 and 60s called Margaret Sweeney. Cole Porter celebrated "Mrs. Sweeney" in song. Margaret was gorgeous, she liked a good time, and she got around. In 1951 she marred Ian Campbell the duke of Argyll. When, a number of years later it became clear that Margaret's active social life had not diminished with marriage, the Duke sued for divorce. A scandal it was. Polaroids of Her Grace, naked but for a strand of pearls,  on her knees pleasuring a member of parliament did not amuse hubby but had the Empire roaring. That was the least of it. Testimony revealed that Meg's conquests neared 100 during her marriage. The judge called her a whore from the bench, the divorce was granted and Margaret was free and broke.

Powder Her Face takes us to the Duchess-as she continued to style herself-about to be evicted from her suite at the Savoy.  Flashbacks add to the story. Few need further imagination:

(What's left of)  The New York City Opera produces Powder Her Face later this year. A good time for all may be guaranteed.

Famous for the right reasons
Then there's Marilyn. On this,  the fiftieth anniversary of her death-and she'd be 86!! if alive today-we have Robin de Raaf's Waiting for Miss Monroe, produced recently be the Netherlands Opera. American soprano Laura Aikin took the title role:


This opera will not provide the nasty laughs accorded to the former Mrs. Sweeney. Marilyn Monroe I always drought was waaaaay over -exposed after her death. Then I viewed a few of her films and realized why. The camera loved her and she it, having nothing to do with any sexual act or (sometimes) suggestions thereof. Some got it and some ain't and Norma Jean had it and how. I do wish she could rest in peace, but here she is in the opera house. Can another mini-series be far off?

But wait! Back to nasty and just plain vulgar.  Anna Nicole Smith, the former Vicky Lynn Hogan, has her own opera, called of course Anna-Nicole. The composer is Mark-Anthony Turnage. Not surprisingly the opera had a sold out run in London. It had the imprimatur of Antonio Pappano has starred the superb Eva-Maia Westbroek. Eva' is much more attractive than the huge boobed caricature she plays on stage. Anna/Vicky's marriage to J Howard Marshall left her rich and in court, and there's little doubt that this    daddy died happy-very happy-.

So the next time some worthy tells you opera is dull and for the rich you can say opera is sometimes about the rich, but hell look at those boobs on Anna Nicole. Look at Mrs. Sweeney 's myriad talents and the pathos of Marilyn. Who's bored?

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