Sunday, February 26, 2012

More about Hoffmann: Sweaty Guys, Doll Sex and Satan

Just one update on the Tales of Hoffmann. I ordered the dvd of the performance, and very much enjoyed it - much better in HD than my fuzzy recording from the TV.

A few days ago, I decided Emma had to be exposed to some real Art instead of just watching anime all the time, so I informed her that she had to watch this with me. She slumped over resignedly, but to her surprise found herself actually enjoying it! And this is a kid who has no taste for classical music at all.

I edited out a few slow bits - Lindorf's first aria in the Prologue (I just explained his plan to take Stella away from Hoffmann), Frantz's song in Act II and Dapertutto's "Scintille, diamant" aria in Act III, but we saw everything else.

One thing we noticed right away, watching it in HD, was that the male singers tend to sweat profusely! Somehow the women avoid it, but the men are all dripping after about 5 minutes onstage. If you were in the theater, you probably wouldn't see this - you wouldn't be close enough, but on film you can see every drop. It reminded me of a story about Luciano Pavarotti, himself a spectacular perspirer, who was meeting Joan Sutherland backstage after singing. He came offstage streaming with sweat, blotting himself with his traditional large handkerchief, and said to Sutherland, "Oh, you know how it is, Joan, for fat people like us!" She drew herself up and replied stiffly, "YOU are fat. I am large."

Emma particularly liked Act I, the Olympia episode. Naturally, it's the funniest part of the opera. We got to the end of the Doll Song before taking a break for supper:
Oh well, the French like this sort of thing.

After supper, I suggested we go watch some more, and Emma asked "Is there any more doll sex?" "Why, yes...I mean NO!" I answered. "Well, no sex per se, but it does get a bit weird." "Weirder than having sex with a doll in a cart?" "You'll see."

Well that was it for the evening, but the next day as I was heading off to drive the kids to school, Emma commented, "You know, when you get back, maybe we could watch some more of that opera!" which made me feel very happy. We saw the second half that day, and she was very impressed with Dapertutto as the Devil himself, stealing souls via Giulietta. She also liked Susanne Mentzer as the Muse, although she was really too feminine to be a very convincing Nicklausse, though I expect that's probably the case with most contraltos in that role.

So altogether it was a successful exposure to serious art, and I suspect the modern setting probably helped.


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