Wednesday, January 21, 2009


A correction to my previous post. I remember being briefly good at one game-- Tempest. But that was an arcade cabinet game and I never got good at any other one. That would literally be the only arcade game I'd want to own. I suspect if I got to play it again, I would hate it.

On the radio I caught a few snippets of John Adams' opera Doctor Atomic. Actually I caught some of the talking heads bits at intermission and the start of the third act. I have a fondness for John Adams. He took a good deal of what Philip Glass had made manifest and worked it in a richer direction. At first, I didn't like his stuff. At least I had that same reaction I had to when I heard Paul McCartney did an opera. It just seemed a little too thin...a little too precious and self-indulgent. This would be around the time of his first big opera Nixon in China. A few years later, he did The Death of Klinghoffer. I don't remember exactly, but I think I picked up a recording of that after hearing him interviewed on NPR. I liked it...though again there was something strange about seeing something so modern done in an operatic form. Eventually I head some excerpts from Nixon in China and then got to saw a production of it in Bloomington. I really loved it.

In any case, what I did hear of Doctor Atomic I didn't care for. But I know enough now not to judge his work on such a slim slice or on first impressions. Two things did occur to me however. The first was when one of the talking heads mentioned that Italian audiences reacted negatively to one of Verdi's operas (I think La Traviata) because the subject matter was a scandal less than two decades old. The talking head then went on to suggest that music audiences of the period hated the mixture of new subjects with the old forms, but that "modern" audiences longed for it.

I call bullshit. It seems to be pretty obvious that modern subject matters in new opera remains still fringe-y. At least modern in the sense of within the last three or so decades. Adams is the exception to the rule and even he's not heavily performed. Where are the popular cries for someone like John Corigliano? I mean if there's the hunger he's talking about, then you'd expect to see a very different operatic repertory available.

My other thought came when they were talking about the third act of Doctor Atomic. From what I could gather, it centers around the first atomic test. The whole opera does, but the actual test comes in the third act. he talked about the fact that it is dealt with in a timeless way-- with a cross cutting of events in Oppenheimer's mind...maybe? What occurred to me is that there's one piece of literature I'd like to really see translated into an opera.

Alan Moore's From Hell.

It would be amazing and might heal some of the damage done by that gawdawful movie.

Just a thought.

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