Friday, September 09, 2005

The Other Side of Bliss

Rufus Wainwright on opera in the New York Times (via both Stereogum and Alex Ross). Thanks to Indiana University's estimable School of Music, I've been to a handful of operas in my life, and would like to fancy that I appreciated them as much as I was capable, given my lack of point of reference. But, hearing one of my favorite musicians rhapsodize about the art form makes me really want to dive in and self-educate. Seems you could devise a pretty kick-ass beginners' course just by going through the selections he cites in the article.

I read Jonathan Ames's most recent novel Wake Up, Sir! in the course of about two days this week. It is borderline embarrassing how much I love him. I will save you the self-indulgent quoting of my favorite passages here, but, sweet Jesus, is it funny as all get-out. It's a bit slow at the beginning, but once he finally gets to the artists' colony in New York, you will be treated to the funniest description of a seersucker suit you will undoubtedly ever read, the pure genius of the phrase "corn on the macabre," and the most accurate, if just this side of hyperbolic, representation of what happens when a bunch of neurotic, self-important artists live together in extremely close, isolated quarters. I could swear I recognize veiled references to at least three faculty members from IU's English department (Ames was artist-in-residence or somesuch there during the second semester of my senior year, which is how I was first introduced to his work), but I'm sure that anyone who's ever known a socially maladjusted painter or poet or photographer probably sees more than a passing resemblance to them in these characters, too. Just for snicks, here's an interview with Ames from Powells.com.

1 comment:

Manager On Duty said...

I'm still unconvinced that opera is anything more than a buffoonish art form. Watching it, often with you at IU, I could never get over the atrocious acting and wooden, caricaturish writing and storylines. But I will admit that there are a few key moments in opera that really knock me down. Almost all of them come from Puccini's tragic operas. One, which I'd love to loan you, is Turandot (famous for "Nessun Dorma," one of Pavarotti's best arias). The end of the first act, if you listen to it under the proper conditions (live being best of course) is one of the most intense and powerful musical experiences you'll ever have. The music is so big, so emotional, and it builds and builds so relentlessly, you'll be shaking with excitement by the end of it. But I guess in a way, a recording is the best with opera, because you can assign more importance and dignity to the drama when you can't see the actors fumbling over each other--just like you can suspect that the Italian words are more significant than they actually are.

Apropos of Rufus Wainwright, I almost called you this afternoon because the Planet of Sound has a used copy of a Louden Wainwright CD, and I remember you and Cassius talking about him. I almost called you to see if you wanted me to pick it up, but decided that it would probably be there for the rest of the weekend.