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OperaNow! #239: 2 and a Half White Men

Metropolitan Opera to abandon what some call "blackface" for new Otello...Steve Jobs opera coming to Santa Fe...The trouble with digital classical music...WWII internment camp opera in Seattle...Here's a list of new operas people like...Australian opera singer called "faggot" by mope at basketball game...tenor sings during brain surgery.

In Oliver's Corner - Part 2 of Dialogues of the Carmelites: Introducing Soeur Luna de Ravenclaw.

This week features Michael, The OC, and Doug Dodson.

Reader Comments (7)

Doug: what a great impersonation of Siri!

Beep beep beep, bop bop. (Great one, Oliver. Every time you do that, I laugh.)

Thank you all for the discussion on blackface. A shame that Ken Overton couldn't join you. I, for one, am glad that blackface is being dropped, and NOT because I'm saying that everyone who wore it in the past is racist. But times have changed, blackface has always made me uncomfortable (I'm very brown, as you know -- brownface makes me uncomfortable, too), and I agree with Oliver and Doug: there are many other ways to convey that Aida or Otello (or Iago, or anyone) is an outsider through costume, acting, direction, the text, the music, etc.

August 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Oliver, your discussion of Dialogues des Carmelites is making me love one of my favorite opera even more. Thank you. Sister Constance is a small role but a great character in the right hands. In the one live production I've seen, the singer portrayed her as someone who seemed to find ecstasy in her devotion to her God, and you could see her shiver periodically with an facial expression that suggested lovemaking.

August 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

When I discovered this podcast, I downloaded all the episodes archived on iTunes and listened to them, so I've held off posting until I got caught up. I kept hoping people would stop being rude to Oscar, mocking him and talking over him, but I guess that's not going to happen. It is better when Doug Dodson is there, but Mike Mays is the worst. Sometimes I think he has Tourette's by the way he shouts out random noises and obscenities. OTOH, I did enjoy his contribution when Oscar was exploring Dead Man Walking, and Mike Mays had some cogent insight into performing the part.

Yes, you can edit the items you buy from iTunes. Right click on the item, choose 'get info,' and a box pops up with the information you can change.

Can't express how much I enjoyed listening to MIke chewing and swallowing. Hope his lunch tasted as delicious as it sounded.

Will there be some mention of Nico Castel's death, now that we know he was in fact deceased when Mike was slamming Norman Lebrecht for reporting his death?

Love Oscar's corner. I have learned so much from him. It's because of him that I have signed up for a monthly subscription.

We have moved past race when it comes to ballet, so it's about time we do the same in opera. There is only one race, the human race, with infinite variety. Ir the music, acting, and singing can't communicate sufficient information about the character, something's wrong. We don't insist on Asian singers for Butterfly, and we don't need blackface for Othello. IMHO.

Happy to be current with the podcasts. More comments to come.

August 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKilian Metcalf

You have got to be kidding me? Oscar? LOL

September 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterzach

If there is an Oscar here, please stop being mean to him. :-)

September 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Worlds collide -- Oliver, I just heard you calling in to America's Test Kitchen's radio show. How did the dinner go? I chuckled when I thought you must have been clenching your teeth when they recommended Rick Bayless's cookbooks for you...

September 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom

The issue of blackface seems a non-issue to me. You do what the story-telling requires. If race / racism - or rather, the evil of racism - is an essential component of the story, you can't tiptoe around it with costuming or make-up or mannerisms, or you risk diluting the point of the story. In the case of Otello or Aida, I don't see where race or racism are central to the plots; Aida is not about her race, but about her nationality. and Otello is not explicitly about his race, it's about jealousy and insecurity; whether his race has anything to do with it is not clear. But what about something like Porgy and Bess, where racial differences and inequalities inform the background of the story being told? Would an all-white version of Porgy and Bess, or The Wiz, be the same thing?

I do think there are cases where racism can be used as an added ingredient to revitalize more familiar operas. In particular, I'd like to see Nozze di Figaro set in the pre-Civil War, antebellum, deep South, on a cotton plantation. With the Almavivas and the upper class all white, rich plantation owners or business folk, and Figaro, Susanna, Antonio, Barbarina, et al, as household servants, upgraded from slave status, in typical, Gone-With-The-Wind, pickaninny costumes, if you will (no offense intended, just trying to make a point here). That might bring home the social issues that Beaumarchais (and Mozart and da Ponte) were making to audiences that don't quite get the outrageousness of it today. Can you see the Count hitting on a dark-skinned Susanna, or Figaro trying to outwit the master, ala Amos n Andy? Or when Marcellina / Bartolo are forced to realize that Figaro is their long lost son!

The great composers and playwrights didn't shy away from sensitive topics; Mozart shoves them in your face every chance he gets.

August 23, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdave

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