Daniel Goode

Composer & Performer

Category: Review

Film Ventriloquizes Itself Into Opera

From: Daniel Goode
Date: January 3, 2014 12:39:54 PM EST
To: Jennie Punter
Subject: Film ventriloquizes itself into opera

Today’s epic films with ear-flattening immersive soundtracks (like Lord of the Rings with its odious prize-winning score by Howard Shore) practically force its music into the voices of its characters, giving us the impression of opera, while replacing that medium with the newer, more flexible, more accessible, cheaper medium of film. No one is the wiser, except the poor opera company, opera composer, and their donors and subsidizers. Film has stolen their show.

But opera has not completely slept through this development: The Metropolitan Opera has filmed many of its productions in HD, and now, worldwide wherever there are movie theaters, you can once again hear and see opera at reasonable prices. Still, film is the master medium, live theater, the loser.

I’ve seen two HD filmed operas this season, both wonderful experiences: Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Verdi’s Falstaff. William Kentridge’s visual and directorial masterpiece of the former was one of the most fabulous theatrical things I’ve seen in years. And Falstaff, while not an avant-garde production, was entrancing. Verdi’s last opera is his own quick-cut version of his earlier lyric style. So easy and fresh sounding, you wonder how he does it. Magic!

I have one dark suspicion, however, about this whole HD enterprise. I think that in the final mix, the orchestra is mixed lower in volume than you would hear it in the opera house. Shostakovich’s spiky, acerbic dissonances within his stripped-down modernist orchestration weren’t as present as I would have liked. The camera’s close-ups seduce us into concentrating on the visual—and for the singers: they are more exposed as actors. There is so much to see. Yet I strained my ears during the famous fugue finale in Falstaff, trying hear if it was a “real” fugue or just fugue-like. Not that it matters. But the orchestra as equal is a treasure I refuse to give up. So, reformers of opera if you are still out there, there isl plenty to do.

Thumbnail review.

Just Another Thumbnail Review – Mahler’s 7th

From: Daniel Goode
Date: December 22, 2013 8:56:31 PM EST
To: Jennie Punter
Subject: Just another Thumbnail review-Mahler’s 7th

Looking down from my magnificent box seat (thank you, cousin Martin), straight ahead at the Met Orchestra under James Levine in Carnegie Hall this afternoon playing the 80-minute Mahler Seventh Symphony—I saw so many bald and grey heads, and hardly a youngin’. Could it be the prices (my seat was $142)? Could it be ignorance? Or all of the above. This orchestra is wonderful. The playing was thrilling, oh I wanted a slower beginning, but so what, it was gorgeous, warm, brilliantly together. Why wouldn’t the younger generations be thrilled at the sound, the drama, the pazazz of this invention of European origins with so many hundreds of versions throughout the world? Tell me! before I cry in despair.

Brought up on the “Three B’s” (Wagner substituted Bruckner for Brahms, the dumbkoff), I never heard a note of Mahler until I was in my 20s. I still try to understand why it worms its way into me.

It’s something about the statement and the commentary being almost simultaneous because the orchestra is such a fabulous monster, so big, so various, it can do both at the same time. So a “one-liner” which is where Mahler starts, becomes in a few seconds, a multi-liner, and your breath is taken away. (This ignores the accumulations of form, the travel, the experience of being on a journey…just as important.)  But it starts with the phenomenon that feeling is transmitted when he tells you why this theme, this chordal passage, this rhythm turns him on: by making the orchestra say it in many varied voices, right from square one—to the very end. It’s anti-classical in that sense. The classics just lay it out, and let you take it or leave it.

Mahler is not of that ilk. He can’t let you go home without telling you, showing you, why you should be moved by this scrap, or that, this odd piece of tune, chorale of chords, this walking or marching or dancing rhythm. Then he connects the dots and you have a symphony. It works.

Hats off to the Met Orchestra for bringing this out.

Thumbnail review.