Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More on Opera and Sexual Anarchy

I have few unfulfilled wants in life but I still wound like just one chance to sing the role of Giorgio, old Germont, at the Met in Verdi's Traviata.  You remember old Germont?  He's the the swain's father, the one who is trying to maintain the good order and stability of his family and (not least) to marry off his daughter.  To achieve this end, he has to ice Violetta, the consumptive prostitute courtesan, inconveniently beloved of Alfredo,Giorgio's son, the handsome young Labrador retriever of a tenor.  In both his social and his operatic role, old Germont gets to sing one of the warm-hearted and pathetic, yet also blackly comic, numbers in the entire catalog.  You understand, don't you dear (I translate loosely).  My daughter is a respectable woman.  She needs a respectable husband.  And you are a whore, so you will have to go.

But watching Manon last weekend at the multiplex HD, it dawned on me that old Germont, just like the hero and heroine, is a stock type.   Manon has his own Germont: Comte des Grieux, whose job is to bring his own young man back to the path of righteousness (which in his case, oddly, means leaving the church).  All brought off nicely by the American base/baritone David Pittsinger, who does not seem to have sung Germont, though I wish he would.  In Madama Butterfly,  you get a similar perspective from Sharpless, the American consul---not precisely a father, but still the man-to-man avatar of common sense and good order.

Carmen offers a different take.  Here the force of order is Micaëla, the "village maiden," as it says in the cast list, who tries to persuade the hapless Don José to abandon his lethal bout of fun and games.  This time, it is the baritone Escamillo who gets all the nookie.

Hello, Peter?

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