Monday, 26 November 2012

The Met & The Tempest: A successful collaboration?

                                                          Thomas Adés
                                                         The Tempest

On the 10th of November I attended the Met's simulcast. Although I am certainly a fan of the concept of the live telecasting of Opera's, the opera itself wasn't as successful as I had hoped. Well, the main problem I had with ‘The Tempest’ was the libretto; it was so unfortunate that the librettist, Meredith Oakes failed to even inject a slight bit of Shakespearean language into the work. What translated was more of a description, plain and un-imaginative. What really got on my nerves was the cringe- worthy rhyming scheme.  Although I understand that they were attempting to appeal to the masses by modernising one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, the dumbed-down version of the text seemed simply insulting. As the Met usually favour generic representations of Operatic productions, we can hardly be surprised that it was a safe and literal translation of the play (both in the production and the libretto). The music however was the highlight of the whole collaboration. A few leitmotifs would have certainly contributed in helping us to understand the characters, but lack of leitmotif was probably intentional as the concept was; the evolution of self-hood (maturity, acceptance, etc.).

Although Miranda played the female lead, she seemed more like a token character at times. To me she was portrayed in a really clichéd manner (lamenting the shipwreck in act 1, love duet, and then almost morphing into one entity (with Ferdinand) from the second act onward). Although Adés and Lepage discussed their attempts to highlight her personal development, they just glossed over her role making her seem like a passive character. It would have been interesting to have made more reference to Sycorax within the libretto, although they allude to this previously dominating force of the island it failed to develop further. Initially Ariel seemed like the main female character, however the coloratura soprano role was a bit ambiguously portrayed/ explained  as,  in ‘The Tempest’,  Ariel is traditionally a male character, also in the met ‘programme’ they constantly refer to Ariel as male ('He [Prospero] begs Ariel to stay with him, but he [Ariel] flies away to freedom').

There was definitely an element of showmanship in the staging; however I had hoped that they would take more liberties with the staging (since the libretto was pretty standard and unimaginative). It did feel at times that there was a bit of confusion as to how the staging would transcribe to the cinema audience (visible morph-suited crew members). They could have gone further with the production, it seemed fairly banal and true-to-form (you could even make out the re-use of props from ‘The Enchanted Island’ (used in the exact same manner)).

Prospero was a pretty substantial character to portray within the work, and therefore a strong female lead wasn’t entirely needed, however with Miranda being this whole passive, fairly un-opinionated character I kind of craved an alternative female character to counteract the naïve nature of Miranda. A few days after we attended the production, a film version of the play was on the Arts channel, in this version Prospero was played by Helen Mirren, although I only caught the last few scenes, this really did change the feel of the work. This portrayal, kind of substantiated (for me) the need for a dominant female force to be incorporated into the work.

Oke’s portrayal of Caliban was most definitely on the button, exceptional singing and really poignant interpretation of this (traditionally perceived) dysfunctional character! The interview with Shrader, Leonard, etc. was one of my favourite parts, essentially because I found it so hilarious! It’s such a bizarre concept to interview the performers right when they come off stage, panting from exhaustion, it was without a doubt an awkward situation, but it is interesting to see their interpretation of the work and the performance (even if their views are somewhat censored).

Sunday, 25 November 2012


For a class project we were asked to write about a piece of music which we 'liked' or found 'valuable' in some sense. I should probably indicate that i'm studying Music (a bit of context goes a long way, eh?) Anyway, after straining to find a music video/ music which I actually enjoyed, I changed my approach. Later we were given the entries of all class members.  They had discussed the emotional connections with their choices (songs their parents had played to them as children), some people chose songs that shaped their own musical style (Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Rory Gallagher) all undeniably great musicians, songwriters and performers! As all our entries were originally submitted anonymously we had no way of knowing what 'angle' people would take (on second thoughts...conversing may have worked, hmm....) Well here's my entry and remember whilst reading that, well in my defense nobody informed me that my definition of 'valuable' is a bit well lets just say 'different' or out of 'tune' (ha! Get it? Apologies...) to those of my classroom peers ... (to say the very least).

Hmm, here goes; Poeticism...Guetta-Style

In an attempt to re-engage myself with modern pop-culture I have subjected myself to the work of music producer du jour, David Guetta. His recent album, ‘Nothing but the beat 2.0’ has been topping the iTunes charts with compelling songs such as, ‘Where them girls at’. The album follows his success with the single, ‘Sexy Bitch’ in which the French producer enlisted the help of R&B artist, Akon. The single has since been offered to us as a ‘clean’ version, (sexy chick) reaching the top of most European music charts and also ranked no.5 in the Billboard Charts in America (much to everyone’s surprise and perhaps, dismay).

Guetta’s music is unashamedly directed towards the clubbing scene (but has somehow managed to seep through the perspex windows of these misery ridden buildings, joining us here in the outside world) he admits favouring a simpler ‘compositional’ style opting for unpretentious melodies and chord progressions, which help him to create more ‘emotional’ sounds. Guetta believes that repetitiveness helps us to emotionally engage with his work. But how could it not? (Frustration is an emotion, right?). In ‘Sexy Chick/ Bitch’ the chorus and verses center around one key concept, where the protagonist questions his ability to describe the object of his affection (the sexy chick) in a favourable manner. Unfortunately for Akon, he seems to have a better grasp on misogynistic terminology than an ability to ‘woo’ the ‘chicks’, ‘The way that booty movin’ I can’t take no more, I’m trying to find the words that describe this girl without being disrespectful’. The video itself is most usual. Set in a holiday location, the protagonist (Akon) has awoken to find that his ‘desirable’ has fled to a party; the video then follows Akon on his mission of pursuit. In his time at the party, he dances with scantily clad women, shares tender ‘Bromanctic’ moments with Guetta (the only other male with access to the party) and also manages to sing with incredible precision and audibility under water, quite the achievement! Finally we can rest with ease, as at the clubbing scene the two lovers are reunited (finally order has been restored!) Musically speaking the piece is repetitive, banal and sterile. A piece better fitting a health clinic in Ibiza than our surroundings.

Although Guetta and Akon attempted to portray this woman in a favourable manner it was a most feeble attempt, or at least they achieved so in a most ambiguous, convoluted manner! I sincerely hope that this video was some sort of social experiment, or is some sort of visual holiday ad perhaps produced by Thomas Cook holidays. Personally (on contemplation), a holiday with a dysfunctional wino in an Amish community would seem somewhat more alluring.