Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rembrandt's Wife

Last night went to Andrew Ford's Rembrandt's Wife, chamber opera at the Malthouse. We like Andrew on the Music Show, and we wanted to like it. The music was OK, though not striking, but he was let down by the libretto, which stank.

It's almost always a bad idea to try and write about geniuses when you're not yourself a genius; it ends up with your work at best being parasitic on the audience's experience of the original genius and at worst being obliterated by the comparison of talents. But this was worse than that.

Two points that grated particularly:
1) several verses seem to have been written rhyming Van Rijn with, say, sin instead of sign. So that when the proper pronunciation was put in the rhyme scheme went blooey. Something you think they'd have noticed at the first rehearsal and fixed.
2) at the end, when Remmmers is down and out, they put up a slide of his Flayed Ox -

and he sings a song identifying with the beast about how when alive he gorged grass, fought battles, and loved many cows, finishing with, just to give the idea, "My ox heart was big as the sky." Dammit, dude, loving cows is not what oxen do. "Oxen (singular ox) are bovines trained as draught animals. Often they are adult, castrated males..." OXEN ARE NOT BULLS. THEY ARE THE OPPOSITE OF BULLS. That's not a pedant's quibble; it's a gaping rent in the fundamental imagery of the opera.

People, people. We like to think you've given as much time to writing this show as we have watching it.


1 comment:

JH said...

Nice punchy review.
I doubt whether I would be able to see it in any case but I am more inclined to trust your review than the appropriately respectful one from a reviewer in the Australian, who described Sue Smith's libretto as "eloquent, classical", "aside from a couple of unnecessary postmodern textual references".
Could a reviewer really knock a piece from two ABC stars (Sue Smith wrote Bastard Boys and Brides of Christ)?
PS I think Andrew Ford is very good in general. I didn't think much of the scripts it turns out Sue Smith wrote.

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