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April 26, 2018:

WHY CAN’T OPERA SINGERS LAUGH LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE DO?

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, here is the burning question of the day: Why can’t opera singers laugh like normal people do?  Every time I hear an opera singer laugh in an opera, it’s like an alien being has shown up.  Why can’t they laugh without sounding like someone tazed them in the butt cheeks? I need to understand this phenomenon. It came to mind because last night I watched a DVD of the opera Susannah, an opera with which I’ve become more than a little obsessed.  It was taped at a small opera company, in Florida I think, and it was fun to see it staged, but would have been more fun if they hadn’t used two-thirds of the stage for the orchestra, which makes for a much too cramped staging.  Then again, the staging is perfunctory and not that interesting.  The band isn’t quite up to the score, but still I enjoyed it because the music is just so glorious.  But the gal who’s playing Susannah, who should be young and innocent, has much to huge a voice and is a bit, how shall we say, matronly and oh dear Lord, when she lets go with a laugh, it’s not to be believed.  But then I went and listened to a live performance of this opera starring the woman who created the role, Phyllis Curtain, and while she’s not quite as weird with the laugh, it’s still so forced.  And then I heard another opera of Mr. Carlisle Floyd, his latest, Cold Sassy Tree, which has great things in it, and whoever the lead female singer is (as well as some of the ensemble) does that exact same forced laugh thing.  If I ever direct an opera there will be none of that allowed.  I’m still listening to Cold Sassy Tree so will talk about that when I’ve finished it.  Meanwhile, the live performance of Susannah, which features not only an excellent cast of players, but a supporting cast of audience coughers the likes of which are mind boggling.  But despite that, this performance has all the energy and life that the studio recording conducted by Kent Nagano, starring a mis-cast Cheryl Studer, doesn’t. So it was an opera kind of an evening and an enjoyable one at that.

Yesterday, I got almost eight hours of sleep, had a telephonic conversation with the delightful Jane Klain of the Paley Center – she curates there and we’ve been chums for almost twenty years now.  Then I had to rush to a lunch meeting, which was fun.  Then I went and picked up packages, then came right home.  Then I had a work session for the Kritzerland show, which was very quick, and since that musical director is also creating the charts and tracks for the musical I’m writing, we laid down three more songs for him to do.  He left, the helper came by to pick up some stuff, and then I had a telephonic call.  Then I did some work on the computer and then at the piano, listened to a new master and approved that, decided on this week’s release, which I think will just be one release rather than two.  I had a few snacks, and then I sat on my couch like so much fish and watched the DVD of Susannah.

After that, I listened to the live version of Susannah, followed by a live 1952 performance of Porgy and Bess starring Leontyne Price, William Warfield, and Cab Calloway – can’t do better than THAT cast. It’s a decent recording that could really use some TLC in the mastering department – this CD is over twenty years old and the tools to fix problems are much better now.  It was fascinating to hear – I have seen and heard many, many Porgy and Bess recordings and productions and the tempos on this live recording are like nothing you’ve ever heard – so fast that there were times I was surprised that anyone could spit out the words that quickly, and yet they did. When they sang “oh, the train is in the station” that train was a SPEEEEEEEEEDY train, like the fastest train in history.  With later recordings and productions using really slow and drawn out tempos, which is what we’re all used to, this seems nutty, but it’s refreshing actually.  And because of it, the opera never seems overlong. When Porgy, at the end, sings the great Oh, Lord, I’m on my way – he is on his way, baby.  I really enjoyed it and Cab Calloway is the BEST.  After that, I just relaxed, listening to Cold Sassy Tree and the enigma of the opera laugh.

Today, I’m not at all sure what is happening.  I think it’s Thursday, so that’s a good start. I suspect I’ll be writing commentary in the early part of the day – I will finish it.  I’ll eat, hopefully pick up packages, then I’ll do some work at the piano, start another set of liner notes, prep our new release announcement, and then relax at some point.

Tomorrow there may or may not be a meeting to attend. If there is, then I have to reschedule a haircut, if not I’ll have the haircut.  Saturday is a singing workshop at the Group Rep, and then Sunday must be a ME day, since the upcoming week is the crazy Kritzerland rehearsal week.

Let’s all put on our pointy party hats and our colored tights and pantaloons, let’s all break out the cheese slices and the ham chunks, let’s all dance the Hora and the Black Bottom, for today is the birthday of dear reader Jennifer.  So, let’s give a big haineshisway.com birthday cheer to dear reader Jennifer.  On the count of three: One, two, three – A BIG HAINESHISWAY.COM BIRTHDAY CHEER TO DEAR READER JENNIFER!!!

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, write commentary, eat, hopefully pick up packages, work at the piano, write more liner notes, prep our new release, and relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: Who are your favorite female and male opera singers? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, thinking about the burning question – why can’t opera singers laugh like normal people do?

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