Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thoughts During a Pledge Break

Saying mean things about Andrea Boccelli is probably passé at this point. However, being out of style or behind the times has never stopped me before. So, I found myself in front of the TV the other night, and with over 200 channels to choose from, the least offensive program was Boccelli’s 2011 “Gift to New York” concert, which my local PBS station was showing during their monthly pledge drive. The PBS website notes that this 
historic event…saw the tenor following in the distinguished footsteps of opera superstars Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, both of whom have given memorable Central Park performances.
It was more like trailing in their wake, or maybe in their backdraft, riding on their coattails, or possibly picking up their leftovers. (On a related note, I think that in my household, we've seen every single special that PBS hauls out for Pledge Drives. I wonder if they would consider bringing over some programs from Medici or Arte? That sure would beat more Boccelli and endless repeats of Celtic Woman and the Les Miz 25th Anniversary Concert!)

I am glad that Boccelli continues to share opera with the masses. And if push comes to shove, I'd rather hear him than a whole bunch of other "singers" out there. However, if it were not for his early life setbacks, one wonders if we ever would have even heard of him. Boccelli was joined by other opera singers who rather sang him off the stage. I impressed myself (which is rather easy) by recognizing Ana Maria Martinez—known to me from the M22 Cosi Fan Tutte. Martinez sang well, and young soprano Pretty Yende did a lovely job, too. However, I was surprised by Bryn Terfel’s inelegant singing.

Please stop singing!
After Terfel and Boccelli sang Bizet’s Pearl Fishers duet, I looked up the Jonas Kaufmann and Dmitry Hvorstokovsky video, just to prove to my TV-viewing companion that it really is gorgeous music. (Terfel and Boccelli made it sound more like warmed-over Les Miserablés.

I stopped watching AB's concert when the pledge break broke in, and I missed Celine Dion's appearance. (Darn the luck.) By that time, I was watching more of JK and DH on YouTube.


  1. In the LA area the PBS situation is a sorry mess. A year ago KCET severed its ties with PBS because they felt the costs were too high. This left KOCE which is in Orange County as the only major PBS station. Bocelli is bad enough but KOCE feeds Jackie Evancho (I'm not sure about the spelling but I really couldn't care less) a teen age diva who sing Nessun Dorma and other lolly pops in a breathy childish voice. Horrible. Of course plenty of doo wop for pledge breaks and they seem to on all the time. We only got half of the Ring Cycle and for 30 years every Saturday night they provide Lawrence Welk Tapes!!!!!!!! Downton Abby of course, but will we get the Tucker gala? I am not counting on it!

    1. What, you don't like Myron Floren, Norma Zimmer the champagne lady, and a-Cissy and a-Bobby?

      ...and speaking of pop-opera, don't forget Haley Westerna, Katherine Jenkins (whom I desperately WANT to like), and the Italian tenor entry in the boy band sweepstakes: Il Volo.

      We are fortunate to have access to three public TV stations in my area, but sadly, they all play pretty much the same stuff for pledge drives. And don't get me started on Wayne Dyer and all the other infomercial (buy my book! buy my book! buy my book!) dudes.

      The elderly doo-woppers are starting to look better all the time! Correction, my DVD shelf is looking better all the time!

  2. I once got into an argument with a friend of mine about whether Josh Groban sings opera or just Italian pop songs. Same deal on youtube in the comments section of an Il Volo video. I've had to explain to somebody that opera has a theatrical element to it, because she thought it was just a type of song people sang in front of microphones on PBS specials. And recently I was trying to explain to someone that no, regardless of how he's marketed, Andre Rieu is not classical music.

    All of which has a lot to do with why I don't give PBS money anymore. Actually, I'm kind of thinking they should be paying us, since we seem to be doing their job for them.

    1. Of course. There's a big difference between singing opera tunes and being an opera singer. Same thing with Andre Rieu. Do you ever feel like you're talking to a dog, or a brick wall?

      All my public broadcasting $$$ go to radio now.

    2. Ha! Most of the dogs I know have better ears (not to say musical taste) than the humans in question.

      Our local NPR affiliate is run by a guy who liked to tell the listenership how much he hates opera, then he'd clap a gun to the Met broadcast's head and threaten to shoot if we didn't pony up for inconveniencing all those All Things Considered fans. He may have pulled the trigger, I dunno, I stopped listening.

      Meanwhile, our local classical station will only play opera when there's fundraising to be done -- at any other time it is anathema. In fact their interim station manager once told me that opera was boring and drove away listeners. So how the economics of that fundraising strategy works out is a bit of a mystery.

    3. I've pretty much given up on classical music on the radio. However, NPR is my primary news source these days (morning commute!)


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