Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tara Erraught: Eines der größtenTalente der Opernwelt

I wouldn’t even have heard about this if the director of the Wolf Trap Opera Company Kim Pensinger Witman, hadn’t blogged about it. (I wasn’t thrilled with the title of the post, but hey, whatever.) 

Lord knows I don’t/won’t read that blogger-who-shall-not-be-named-at-my-blog, who made a point of firing everyone up. (I used to post a link to his blog but I decided I don’t want to encourage all his nonsense.) But then, I was curious about why this post here at RnR was suddenly getting (relatively) heavy traffic again. 

Size-ism is so 1990s! So much has been said, that I have little to add; but I do have two things to say about all the Tara Erraught hoopla:
  1. It's the director's fault.
  2. They love you in Germany, Tara! And I think you're great, too. Don't let the British press b*ast*rds get you down.

And then I found this video posted by the Bavarian Radio at YouTube on May 16th. Tara Erraught: One of the greatest talents of the opera world! 

Indeed! Brava Tara!


  1. Is it the director's fault, really? Or is it the critics' fault for not being able to get around performance practices that have hardened into cliches? (Check out James Jorden's "How dare they do it that way when it's never been done that way!" defense of the critics in the comments section of the Jezebel posting.

    1. Ha! I wondered who would call me on that comment. Of course it's the critics' fault for not getting around performance practices. I mean, that's a girl playing a boy. Has been and always will. And for heaven's sake, this is opera. Where is our suspension of disbelief? The sizeist comments are totally the critics' fault. No one seems to have issue with Tara's acting--and they (rightly so) praise her singing-- their issues seem to center on her appearance.

      However, the director has the responsibility of either making the scene/setting/costumes/action as believable as possible, given the conventions of opera, or making it clear why we are seeing what we're seeing, so that we (and the critics) get it.

      Actually, I just read Kiri Te Kanawa's comments and she says what I was thinking, but in more detail and perhaps with even more sympathy. But to put it succinctly: a little costume, hair, and makeup tweaking can go a long way.

      I wonder what the BritCrits would make of the Clemenza di Tito from the Bavarian Opera last spring. I mean Sesto and Annio were clearly gender-blurred, but I don't remember any comments about Brower and Erraught not being believable in their roles. The whole production set a tone of artificiality; so even though their costuming may have seemed odd, it all seemed to fit together.

      So that's why I put some blame on the director, who is responsible for what we see on stage, and for helping us understand, feel and enjoy the opera --or at least think about it.

    2. Well, yeah, though I wonder how many opera directors would actually agree that it's their job to help us understand. But your last point may be the catch. Maybe there was something there to think about, but the boys are on deadline, so they went for the kneejerk. Seriously, having read all the reviews in question, it really seems like they all went out together afterwards, had a bit of groupthink over drinks, and then sat down to type out their collective opinion, each man in his own words. At least somebody remembered to bring a thesaurus.

      So I guess we'll all have to pile onto the webcast on June 8, and see what we may see while hearing what we may hear.

    3. Yay for the Thesaurus! I'm looking forward to the webcast. Meanwhile, am I the only one going, "Kate Royal as the Marschallin...wait.What?"

  2. This Spring's Bayerische Clemenza is, strangely perhaps - perhaps not - shaping up to be one of my favourite Clemenza productions, to the point where I toyed with the belated idea of going to Munich to catch its reprise in July. I love how it embraces its OTT-ness, much better than the comparable Ponnelle film or the Dresden (I think?) production with all the animals (although I liked the idea it didn't seem to have come off that interestingly). I really hope Bayerische does the right thing and releases a DVD for once.

    I don't know that these critics necessary have a problem with gender as much as a very rigid idea about attractiveness in general. One of the main reasons I read blogs is because the reviews here are so much more in-depth and the conversations so much more imaginative and thought-provoking than in any "official" reviews I've ever read. I think these papers need to rethink their reviewing parameters, because I don't know who their target audience is. For instance, on the Guardian site it seems to be the same few seasoned opera goers who reply to reviews. These are certainly not the kind of people who need reiterated the genesis of this or that opera. It would make a lot more sense to come up with some interesting thoughts comparing productions, discussing production styles and definitely getting a lot deeper into performances than what you normally get from these critics. One can do that in 600 words (although maybe not me ;-)). I would have really loved it if any one of these knuckleheads did spark up a conversation about gender instead. I mean how can you not, when talking about DR?! Sheesh. Anyway, I'm seeing the production in person this Thursday so I'll post my own impressions on gender and all later this week.

    (I went on a mini rampage on your blog = great stuff! it gave me some post ideas and I ordered that Cambridge Clemenza book. I hope it's good ;-))

    1. Sorry I haven't replied sooner. I keep trying to come up with an intelligent and witty response, especially regarding this production of "Clemenza" and gender ID in opera.

      That hasn't come yet, but in the meantime, I did want to say that I'm honored by your rampage. Getting extensive and thoughtful responses like yours means that someone besides me is getting something out of my little blogging exercise :) Thanks!

    2. you know, I get confused as to what posts I've replied to so I just saw your reply on this. Gender ID in opera is a fascinating subject and I hope to get my thoughts together sometime this year. I will be expecting your comments, as usual :-)

    3. I understand; and you know I WILL have comments :) . Meanwhile I've noticed unusual activity on this post. But there was an "editorial" of sorts in Opera Now magazine, and I wonder if that's sparked the searches for Tara. Traffic is nice whatever the reason, eh?

    4. Tara deserves attention, she's a lovely singer with a great knack for comedy. And yes, traffic is nice. I can fathom the reasons behind most my most popular posts, except for the "Vo disperato a morte" one, which is curiously a stalwart. Not that I complain, it just baffles me.


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