Monday, September 21, 2009

this and that

This week will probably be rather uneventful, although I have a couple of things I wanted to write about from yesterday and today.

Yesterday, I had two of the most diametrically opposing musical experiences one can have - I went to an outdoor karaoke performance followed very soon after by a performance of Wagner's Tannhauser at the Deutsche Oper. Either of these things would have been both funny and fun in some way on their own, but the juxtaposition of one followed immediately by the other was kind of mind-boggling.

I went with a German friend to the Sunday outdoor flea market that takes place in my neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg every week, and while the weather is nice, people gather at a nearby outdoor amphitheater for some karaoke. It's basically this one Irish guy who arrives with this set-up of a computer, a mike and some speakers, and when it's sunny and warm (as it was yesterday), maybe 500 people gather to watch and participate. Most of the singing is truly awful - and I don't just mean like a voice that isn't perfect - I mean like worse than the first episode of American Idol with the people they pass through to the judges simply because they're bad. I, being a performer and a perfectionist cannot in my entire brain fathom why someone would want to get up in front of 500 people and sing horribly out of tune while staring at a computer screen, following the words of some crappy overdone american pop song, but people were way into it! The most exciting performer was this one bearded man who looked to be about 70 years old, and who apparently shows up every week with the same canvas KaDaWe bag. He sang Frank Sinatra's "My Way" - except in German - and he actually had a really good voice, and the audience went wild. He looked like a homeless person, but once he started singing he became an instant celebrity. Call it the Susan Boyle factor.

I went directly from that to the Deutsche Oper where a friend had given me a ticket to watch the premiere of Tannhauser. I am honestly not a big Wagner fan, but I figured I'm in Germany, I should really go check this out and see what it's all about. Before I begin telling you about the performance, I have to tell you a little side story first. The other day, I was having brunch with an Australian friend who lives in Berlin now, and I was telling him that even though a lot of people make fun of the crazy things German theaters are known to do in their productions, I think I would LOVE to be involved in one of these really outlandish productions. I'm always doing all these traditional productions with corsets and white wigs, and I said to my friend (and I quote), "I really want to be in at least one production where I'm either naked or wearing a space suit, just so I can say I did it." Cut to last night, after the scrim rises and the overture begins. The first image we see is a man in a silver space suit floating down from the rafters towards the stage. The second image is of about 30 naked women appearing from a hole in the floor. I kid you not, I predicted the whole thing. Now, the space suit actually turned out to be more of a knight's armor, and the naked ladies all actually had on naked bodysuits, but still. I totally would have done a spit take when I saw my accidental prediction appearing before my very eyes, had I been drinking milk.

So, Tannhauser. Sigh. You know, I see what the appeal is, why people go crazy for Wagner. The music is really rousing and full of these moments that make you feel like the wind has been knocked out of you. My problem with Wagner, the reason it doesn't pull at my heartstrings, is the fact that the singers just have to pump so much sound out to be heard, that they don't have the opportunity to be gentle and subtle. There isn't a lot of room for nuance - at least not when you're performing in a huge theater with a huge orchestra. This is not a criticism of last night's singers or of any Wagner singers - it's just the way the music is composed. Some people find the sheer power and force of it all completely arresting. I find myself aching for the gentle lilt of a Mozart phrase and feeling almost bullied by sound. There were parts of the opera that I did enjoy, and I thought that some of the stage effects were really cool, and I must give a huge shout out to those singers who were able to make huge sounds and still act and move around naturally at the same time - that takes serious skillz. But it just didn't do it for me. I wanted to go back and watch more bad karaoke. However, I do have to say that my lack of enthusiasm was entirely related to the opera itself - not the production. The production and the singers were excellent.

One more thing - today I was asked to drop by the costume shop at the Staatsoper to have some more measurements taken for Agrippina, and the ladies taking my measurements showed me the sketches that Mr. Lacroix has done for my costumes. And can I just tell you: THEY.ARE.AWESOME. There is this one look that I know I'm going to want to steal and take home with me. It consists of these skin tight black leggings over the top of these big stacked-heeled boots, with this military inspired but totally fitted cropped jacket studded with gold rivets, which is over the top of this shredded white collared mens shirt. I'm sure that description doesn't do it justice, but it looks so amazing I can't wait to see what the finished product looks like. And I will pray that my lady booty doesn't look to rubenesque in those tight black leggings.

2 comments:

pat said...

what a great blog, lots of meat and perspective on this and that.

Katypracht said...

What a funny day of music theatre for you -- I appreciate your use of 'z' in "skillz" when complimenting singers on any acting whatsoever. :) And I'm so excited to see your eventual Lacroix costume! It sounds perfectly breathtaking!

Enjoy Berlin for that extra month. I'll look forward to your return!

Mmmmmwa,
Katy