Editor's Desk

Crossing Over

(Recordings, Observations, Louise Guinther, Listening) Permanent link

Why do so many practitioners of "crossover" profess to be so deeply offended by the term? It has no inherently negative connotation as far as I can see: it was coined merely to indicate an artist "crossing over" from one genre into another — generally one for which he/she was not previously known. The word itself certainly implies no harm in that.

Many artists have successfully made forays outside what is considered their home territory. Take Eileen Farrell's recordings of Irving Berlin or Rodgers & Hart: I defy anyone listening blind to identify Farrell as an interloper in the pop world. And Cesare Siepi's "I've Got You Under My Skin" — silly, over-the-top and heavily accented as it is — remains fun, sexy and utterly irresistible. In the opposite direction, Sting has earned kudos for his idiosyncratic but earnest ventures into lute song, and Aretha Franklin's accidental appropriation of "Nessun dorma" was a smash hit.

I can't imagine Farrell would have had much objection to the term "crossover," since she seemed to hold dual citizenship in the pop and classical worlds and could travel back and forth over the border confident of a warm welcome whichever way she went. The trouble seems to arise with artists who want to be taken for natives but come across more as the kind of daytripping tourists whose cameras, Hawaiian shirts and socks-with-sandals are a dead giveaway. One suspects there would be less niggling over terminology if the artists in question were not so worried about tripping over the barbed wire and finding themselves caught in no-man's land, with hostile searchlights trained on them from both sides. spacer 

— Louise T. Guinther 

Take a Bow

(Observations, Performances, Elizabeth Diggans) Permanent link

As the opera season draws to a close and American Ballet Theatre takes up residence at the Metropolitan Opera house, a change comes over the audience. When the final curtain falls on even a first-rate opera performance, audience members rush toward the exits with the panicked urgency of passengers just informed, "By the way, that iceberg was a tad larger than we thought, and it turns out we're a bit short on lifeboats." Maybe I'm being unfair. I suppose there might be one or two brain surgeons in the audience who've turned their cell phones back on to find their presence is needed in the operating room STAT. But can all those frantic people clambering over me without apology really be brain surgeons? Is it asking too much to give the singers the courtesy of a few minutes of appreciation? On some nights, people don't seem to mind waiting around to boo; why not wait around to applaud on other nights? What's the hurry?

On the other hand, at the end of an even average ballet performance, a whole new show begins in front of the curtain. Any prima ballerina worth her salt recognizes that she now owns that little piece of the stage, and she's not about to let anybody take it from her. This is her moment, and you'll get none of that surprised "Oooh, all of you nice people standing there applauding for little ol' me?" attitude from her. And her male costar (no matter how spectacularly he himself has danced) gallantly assumes the role of her enslaved go-fer, trotting around obediently picking up bouquets and presenting them to her on bended knee with an expression of adoration (probably concealing the fact that he can't stand the very sight of her). She may deign to remove a flower from a bouquet and return it to him with a gracious nod or affectionate kiss (never letting on that she's not quite certain what his name is). This can go on for quite a while, and the audience loves it — and stays to watch, as if the ballet hadn't really ended when the prince pledged his undying love to the wrong swan and had to go back to that damn lake to find the swan he truly loved.

So, should opera singers take a lesson from this? Would a master class on the art of the curtain call taught by one or two (preferably Russian — they do it best) ballerinas help? The problem, of course, will be how to train the tenors to pick up the bouquets — and actually hand them over to the sopranos. Maybe that's where the baritones come in. spacer 

— Elizabeth Diggans

 

 


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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6