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6.12.05

News Bits

According to an article (Terfel 'to take year off opera', November 26) from the BBC, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel is going to take some time off from his busy operatic schedule to spend time with his wife and children, possibly a whole year closer to home in 2008. If you have the chance to hear him sing near you in the next couple years, take it.

As Tim Page pointed out in his review of Washington National Opera's Trilogy thing this fall, "why do other cities get to hear Domingo in the masterpieces of the operatic repertoire while Washington has to get by with performances of zarzuela, a sort of Spanish Gilbert and Sullivan (Domingo sang 'Luisa Fernanda' here last year), and now this celestial vaudeville?" One of those masterpieces in other cities is this year's Parsifal at Los Angeles Opera, with Domingo in the starring role and staging by Robert Wilson. Mark Swed's review (Plácido's quest for the Grail, November 28) for the Los Angeles Times is worth reading:

For the ordinary mortal Wagnerian heroic tenor, simply singing Parsifal well into his 60s is a rare accomplishment, and Domingo was in stentorian voice Saturday. He, of course, is not going to sell anyone on impersonating a young "holy fool" anymore. Indeed, in a Wilsonian get-up of slicked-back hair and heavy white makeup, he looked very much the old fool. And he seemed all the more fool to subject his aging joints to the heavily stylized Wilsonian postures and slow-motion movements. When he first walked onstage, wearing a stiff, white Japanese-inspired costume (toned down from Frida Parmeggiani's more flamboyant early '90s avant-garde original) and trying way too hard to restrict his natural Latin exuberance, the effect was almost risible. It might have been a "Saturday Night Live" skit, if "Saturday Night Live" knew anything about culture.
Last year, I posted about the little-noted anniversary events in Mexico for the 50th anniversary of Frida Kahlo's death. The owners of her estate were selling some rather tacky Kahlo kitsch in their gift shops. Now an article (Kahlo tequila fuels Fridamania row, November 26) by Dan Glaister for The Guardian reports that Kahlo's niece has created a brand of tequila that bears Frida's name:
Frida Kahlo Tequila is made in Jesús María in the highlands of Jalisco in Mexico and comes in three varieties, retailing at $50 (£30), $65 and $90 a bottle. Each bottle bears a picture of Kahlo and sells under the slogan "Being original is no sin". The Frida Kahlo Corporation, created by Isolda Kahlo, also plans to market a 50cm Frida doll. The family has marketed Frida Kahlo jewellery and clothing after her niece won the rights to register the name as a brand.
In the same vein, an article by Joëlle Stolz (Frida Kahlo transformée en poupée "Barbie", December 2) in Le Monde describes some of the other kitsch now being peddled by Kahlo's descendants (my translation):
Created by Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, the artist's 76-year-old niece, the Frida Kahlo Corporation (FKC) has begun marketing a 55-cm-tall doll made in Kahlo's likeness, painted by hand and clothed with one of the embroidered indigenous costumes that she favored. One hundred thousand copies, priced at $200 each, are to be put on sale beginning on December 14 in Mexico, the United States, France, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan.
The doll's face will apparently carry a "sweet expression," not the emotionless mask always seen in photographs of Kahlo, because of her medical problems. FKC plans to release five of these Frida Kahlo "Barbies" (as the article title puts it) over the next five years. Finally, according to an article by Charlotte Higgins (Branagh to put The Magic Flute on film, November 3) for The Guardian, film director Kenneth Branagh will break into the world of opera, by filming Mozart's The Magic Flute, in an English translation by Stephen Fry.
The opera - Mozart's fantastical tale of the triumph of lovers Tamino and Pamina against the evil Queen of the Night, complete with masonic overtones, pyramids, lethal serpents and a lustful Moor - will be set in the first world war. The three ladies who accompany the Queen of the Night will be recast as field nurses, and the feathered man, Papageno, will become the custodian of canaries used to detect lethal gas.
René Pape will sing Sarastro, and Lyubov Petrova will portray the Queen of the Night.

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