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12.9.14

Pérello? God Help Us

available at Amazon
Love Duets, A. Pérez, S. Costello, BBC Symphony Orchestra, P. Summers
Two American opera singers who also happen to be husband and wife, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez, gave a recital on Wednesday night in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, to kick off the Washington National Opera season. A last-minute family responsibility kept me home that night, but it sounds like I did not miss much. The two singers are the subjects of an obsequious, often annoying PR strategy, which casts them as a young "power couple," whatever that is. This includes quotes from an embarrassing fluff piece for The Times by Emma Pomfret (Love Is in the Aria for Opera's New It Couple, May 5), for whom such articles are a journalistic specialty, which is the stuff of a flack's wet dreams:
If Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of opera (on again, off again, divorce), husband and wife Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez are the Jay Z and Beyoncé. They’re modern, they’re hot and their marital status is taking them beyond opera’s heartland into Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post [sic!], and YouTube ubiquity that includes the gushy mini-doc An Operatic Love Story. Labeled opera's It couple and a power couple, in person "Pérello" are charmingly low-key...
It rankles when classical musicians seek out the trappings of the very pop culture that seeks to supplant them, especially when both husband and wife are talented people. Last spring, I took note of Ted Gioia's complaint that pop music criticism had "degenerated into lifestyle reporting," but the same forces are at work in the classical world. This week, Alex Ross fired off two more salvos in his ongoing attack against the elitism of pop culture, beginning with a substantial article in The New Yorker on the approaches of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin to the pop-classical divide (The Naysayers, September 15). As Adorno foresaw, Ross observes at one point, pop culture has acquired "its own cultic aspect, one neatly configured for technological dissemination."

In a related assessment of pop culture's near-complete annexation of the Kennedy Center Honors, Ross writes, "it’s not enough for pop culture to dominate the mainstream; it must colonize the spaces occupied by older genres and effectively drive them from the field." Crossover endeavors, like the opera-Broadway mish-mash Love Duets album being pushed by "Pérello," are nothing new, but they seem like a disgraceful collaboration with the forces of pop triumphalism.

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