TV last night.
Part 2 of Golden Voices on Film. I have this on video, though with a slightly different title, a different narrator and a couple of clips missing. However, it's some time since I've watched it. The contexts in which these films came into being make for some unusual viewing. Seeing Bob Hope introduce Kirsten Flagstad is, it has to be said, slightly odd. Charles Laughton introducing Renata and Jussi Björling is even odder. "As a man, I would hope to be as Jussi Björling sounds." Right. Still it's wonderful to have these performances preserved on film. Best of all is Joanie's description-defying "O beau pays de la Touraine". Did the woman ever breathe?
But then, Opera Easy: Don Giovanni. Now, in my post about An American Tragedy I said I'd never consider hitting a soprano with an oar. But I lied. Because Natalie Choquette, who hosts this abomination of a series, does in fact tempt me to physical violence. The patronising "let's demystify opera for you, you idiot" tone is truly horrifying. I mean, the "demystifying" is dodgy ground already, particularly as this show uses a one-question quiz (answer: Seville), an "interview" with Da Ponte (as 2005-style lech), painfully un-funny monologues by Choquette and almost no actual music to do the so-called "demystifying". But this revolting cocktail is such a hideous creation that it's not just bad opera-themed television, it's bad television full stop. And for all that, it might perhaps have been saved, had it had an appealing soprano at the helm. Natalie Choquette is not that soprano. I've heard her sing once before, in the five minutes of The Diva's Nightmare I was able to endure. There she plays a soprano who loses her voice halfway through "Let the bright seraphim". To which I say: Not A French Canadian Tragedy. (Though no doubt she gets it back in the end.) She apparently considers herself at once comedienne and diva supreme: but nothing she says in this Opera Easy is remotely funny and when she sings, it's only to murder a few bars of Zerlina's music. Take my advice: steer clear of Opera Easy, and if you do come near, do it in a row boat.
Relief, however, in the third show of the night, a delectable La Serva Padrona with Patrizia Biccirè and Donato di Stefano. No Serva Padrona, of course, can beat the black and white film with Anna Moffo, which is one of the most wonderful things ever, but this one surely came as close as is possible. I'd never heard of Patrizia Biccirè but obviously I should have. The whole performance was just gorgeous. Hilarious, and with beautiful singing from both performers.
And it's a good thing I was able to get such a fix of opera last night. Because after that I listened for the first time to A Bouquet of Melodies, Yvonne Kenny's 1995 disc of French song. And quite frankly I can see no reason why I should ever listen to anybody sing anything else ever again.