Once again, it's cultural miscellany time. A selection of items from elsewhere, mostly relating to topics taken up here in the recent past:
- Peter Schjeldahl, writing in The New Yorker on That Darned Pricey Klimt that's all the rage, nails the silliest bit of hyperbole thus far launched in its honor:
Lauder, speaking for the Neue Galerie, has called the painting 'our "Mona Lisa." ' I have seen the 'Mona Lisa,' and 'Adele' is no 'Mona Lisa.' Not very much is mysterious about this cookie.
Link via Donn Zaretsky's Art Law Blog, which I have also added to the links list -- I categorized him with the lawyers, but he would fit in just as well among the cultured -- at left.
- Playbill reports on Opera News' list of "The 25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera." I leave it to the knowledgeable to comment in depth, but will note that Los Angeles is at least indirectly represented on the list via Placido Domingo in his administrative capacity as general director of the Los Angeles Opera, incoming LA Opera principal conductor James Conlon, and recently-in-LA Grendel director Julie Taymor. International ultrasoprano Renée Fleming makes the list as well, just when she is at the heart of an LA Opera-related fiscal drama.
Los Angeles Opera has given itself less than two weeks to find the money needed to salvage a star-studded revival of Verdi's 'La Traviata' that the company trumpeted at the beginning of the year as the glittery opener of its 2006-07 season.
According to an L.A. Opera spokesman, the company does not currently have the funds to fulfill a contractual commitment it made to soprano Renée Fleming to produce a video record of this staging of Verdi's opera at the same time that it mounts three performances in September. Unofficial estimates put the price tag for the taping at $600,000.
This is not the first hitch the production has faced since the announcement in January that Fleming would be joined by the magnetic baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and rising tenor Rolando Villazón for the performances, also scheduled to mark conductor James Conlon's debut as the company's music director.
Playbill link found, most unexpectedly, via Coolfer.
- At the Opera News site, I stumbled upon a story on the exhumation of the remains of Farinelli, the great 18th Century castrato. That story provides a convenient excuse to point to Christopher Peachment's recent castrati piece at The Social Affairs Unit, inspired by a current London exhibition on Handel's involvement with those now-extinct vocalists. It begins in clinical fashion thus:
The deed was done with a device like a sheep-shearer. The boy was first placed in a bath of warm milk, which was thought to be relaxing, and then drugged with opium or alcohol. This had its own dangers, and many died from an overdose. Some surgeons would also use half-strangulation as a sedative, and many candidates were lost from too tight a pressure on the jugular. It seems that about 4,000 boys underwent this operation in the 17th and 18th centuries, lured by the prospects of the huge rewards for a good castrato singer. The most famous, Farinelli, earned more for an opera performance than Handel's fee for writing one, and by the end of his career was able to buy a Dukedom in Italy.
Read on, to learn the environmentally-sensitive reasons why Mr. Peachment proposes that everything old might be made new again.