Wednesday 10 October 2007

Carmen, get it?

Here's another one my otherwise open mind may be leading me to miss: Bizet's vibrant masterpiece as rendered by the ice-cold Sally Potter at the English National Opera. Orlando, if anyone really cares, is my second most loathed film of all time (Clint Eastwood's Bird is still the first, and recently I discovered a third which I also didn't see through to the end: Woody Allen's September, a pallid homage to our greatest Master, the late lamented Ingmar Bergman). As with the Ring, I have no problem with radical re-thinks, but Ms Potter's, by all accounts save the (usually reliable) Mr Seckerson, is a muddle. Alice Coote may have a certain sensuality, but she'd have to go a long way to 'be' Carmen (I remember a Glyndebourne chorene's reaction to Anne-Sofie von Otter's interesting take: 'she looks as if she's gone to Stockholm public library to look up the word "sex"'). Besides, Coote sounded in trouble when she sang Sesto for the ENO revival of Mozart's Clemenza di Tito; according to Michael Tanner, she still is. So do I make the effort for Ed Gardner's conducting? I'm still open to persuasion.

While in the vicinity of the cinema, I've been struck by the use of music in two films I've seen over the past few days. Revisiting the glorious All About Eve, it was fascinating to hear conventional Hollywood hearts-n-flowers stuff in the background to Eve's mendacious narrative of her tragic history. The dance melodies at the parties are significant, as is the stuff on the car radio when Margo and her treacherous best friend are stranded (Liszt's 'Liebestraum' pops up for a second time). Yesterday, I was taken aback by the modernity of Fritz Lang in M (why haven't I seen this film before?) The only music in the entire film is the tune so piercingly whistled by the child-murderer as brilliantly played by Peter Lorre: it's Grieg's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'. When this bug-eyed troll is tracked down, it's chiefly because a blind balloon-seller recognises the whistle: how's that for a touch of genius in one of the early 'talkies'?

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