Prosecute the torture.

January 28, 2016

Question For The Pittsburgh Symphony: CARMEN For VALENTINE'S DAY??

OK so yestiddy, as I was thumbing through the most recent Pittsburgh City Paper (and while you're there, take a look at this assessment of the Democratic candidates vying for a shot at Pat Toomey - it's HIGHLY informative) I saw an ad for some upcoming concerts by your very own Pittsburgh Symphony.

This concert, in particular, caught my eye.  Here's the copy:
About This Performance

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Pittsburgh Symphony brings a program full of romantic melodies and beautiful love themes. Slovakian conductor Juraj Valčuha returns to the podium with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare-inspired musical tale of star crossed lovers with the Romeo and Juliet Overture, Dvořák’s most beloved cello concerto, Wagner’s stunning “Prelude und Liebestod” from his opera Tristan und Isolde and excerpts from Bizet’s impassioned and fiery Carmen suites.
I am sure the band will be great, the conductor will be great etc etc and so forth, but do they even know what happens at the end of Carmen?

Do you?

Here's a halfway decent synopsis:
Set in Seville around the year 1830, the opera deals with the love and jealousy of Don José, who is lured away from his duty as a soldier and his beloved Micaëla by the gypsy factory-girl Carmen, whom he allows to escape from custody. He is later induced to join the smugglers with whom Carmen is associated, but is driven wild by jealousy. This comes to a head when Carmen makes clear her preference for the bull-fighter Escamillo. The last act, outside the bull-ring in Seville, brings Escamillo to the arena, accompanied by Carmen, there stabbed to death by Don José, who has been awaiting her arrival.
This blogpost is not a condemnation of the work itself, don't mistake me, as Carmen is a great work of art and in passing let me say that I never much agreed with those few feminist musicological analyses I remember reading a few decades ago that would condemn it/criticize it for its violent content (see Catherine Clement - Opera; or, the undoing of women and Susan McClary - Feminine Endings).  In any event, it seems to me that Carmen is a tragic warning on how love (or perhaps better yet, lust) can lead to utter devastation - on the one hand, Carmen's murder and on the other Don José's descent from regular guy to, well, blood-stained murderer.  All because, as Carmen herself sings, "Love has never known a law."

And That's not even touching on the tragedies that end Romeo and Juliet (SPOILER: They both die!) and Tristan und Isolde (SPOILER: They ALSO both die!!).

Great music? Yes, yes undoubtedly yes.  Great and necessary, unquestionably.  But music to celebrate Valentine's Day??

You have got to be kidding me.

And with that, I'd like to announce that I'm taking a break from the blog for about a week.  I just need to recharge the batteries a bit.

See you all real soon.

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