Verismo Duet

maddon25_jpg_665841gm-a.jpgIf you’ve watched any baseball coverage today, you have probably seen video footage of both Tampa Bay Rays’ Carl Crawford and his manager Joe Maddon in heated arguments with homeplate umpire Bob Davidson prior to and following their ejections in the sixth inning of last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox in Tampa.

In case you might have missed this dramatic display, watch it here. 

I’ve seen countless ejections as a spectator, but I was captivated by this video footage because of how seemingly out-of-control Davidson himself seemed to be.  I wondered: Aren’t umpires charged with setting the tone of games and maintaining a sense of decorum?

I was also fascinated to see two individuals (Crawford-Davidson and then Maddon-Davidson) so completely invade each another’s personal space–as close as they could be without touching– simultaneously yelling at the top of their lungs.

The display intrigued me enough that I posted the video on my Facebook Wall, along with commentary similar to that written above.

kaufman-gheorghiu3.jpgI received numerous comments, but one of them prompted this post. 

A member of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Craig Montgomery, commented on my post,

     “Actually, that’s sort of what singing an opera duet looks like :)”

And he is absolutely correct.

Any singer worth his/her conservatory training knows that, in order to project the voice over the orchestra, he/she must sing out directly toward the audience.  However, in the interests of staging and realistic portrayals of his/her character (not to mention variety), singers often find themselves singing in acoustically or musically compromising situations.

I have witnessed singers deal with these challenging situations, among others:

    • Singing with their backs to the audience, singing upstage.
    • Blocking requiring the singer to sing into heavy (sound-absorbant) scenery, an upholstered sofa, a bed, or a pillow.
    • Seconds away from un altro baccio (“another kiss”), being required to sing directly facing another singer, literally yelling at (and sometimes inadvertently spraying) the other artist, not unlike umpire Bob Davidson and his fellow “artists”.

The following clip features soprano Waltraud Meier and tenor José Cura in a duet from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.  The video appears to have been recorded in 1996 in Ravenna, Italy, with Maestro Riccardo Muti conducting.

About 2:30 into the clip, Meier and Cura–in the roles of Santuzza and Turiddu, respectively–the intensity of the couples’ exchange prompts them to embrace and get very close to one another, singing passionately into each other’s faces.  The “other woman” enters shortly thereafter and after her departure, at about seven minutes or so into the video, Turiddu grows tired of Santuzza’s jealous rage, becomes enraged himself and, again, they sing at full voice directly facing each other, so close that their lips almost touch.

Take a look:

 http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/cp6mmGvUl0U&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&border=1

 

Soprano Renée Fleming, recently described operatic expression as “controlled screaming”.

“Basically we holler – in an extremely cultivated way, of course!”

I guess it can then be said that, in the passion of the moment–both in opera as well as in sports–the line between refined sound/decorum and yelling–“cultivated” or otherwise–can be a thin one in the name of art/the game.

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