Thursday, September 06, 2007
College of Tenors Meets in Milan
Dark smoke from La Scala chimney means no successor has yet been elected.
THE SOPRANOS TENORS. While people around the globe are mourning the death of Luciano Pavarotti, the powerful La Scala College of Tenors has been summoned to Milan to choose the next 'Greatest Tenor in the World.' Outsiders can only speculate about the politicking that is undoubtedly going on behind the ornate doors of Italy's venerable cathedral of opera. Tenors from multiple nations are said to be lobbying hard for an "anybody but an Italian" selection since Pavarotti held the post for more than 35 years. They also point to the long reign of Enrico Caruso early in the twentieth century as an indication that Italian parochialism has resulted in a virtual monopoly on the prestigious title. According to anonymous inside sources, Tenors from Spain, Ireland, and the U.S. are particularly grumpy because they believe Pavarotti should have stepped down in favor of one of their own native sons (e.g., Placido Domingo, Ronan Tynan, or Axl Rose) years ago.
Domingo, Tynan, and Rose
Also at issue in the current election is the vital question of whether Tenors should continue the ecumenical outreach initiated by Pavarotti to make opera singing more palatable to the mass audience. A solid contingent of hardline conservatives favors the little known candidate Uggio Cantabile who, despite an admittedly mediocre voice, would ban the recording of popular songs by Tenors as well as the performance of famous arias outside the context of the operas that give them meaning. (Listen to the attached audio file above for a sample of Uggio's voice, unless it's really Michael Bolton instead.) Cantabile's candidacy is being vehemently opposed by, among others, the U.S. Public Broadcasting System, which fears that the network will be unable to raise needed revenues during pledge drives if it is no longer permitted to broadcast endless reruns of the Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli performing saccharine crap for rich American dilettantes.
Concern about this grave threat to PBS has also brought prominent American pseudo-intellectual Bill Moyers into the fray. Moyers has written an open letter to the College of Tenors in a full-page ad paid for by PBS in today's New York Times. The letter says, in part: "Preservation of what little remains of high culture in the United States is entirely dependent upon a steady stream of mawkish pop ballads sung by famous foreign Tenors. Without the quarterly injection of funds raised by these entertainments, all the truly intellectual fare PBS offers could not be produced or broadcast because the ignorant American masses don't want it, don't watch it, and would never pay a nickel for it. Needless to say, the civilized nations of the world cannot afford the American hoi polloi to sink even lower into the barbaric mire than they already are." In his summation, Moyers nominates the commonest non-American (obviously) opera singer yet discovered, Paul Potts of Britain's Got Talent. Cynics at La Scala respond scornfully that Moyers can afford the bankruptcy of American public TV least of all, since his own income is derived from selling DVDs and videotapes of his taxpayer-funded PBS shows for personal profit.
Meanwhile, Antonio Cantabile, the don patriarch of the illustrious Sicilian family of singers, has placed a small box ad of his own in the Washington Post, reminding the lawmakers who fund PBS that New York's Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall are both old and "molto flammabile." There's also a reference, in an apparently untranslatable regional Italian dialect, that identifies the address of Moyers's house. The College of Tenors has disavowed any knowledge of the ad or its purpose.
And so it goes. Politics as usual in the snootiest upper reaches of the classical music world. We can only hope that the electoral process doesn't turn so vicious that it obscures the marvelous career of Luciano Pavarotti, who may very well prove to have been "the last of the great voices."
May his legacy live on.
UPDATE. Contrary to our hopes, the international political pressure on the College of Tenors continues to increase. Now, Oxford's 'University of Tenors' has denounced Paul Potts as the 'Welsh Pretender' and is demanding consideration for Thom Yorke of Radiohead, who "hits much scarier high notes" and is also "of the right sort." In fact, there's open talk of schism between Oxford and La Scala. The Radiohead initiative is already being denounced by Britain's Labor Party, which contends that the World's Greatest Tenor should be low-born and unattractive in appearance, though "not a wog, of course." Their nominee is Phil Collins, who -- despite being old and past his prime -- "isn't as old as Pavarotti was," and "besides, ALL the talented low-born Englishmen are frightfully old now anyway." Britain's highly influential 'Gay Regiment' has issued a press release declaring that age and death are irrelevant in the context of gay genocide and have launched a vigorous campaign on behalf of the late Freddie Mercury.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance, (backed, of course, by N.O.W.) has separately nominated Melissa Ethridge in protest against the straight patriarchy's oppressive definition of 'tenor' as an exclusively male voice.
International ANSWER has announced plans for a "possibly violent" demonstration at La Scala in support of the candidacy of Che Guevara, who did everything better than anyone else.
Canada's getting into the picture, too, insisting that Neil Young's rendition of Vesti La Giubba puts Michael Bolton's to shame, besides being higher than a dog's range of hearing. But, as usual, no one is paying the least bit of attention to them.
Back in America, some drunk old white guys are trying to figure out how to vote for Meatloaf.
And some even older drunk white guys have made a bonfire producing tons of white smoke they say means that the Greatest Tenor in the Whole History of the World is Roy Orbison.
In the interest of full disclosure, we have to admit we're partial to Mick, at least for the first few bars.
It's getting ugly.