Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond


March 18, 2007

With spring arriving this week, it’s time to start finalizing the opera travel plans for summer. In addition to Santa Fe and San Francisco (where I am especially excited about the Isokoski/DiDonato/Miah Persson Der Rosenkavalier), I will be heading over to Eurpoe. My choices this year include Kata Kabanova at Covent Garden under Sir Charles Mackerras, Dawn Upshaw (hopefully and finally) in Saariaho’s La Passion de Simone at the Barbican and a week in Munich. Why Munich you may ask. Well among other reasons, because I LOVE EUROTRASH! Yes you heard it. Cocaine sniffing princes? great. Naked Tosca? you bet. Apes? Bring It On! During the festival we will see the world premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland, as well as a return of the William Friedkin Salome (hopefully with breast-licking intact), the house’s new Kovanshchina, and their Christof Loy productions of Roberto Devereux and Alcina. I can’t wait.

Why do I love “eurotrash” productions? Because I think they build on the actual tradition of opera over the last 400 years. If not being adverse to a little shock value was good enough for Mozart, I can’t see the harm here. Plus where does the whole use of the stupid term “eurotrash” come from anyway? I’ve heard it used twice this week alone. First in some of the blog commentary on the Met’s new Die Ägyptische Helena and secondly at a focus group I attended this week for the LA Opera. There, an older woman with a clear and heavy Eastern European accent expressed her rage over two recent local “eurotrash” [sic] productions directed by Robert Wilson: Madame Butterfly and Parsifal. The irony here is too thick and multi-faceted to even begin to comprehend. Apparently many former Europeans, like most Americans, aren’t sure where Texas is either.

I’ve always found the use of the term “eurotrash” as a pejorative when directed at opera productions, particularly by Americans, highly ironic. What exactly is the criticism here? American opera-lovers who critique an example of the most European of art forms that has been largely supported by the idle rich with more money than taste for over four centuries seem to have missed the point. Opera itself seems to me to be “eurotrash” by definition. As usual, the criticism says more about the critic than the object of the criticism. In reality, Americans criticizing an opera production as being “eurotrash” are essentially expressing their own discomfort with the idea that the picture-postcard romantic tourist Europe of their imagination may not in fact be one that anyone lives in now or has even lived in. As for those who want Tosca to look like Tosca: apparently some Americans just aren’t happy unless they can smell the decay and rot of others’ civilizations.

In any event, it should be a fun summer. All this and Santa Fe which will include a chance to revisit Laurent Pelly’s production of Platée is more than enough for me. See you around.

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