A number of the April First issues each year of AUDIOPHILE AUDITION in the past decade have featured something of a musically humorous nature. Here are some current links to other sites offering musical humor, as well as a couple to past issues of AUDIOPHILE AUDITION from April First. Plus a new opera review hot off the press!
Preston & Beachwood Music Jokes site
Spike’s Music Collection, includes mondegreens – misheard lyrics
Music Humor Site, jokes about various types of performers
Am I Right – specialist in misheard song lyrics (Mondegreens)
More Music Humor, includes cartoons
Blog about Mondegreens – mis-heard lyrics
The Gerard Hoffnung Web Site – Most hilarious cartoons on classical music ever penned
Past Music Humor feature – April 1 2004 AudAud
Past Music Humor feature – April 1 2003 AudAud
Review of Bastille Opera’s New Rigoletto Production
GLUG, GLUG, GLUG
Reutters, April 1, 2010, Dateline: Paris
Review of New Rigoletto Production at L´Opera Bastille
A giant square glass tank holding 200,000 gallons of filtered water from the Seine has been constructed on the stage of the Bastille Opera to meet the demands of the new Luc Bondy production of Verdi´s Rigoletto.
The production is set underwater in the legendary city of Atlantis, the abode of the fish people – formerly humans who adapted to the sinking of Atlantis by developing gills, growing scales to cover their bodies, and two fish tails replacing their legs. Rigoletto and Gilda are humans who wear metal diving suits and are attached to the surface by air hoses throughout the production. "I did this to show that Rigoletto and Gilda on the one hand and the Duke and his courtiers on the other, come from two different worlds, and that, no matter how hard they try, Rigoletto and Gilda will never fit into the Duke´s underwater realm. This is something that opera audiences over the past 150 years have either not noticed or been unable to grasp." said Luc Bondy who conceived the production.
Act I opens in the licentious court of the Duke who, resting on a bed of seaweed and wearing a jaunty cap, looks eerily like Charlie the Tuna.
Fornicating seahorses, portrayed by members of the ballet corps, fill all levels of the set to demonstrate the licentious nature of the court. Above all floats a giant, forty foot long, purple eggplant ("aubergine" in French) radiating different colors to accent the mood of the music.
The courtiers are dressed as salmon and the servants as groupers. Monterone is costumed as a monkfish. The performers breath from specially shaped air tanks that are moulded into their costumes. As sound cannot carry through the water and the thick glass walls of the tank so as to be heard by the audience, the opera has been pre-recorded and the voices run through a set of special filters to give them a gurgling sound.
Rigoletto and Gilda, however, actually sing their roles during the performance, with the sound of their voices being captured from their air hoses and then broadcast into the theater.
In Act II, for added authenticity, Rigoletto´s house is modelled after those cute castle-like structures that are found at the bottom of home aquariums. The courtiers who come to abduct Gilda are cleverly disguised as sharks. To further define the act as a home situation, a giant chair, also forty feet long, floating at the top of the tank has replaced the purple eggplant of the first act.
This feature also satisfies the Bastille´s recently adopted tradition that a giant chair floating high above the performers must be seen in every new production. "This is a 21st Century adaptation, much like the Paris Opera´s mid-19th century tradition that there be an Act II ballet in every opera performed in the theater" says Intendent Nicolas Joel. "For like reason, some of the male fish wear trench coats and some of the female fish carry purses."
As Act III progresses, to show the truly evil nature of the Duke´s court, dolphins ontinually swim to the surface to drag innocent swimmers down into the depths to their deaths by drowning. As the Duke goes to join the kidnapped Gilda, he ominously picks up a can opener as he exits the stage.
In Act IV, the giant floating eggplant returns and is revealed to be Moby Dick. Now dead, the whale is surrounded by three boats filled with whaling men who proceed to strip the carcass of blubber, sending blood and entrails floating down into Atlantis throughout the act. This, said Bondy, is to give the audience advance warning that the opera will end tragically.
At the close of the opera, as Rigoletto sings "Gilda, mia Gilda … La maledizzone" a giant sea gull dives into the tank, takes the body of the dead Gilda in its beak, swims to the top of the tank, and then flies over the heads of the audience to the rear of the theater. This brilliant coup-de-theatre was made possible by the same technical crew that brought you the falling chandelier in Phantom of the Opera.
Immediately noticeable upon entering the auditorium, one change mandated by the production is that the white-tie attire normally worn by members of the orchestra has now been replaced by yellow slickers and rain hats. This change has been necessitated because of the water spilling out of the tank onto the stage – both from leaks in the tank and the performers splashing about on the top of the water.
Longtime Paris opera goers will also notice the regrettable absence and replacement of some twenty-three members of the orchestra. They were drowned in rehearsal when one of the seams of the tank burst and flooded the orchestra pit. These performances of Rigoletto are dedicated to their memory.
The accident, unfortunately, also led to a somewhat shaky performance from the pit, with the players keeping their eyes on the tank as much or more than on the scores in front of them. Conductor Michael Lee Aday did his best under the circumstances to keep the orchestra together.
Another Bondy innovation was the absence of the names of the singers and the composer from the program. "These are immaterial to the performance of opera in the 21st Century", said Bondy. "What is important today is production, production, production, and the presence of brilliant individuals such as myself to resuscitate this near-dead art form."
With the exception of a very few malcontents, the performance was rapturously received by the audience. The former, however, threw bottles of tartar sauce and dead fish at the members of production staff (which – in addition to Bondy – included choreographer Lloyd Bridges, Jr. and set designer David Jones) when they came out to take their bows at the end of the performance. Anticipating that there might be some adverse reaction to his new production, Bondy, in another brilliant coup-de-theatre, had planned in advance and arranged for several members of the ballet to be costumed as lobsters and crabs. The crustaceans came out and cleared the stage of the detritus between curtain calls, allowing the performers and production staff to repeatedly advance towards the audience and take their well-deserved bows without having to worry about where they were stepping.
Before the start of the performance, a few left-wing anarchists picketed outside of the opera house, claiming that the production was a plot conceived by the papacy to sell more fish.
France´s Culture Minister, Frederic Mitterrand, declined to comment about the cost of the production, which is reported to be in excess of forty-five million Euros (not including the costs of the death benefits that will have to be paid to next of kin of the drowned musicians). When asked about the cost, French President Nicolas Sarkozy (whose wife, Carla Bruni, attended the performance) replied that any headlines that would take the spotlight off of him were more than welcome.
Simultaneous with the Paris opening, Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb has announced that the production will come to New York during the 2012-2013 season. He further announced that the $30 million required to mount the production is fortunately already in hand. To calm fears about the water for the production which is coming from the Hudson River, Gelb also announced that all associated with the production will be given typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis, and cholera shots as additional protection in the event that the water filtering system is not 100% effective.