I watched this documentary on PBS last night. I enjoyed it a
lot. Some thoughts I had while watching it:
- I was surprised how old-fashioned the staging looked, not
only in the clips from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, but even from
the 70’s, which is when I started going to the theater.
- The best thing about it was that there was a lot of singing;
not just short clips but enough of an aria that you could really
get into the characterization.
- I’m surprised at how few of those performances are on
Netflix, with only a couple more of the operas on amazon.
- They used Roberto
Devereaux as an example of what Sills thought wasn’t
completely bel canto singing in the bel canto
repertoire. Also an example of why singing opera is an athletic
feat — the makeup took two hours to put on, and the costume
weighed 50 pounds. I’m not sure I could sit around watching TV
in something like that, let alone stand and sing over an
orchestra for 3 hours.
- The crossover appearances were interesting — not only could
she tap-dance with Danny Kaye and Lily Tomlin, but they could
sing with her.
It made me feel very nostalgic; I did actually see a
performance of Guilio Cesare in 1972, with a group
of people who were doing opera performances at Brown
University. We went backstage and shook Beverly Sill’s hand,
and met Muffy, the deaf daughter.
Singing opera is one of the things that’s always made me say,
“I wish I could do that.” It still does, even though of course
there’s now no chance at all, and never was much.