1/3/09

Compare and Contrast!

I’m winding down my day, so I’ll simply let you fill in the punch lines. All you have to do is compare and contrast these next few paragraphs.

1. This is an excerpt from Mark Kanny’s puff piece about John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, found in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The action, such as it is, takes place during the day and night leading to the first detonation of an atomic weapon on July 16, 1945. After a soundscape created digitally by Adams, the opera begins with a chorus of scientists singing about physics. It sets a gray, prosaic tone as the characters worry and wait for the countdown to conclude more than three hours of opera later. "Doctor Atomic" is too long, particularly in the time spent at the test site. Scenes in each act at the Oppenheimers' house provide welcome contrast.

Oh, rarely have the words poured from a penny pencil with such feverish fluidity!

2. This is Ralphie’s Theme, from A Christmas Story.

What I want for Christmas is a Red Rider BB gun with a compass and a stock and a thing which tells time. I think that everybody should have a Red Rider BB gun. They are very good for Christmas. I don’t think a football is a very good Christmas present.

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And just for giggles, more from Mark’s Pittsburgh puffery.

I like the opera's quietly haunting ending. The novel "Black Rain" by Masuji Ibuse is a good way to explore the world hinted at by the opera's final words.

Kwuh? The opera’s final text...which is quietly haunting...it hints...of a world...in which a different text...enables good exploration...of the operatic text?

Pfft. (brain fart)

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And really, it's too long? Opera much?
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4 comments:

invitapriore said...

This is most definitely a puff piece, but I don't think "too long" is a criticism that is worthy of being glibly dismissed by an appeal to genre norms: if a work's length doesn't suit it, it doesn't suit it, no matter what Wagner did.

Of course, your derision probably centers around the qualifications of the author, in which case...yeah. Unfortunately, I can't speak as to the validity of the criticism because I haven't seen the opera, only heard the subsequent symphony. It was a special premiere at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and I got to attend a question and answer session with Mr. Adams afterward. I asked him if the section where all the strings play col legno battuto was intended to sound as a Geiger counter. He said no, but I saw a light in his eyes...I have witnesses if he ever starts saying as much!

Gustav said...

Too long is not a valid criticism in an of itself -- it's lazy. People, well...opera lovers, can sit through 4-hour Wagner operas and complain of its length. 80 minutes of a Will Ferrell movie is like an eternity, while Schindler's List and its 3 hour running time seem appropriate to the story.

What made it seem too long is the question. Does the story move too slowly? Is the music becoming redundant? "Too long" suggests boredom -- what bored you?

Gustav said...

That should read "not complain of its length" with regard to Wagner operas.

cereal_music said...

So we're in agreement that Adams and Wagner aren't worth listening to? Those large scores probably would serve well as kindling.

C.M.