luisa miller & ordeal of innocence

luisa miller (live from the met, south woodford odeon)

even my dad hadn’t heard of this opera by verdi; and the english surname of its heroine certainly feels unusual in this italian-language melodrama with a count and a guy called rodolfo; it had a touch of the “life of brian” name-bathos (bathonomy?)

it was also nice not knowing the plot, but that’s something verdi seems to expect anyway, as he drops confusing hints in earlier only to be resolved later – e.g. the allegation that rodolfo is the count’s son – which count? and so what?

but the story is great (if, as with così fan tutte, predicated on the tensions thrown up by fathers and husbands owning their women, or, more charitably, tensions between such a world and a more enlightened one), and, it was, dear reader, some way through what was probably act 2, when i had a strong feeling that finally i understood what opera was about; opera took longer to get used to than rothmans or guinness did as a young man (and the feeling passed as rodolfo launched into passionate lament after lament: too much of me wanted him to get over it)

but the met presentations are amazing – gushingly camp interviewers, chats with the stars as they rush panting off stage (including the charming and wise placido domingo), and intervals filled with half-light footage of vast sets being roped or wheeled into place – again like the cartoon architecture in the life of brian

ordeal of innocence

a three-part agatha christie with good old bill nighy and others; a wealthy adopting couple’s family falls apart when the horrible mother is murdered – gradually we learn how everyone had a motive (she was so horrible), and how the main suspect (the wildest of her adopted children), who died violently in prison, was probably innocent

of course it was her husband, whom i suspected at the start as he’s the one who rushes in when the maid screams; ok – i was lucky – but the neatest whodunnits bring it back to someone you see at the start but then are manipulated to discount

How they are related

Family dramas with a paterfamilias the main culprit – so far so similar. But the family Agatha Christie constructs are all unsympathetic, or rather all dysfunctional; Verdi’s are generally goodies or baddies. What’s more interesting is the similar tensions between the ‘high-ups’ and the ordinary folk: Verdi’s drama comes from the socially unacceptable love between the Count’s son and a non-aristocratic woman; Christie’s wealthy family in their mansion are undone by the persistently honourable young man who had an alibi for the prime suspect – too late, but his refusal to go away provides the little jabs which stir the hornets’ nest.

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