Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Escapism, guilt and very loud music

I ought to care more - well, actually I care a lot - but I keep letting myself get distracted from it all into other concerns or sheer escapism. Given that a part of me thinks that nothing any of us can do will make a difference, and that another part of me wants to get involved with peace politics purely for the sheer buzz of organizing and making speeches, and that another part is just burned out on sitting for hours in rooms full of people who fondly believe that their hidden agendas are, in fact, hidden, I can see why I want escapism, but at the same time it is a pretty feeble response to mass death and the end of civil society and world peace as we have known them.

(Which of course is not much, but probably better than we are going to get now, with the implication that all dissent is treachery and that any vengeance is justified and productive in an of itself.)

One of the bits of escapism of the last few days was watching Rigoletto on the television tonight - letting myself get caught up in the sheer mad energy of Italian opera with chorus, aria, duet, quartet, trio rushing on in ever-changing combinations of voices that suddenly modulate into a big tune and a strong situation. I know that for a lot of people opera is something queens and posh gits like, but back when Verdi wrote Rigoletto it was a popular art form and people sang his tunes in the street and played them on barrel organs. When he was dying, they put down straw in the streets to keep from disturbing him - people loved him that much - and when he was taken to the grave, the populace of Milan lined the streets singing the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco. You've got to admit that that is being not only popular but a popular artist.

And in a sense Rigoletto just is not all that escapist in the end - Rigoletto the jester's master the Duke rapes Rigoletto's daughter and Rigoletto swears vengeance even though she asks for forgiveness for the man she loved before he raped her. Rigoletto hires an assassin, and his daughter sacrifices herself to save the Duke who has wronged her. Rigoletto believes that he has won the upper hand, and then discovers not just that vengeance is empty but that it has destroyed the one thing in the world he loves. The people he hired to do the killing for him cheerfully killed what they took for a perfect stranger because one of them fancied the Duke; they have simply ripped him off because the people you get to do your dirty work don't like you - they take your money and laugh if you are not satisfied with the result.

The trouble with not liking opera is that you never get its lessons thrust on you - Rigoletto is a work of extreme heartbreak because it is a work about justice and injustice and how the rich get the pleasure and the poor get screwed even when they try to sort things out for themselves. All Rigoletto succeeds in doing is paying for the murder of his daughter - which is an ironic sequel to his stomping around the stage singing 'Si, vendetta, tremenda vendetta' which I don't have to translate, surely.

This is stuff we need to be reminded of right now. And it is also worth remembering that the Duke, who gets to sing 'La Donna e Mobile' which is the bit of the opera everyone in the Western world knows even if they don't know they know it, is singing about how women are unreliable just after raping his sweetheart and moving on to spending the night with a whore.

I also went to see Moulin Rouge and was pretty much blown away - certainly the most operatic film I have ever seen that was not actually a film of an opera. Kidman is beautiful and talented almost beyond the telling of it; Ewan McGregor is surprisingly all right; Jim Broadbent's rendition of Like a Virgin is one of the most wonderfully bizarre things I have ever seen and heard. The tango sequence - set to Sting's Roxanne - is one of the most extraordinary moments in film. Full Stop. It really doesn't matter that the plot is pure corn, that the anachronisms get quite wearing and that some of the absurdities grate. What you have to say, in the end, is that this is a movie which costars Kylie Minogue and Placido Domingo (the medium-sized tenor from the Three). As special effects.

You may well hate it, but it is one of the most interesting movies you will see this year just in terms of what film can do.

And I won't mention the war again until I have something actually to say.
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