Wednesday, January 03, 2007
I am always fascinated by the process of art. We are supposed to delight in the finished product, the performance, with no thought of how it came to be. I was telling a friend that the reason American Idol is interesting is because it lets you a little bit into the processes--you get to see the performances becoming. I remember how it worked in my own life--the passion of the song leaped out of me, but the painstaking correctness and musicianship did not always come. And sometimes I could not damp down the passion enough to hear the corrections. Judy Garland, the greatest shaper of songs we know, while experienced from childhood and brimming over with talent, still had to be taught her art. I forget the man's name--he was a laborer behind the scenes at MGM. The trick is to make the magic with every piece, to find its heart, to reach that perfect intersection of work of art and self, to find the music of your soul. I always imagine that Cecilia Bartoli loves the concert format so much because she can present only the pieces that work for her and throw out the ones that don't. But then everything in her fabulous Cleopatra seemed to work. It was simply one magnificent performance after another. I wish there was a film. I often think we would be happier with Renée Fleming if she threw out more. Record too many arias and songs and throw out the ones that aren't working. Why do a magnificent Handel album and leave in the one or two that fall dead? Everyone doesn't get everything, but some people I guess just can't tell the difference. Renée coached Homage with Gerald Moore. I think I thought he was dead. He was a great coach and accompanist and now he just coaches. She works at it and doesn't take her greatness for granted. Maybe all that's missing is a little editing. There is a film of Kathleen Battle being coached. It is often what makes the difference, what lifts the performance above the mundane. It is the question of striving for ecstasy.