Keep a part for later – Masterpieces from Masters

If you’re an explorer, you sometimes discover an artist you… adore.

It’s so good that you can’t resist : here you are exploring the whole chest, pigging out the whole thing. We are all lost souls, craving for…

But sometimes you climb “one more degree”. It’s so good that you decide something.

Keep a part for later. More in reserve. Some gas left in the tank.

This is what I did with a few masters : Puccini, Chekhov, Faulkner, Borges, Jünger. Who are yours?

I know Manon and La Bohème by heart, and pretty well some of other Puccini’s operas, like Tosca or Butterfly, and one third of Trittico. Each time I listen to a part of Turandot I’m floored… but I keep it for later!

Chekhov wrote hundreds of short stories. I have shelves of that guy! But I never read “everything”. It’s the same for Jünger or Borges, or Faulkner.

  • Keep the pleasure to discover something new from a Master you love.
  • One day it’s maybe to late : you’re dead. Or you’re not interested any more.
  • You sometimes don’t remember if you read this or that. Even better, right?
  • There’s a middle choice : listen or read once, and then wait for years.
  • Years after, you read or listen… another way.
  • Choose an infinite area. Restaurants in Paris for example. Hmmm?

Thanks for reading!

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What does Manon Lescaut want?

Manon Lescaut is an Italian opera composed by G. Puccini in the 1890s, from a French novel named “L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut“.

Act 1 : Des Grieux is a melancholic student, outside, with friends, in France. A coach arrives, bringing Manon, a young woman on her way to convent (forced by her father), and Géronte, an old man who wants to abduct Manon and live with her in Paris. Des Grieux understands what’s happening, falls in love, and Manon and him escape in Géronte’s coach. Voilà !

Act 2 : Curiously, Manon has already left des Grieux and is living a relatively luxurious life with the old Géronte. Etc… Yes, etc !

There’s a huge, gap, an ellipsis, between Act 1 and 2 : what happened to the young couple ? Why did Manon choose Géronte, quitting her young lover ? Money ? Bore ? Stupidity ?

Pappano on Manon’s Music

As a Puccini lover, I watched many versions of this opera. And I found out something, a question appeared :

What does Manon Lescaut want?

So I began to explore books and the web to find out. Kiri Te Kanawa (with a marvellous Placido Domingo as Des Grieux) is a splendid, crystal innocent Manon. She floats onto what life brings to her, like a little cork on the sea. Elsewhere, Astrid Weber plays an upstart woman, mocking secretly and using Des Grieux as a purpose to escape her fate.

These are two very interesting ways to interpret the character. Because you will fill the blank (ellipsis) in VERY different ways !

From this to that, I saw many ways to put Manon to life. Is she a punk ? A feminist ? An idiot ? Does she choose anything ? What do you think ?

Manon and Des Grieux in Act II

Manon is a blurry character. We often don’t understand her. Her behavior is complex, living, changing all the time : she is a weathercock !

In Act I, she’s a sad, frightened country girl sent off to a convent. In Act II, she’s the consort of a wealthy old man, sarcastic and bored. This activity doesn’t address Act III, where she’s in prison for allegedly stealing from that old man, but Act IV finds her experiencing the consequences: wandering helpless, full of regrets, in a vast American desert.

Yes that’s sad ! Yes She’ll die ! Who was Manon Lescaut ?

Libretto in english

 

Tool : Ah c’est tellement passionnant when you don’t have all the keys. When a single glance can change all the story ! Who’s evil ? You don’t know. What if in your work you didn’t give “all the keys” to the audience ? Chop one or two, just to see…

Tool : One of the pleasure of Classical Music is to compare versions. You can have days and days of pleasure.

Dial : Another article is needed : “In Love with a Project”. Soon.

 

 

 

“Without Music Life would be a Mistake” ? Nope…

“Without Music Life would be a Mistake”

You can find this quote from Nietzsche on all kinds of tee-shirts.

In fact, you can replace “Music” with some other pleasant words, like “Wine”, or “Love”, or “Philosophy”, “Fashion”, who cares ? Is it an order, some kind of pressure ?

Of course, without music life would not be a mistake AT ALL.

The Persuaders

If you suddenly take seriously how music is important to people, you’ll be SO surprised that you will be floored. I use this “floored” expression because I’m french and I LOVE it. Floored, you on the floor, voilà pour vous.

I asked about the opera, one day. One loves opera because of the magic of the place. Some because of the archetypal terrible stories. For some others, it’s the performance of the singers (ahhhh the “high notes” !). Some guys are in love with one voice only (Callas !). Some guys love only one composer (Wagner, or for me : Puccini). Many love opera and only opera. You can find fools who love to collect all versions of the same thing. Etc.

Elephant Woman

You should and you have to think about it when you want to SHARE a music. You give YouTube links to your lover and most all the time you’ll be surprised. She doesn’t care. What moves you does nothing to the others.

Personaly I love risky modulations (I love Mike Oldfield, John Barry, Progressive Rock and Royksopp, and Puccini, and Prokofiev for this reason). I love to analyse production (Floors of sound in Depeche Mode Violator, different veils in Brian Eno’s work). I love crescendos. I love when the magic is hidden in a mist (Royksopp, Blonde Redhead). I love David Sylvian’s voice. OK I stop here. What about YOU ?

Brilliant Trees

Some like an era (the sixties !), a style (new wave !), an energy (dance !), an attitude (punk !), a flow (rap !), productors (Trevor Horn ?), a sound, a label (4AD), a social field (gothic culture), a movement (house), a nostalgy (“I listened to The Police when she kissed me !”), the singer (Arctic Monkeys oh he’s so cute)…

Tools :

Oh, just this : It’s always more complicated.

Do not think that you have a human typology in mind. You’re wrong.

(and fuck Nietzsche on this quote)

https://youtu.be/cFig-OiIwDo

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The Cauldron Method (or How to Be Casual with Masterpieces)

OK I’m french. My english is a frenglish, it’s rusty and wobbly, et voilà. Try me, though. I’ll do my best. I promise. If sometimes it’s too bad, just laugh at me or roll your eyes.

In front of impressive masterpieces you can find yourself very SHY. It happened to me a few years ago with La Recherche, by Proust : In Search of Lost Time, a pack of seven big books, you know, MMMasterpiece of Masterpieces, blabla. I bought it and never dared to begin ! How to read this ? With what kind of solemnity ? Terrifying ! (I’d add : poor you, if you have to read this in English and deal with the choice of translation).

You may also have this feeling in front of a domain you know rich, but you don’t know a penny about it. I had to handle this when I decided to open the door of the Opera territory. From where to begin ? Which composer ? Mozart ? Wagner ? Who ?

Shy as a little chicken in its shell, I began to read books about Proust. In one of them the author was angry at me. Really ! He was saying something like I was silly to be solemn about La Recherche, advising me to shup up and read what I want, in the order I want, and to let go “annoying pages” (!). It was as if a good father was talking to me, so I obeyed, and it was perfect.

After trying a little Verdi (boriiiing) I searched for the “next Italian composer”, found Puccini, and I… didn’t know what to do. Each opera was very long ! And there were many…

I remembered Proust and I tried not to worry too much : How to choose a first opera to listen to ? Director ? I began to wander randomly on YouTube and I listened to things with  little “I don’t care” ears. Of course, it worked.

I remember it in the most crystallest clearest way : Manon Lescaut was singing somewhere in my headphones as I was writing an email. The music then began to stop me. One time. Two times. Three. I had to really stop writing, like “Heyyyyy ??!”. Le plaisir was slipcrawling into my brain.

I got it ! The wire. I pulled it, and now I love Manon Lescaut, and Il Trittico, and La Bohème, etc.

Tools :

The Cauldron Method means two things :

1/ Don’t care that much about Masterpieces (with big M capital). You won’t hurt them ! These are not Cathedrals of Culture. Let go. Breathe. Find your own entrance. A lateral one. Then the kingdoms of pleasure are yours.

2/ Loosen your belt. And your tie. Be casual. The Masterpiece is probably a real one. IT WILL CATCH YOU ANYWAY.

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The Abba/Puccini syndrome

OK I’m french. My english is a frenglish, it’s rusty and wobbly, et voilà. Try me, though. I’ll do my best. I promise. If sometimes it’s too bad, just laugh at me or roll your eyes.

Wiki says : “A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and, often, with a specific disease.”

The Abba/Puccini syndrome is easy to explain. It’s a misunderstanding. Or a miscomprehension, allez savoir !

Abba was VERY popular, but a whole bunch of people hated them, rockers, indie critics, etc. Today most of the haters are… in a awe, they are embarrassed, they say “OMG they were, in fact, so good”. On every floor : Melodies. Hits. Production. Voices. Modernity. Melancholy. Arrangements.

Abba : I’m a Marionette

Puccini is the most played opera composer in the world. La Bohème, says Wikipedia, “remains one of the most frequently performed operas ever written”. Victim of its own popularity, he’s often seen as the composer of opera “hits”, like Nessun Dorma. And, at many moments, he’s obviously Italian (ce côté éperdu et ensoleillé du Nord de l’Italie). And this HIDES the modernity of his music. Puccini was admired by composers like Schoenberg, Ravel, and Stravinsky. Experiments and strange harmonic progressions colour the fabric of his music. You just have to listen what is “under”, or watch closely his funny way to drive harmony like a racing car :

Beginning of Manon Lescaut

Dial : Some artists can be victims of popularity, but this syndrome is double worse : success hides sophistication.

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