Monday, June 06, 2011

Turandon’t


Sir Jonathan Miller personifies a delicious paradox: he is an exceedingly clever man, and also a bit of an idiot. A few years ago he criticised the RSC for casting “that man from Doctor Who” as Hamlet, conveniently forgetting that David Tennant had taken substantial roles for both the RSC and the National several years before he first set foot in the Tardis.

And now we hear that the tenor Alfie Boe doesn’t much care for going to the opera; indeed, he didn’t select anything from the genre when he was on Desert Island Discs yesterday, favouring instead a rather Q/Mojo-friendly selection of classic raawwk (Dylan, Zep, Floyd, etc). Sir Jonathan is not impressed, remarking: “I’ve only worked with him once and he sings rather well but I know he comes from something other than opera. He was a car mechanic, I believe.”

Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? OK, there’s the straightforward snobbery of the remark, which conveniently forgets that Kathleen Ferrier worked in a telephone exchange, and Enrico Caruso installed drinking fountains. I suspect that when Miller directed his first opera, there were antediluvian ponces who objected to his own shady past as a comedian, film-maker and medical student. But “Something other than opera”? Does he mean that opera singers should be clones, pod people, spawned in glorious, sterile isolation from any cultural influence that might contaminate what the Good Doctor (Miller, not Who) thinks is right and proper?

You know, I reckon he probably does. And who are we to argue? He is, after all, an exceedingly clever man.

6 comments:

Billy said...

And people think opera is elitist!

Charles Frith said...

What a cock.

Rog said...

Alfie came across as such an engaging and genuine person. The week before it was Roger Waters...

Tim Footman said...

Only little people think that, Billy. Mechanics and that.

I hadn't heard, Charles. Does Alan Bennett mention it in his diaries?

He did sound a good chap, didn't he, Rog? The sort you'd happily have a pint with. Can't speak for his ability, I can't stand opera either.

blackwatertown said...

"Something other than opera."
Sounds like a sotto voce snidery from Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Or maybe the French & Saunders version.
I may adopt it.

speccy said...

What a delicious phrase! Says so much, so well. Nancy Mitford would be proud