As I mentioned yesterday, Francesco Rosi’s 1984 film of Bizet’s opera Carmen is likely the best way to give opera a try. It is a good movie qua movie, and Carmen of course has some of the catchiest songs among all operas. Carmen is more like an American musical than most operas, where, frustratingly, the best hook is only used once, maybe twice in an aria. In Carmen, however, the good tunes are pounded on, over and over:
It’s kind of like Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita, which only has 1.5 good songs, but keeps banging away at “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” so it’s satisfactory.
Placido Domingo has the Fred MacMurray role in Carmen as the sap who doesn’t get any of the contenders for greatest song of the 19th century, but still gets some pretty good arias
Carmen is a French opera about Spain. Is there a word equivalent to Edward Said’s term “Orientalism” about how northern Europeans like Bizet thought about southern Europeans?
By the way, my idea for how to improve Evita is this: Weber and Rice’s big idea for the story of Juan and Evita Peron is to interject the Argentine leftist radical Che Guevara (Mandy Patinkin in the Broadway debut, Antonio Banderas in Madonna’s film version) as an on-stage commentator. But not all of Weber and Rice’s critique of the Perons’ centrist populism comes from the left. So Che ends up making conservative critiques of the Perons as well, which dilutes his impact. Moreover, this downplays Argentina’s tragic dilemma between left and right that empowered the Perons’ centrism.
20th Century Argentina was not a terribly competent society at solving its problems, but it was a highly talented society, which makes its tragedies even more tragic.
So, my idea for fixing Evita is to divide Che’s role into two: feature two critics of the Perons: Che as the young leftist, and a blind sage, Jorge Luis Borges, as the old rightist.