Friday, November 01, 2013

The Latest Kid Singing "O Mio Babbino Caro"

So two people have asked me what I think of the nine-year-old Dutch girl whose YouTube video of her singing "O mio babbino caro" has evidently gone viral.

I have not seen the video and don't intend to, because, quite simply:
  • Nine-year-olds shouldn't be singing Puccini (or any other opera, really).
  • Nine-year-olds are not competent to teach themselves to sing opera by watching YouTube.
  • I'm not adding to the excessive attention this child is getting.
Anne Midgette speaks for me. I mean, I think the word purist should be banished from these discussions, because what is meant is "people who know something about opera and singing." But whatever; I'm especially pleased that Anne mentions that the aria is a comic aria. This is obvious in context (and Gianni Schicchi is the funniest hour of opera ever composed, at least in the production SF Opera used in 2009) but most sopranos recording for recital discs don't put it across very well.


Anonymous said...

I hope it's comic, because the words are more than a little alarming, and form a significant hurdle to overcome if comedy is the intention.

Anonymous said...

OK, I watched it anyway. It's exactly like Dr. Johnson's analogy of the dog walking on its hind legs (never mind what he was comparing that to). It's very badly done, but what's more amazing than that is that it was done at all. If it were any better, I'd suspect a miming trick; surely a mime would have picked a better recording.

Anonymous said...

And now I've read Midgette's article, and the comments.

Various commenters get at many of the fallacies displayed by others, but one that doesn't get addressed is the "Could you do that?" rebuttal.

What does that have to do with anything? The audience for opera is small enough as it is; if only those who are capable of it themselves were deemed to have the ears to appreciate good performances (and you aren't appreciating what's good about a good one if you can't tell it from a bad one), then the stalls would be half-deserted even on the best of days.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I would hazard a guess that around half the people who go to the opera cannot tell bad singing from good, based on the amount of applause I have heard for singers who had terrible nights or who have voices that are in terrible shape.

Anonymous said...

I would hazard a guess that about half the people who read Tolkien have no idea what's good about him either, based on the number of them who think Peter Jackson made a good movie. It's just a fact that those of us who know something about the subject have to live with.

Molly @WonderlandK said...

Thank goodness for Anne. When my mom emailed me that link, I just replied with the URL to Anne's column and apologized for "being bitchy". Mom admitted she appreciated those points too, but also that these were the glimpses into such culture that she came across and that it enriched her life. So, it is what it is, I suppose.

Mark Hodges said...

I'm torn on this, personally. On one level, it is good to see something besides the usual pap performances that are aimed at the lowest common denominator. At the same time, a bigger issue is present. This performanace truly falls under exploitation to some degree, as this little girl obviously was put into this, and not of her own accord. It is rather sad that her parents would make a spectacle of her and not go a different route. It's one thing for an adult to do this, it's another for a child to be put on display.

One can hope that she will take her raw talent and make something of it in the future that goes beyond the vestiges of reality TV.


Lisa Hirsch said...

But if you've got a kid who is being exploited and her performance is being presented as something special when she shouldn't be touching this music, it IS appealing to a lowest common denominator of people who don't know enough about opera or singing to know what the problems are.

Anonymous said...

Molly: I'd tell your mother that, if she knows how to use YouTube, she can find a number of better performances of this famous aria by adults who know what they're doing and how to do it.

Just on the first page of results for the title, I find Caballé, te Kanawa, Callas (!), and Fleming, among others - these are names worth knowing.

This would be a way of improving the level of the glimpses into opera culture that she comes across.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The performance to point people to to is Scotto's from the Met, because she understands the style and because her acting makes it clear that she is not about to jump into the Arno. She is in what I would call late-career voice, a little threadbare at the top, but still.

I wish Patricia Racette's performance in SF four years ago were on line, because the production was fabulous and she was very funny, but alas.