“Produced And Performed By Thieves And Vagabonds”

Now here’s a project to get behind.

I’m very wary of these projects where the setting of a story to music is promiscuously called an “opera” – it’s because unlike a lot of people who love themselves for going to the Opera, I love opera, and I write it.  Believe me, you would never do anything so completely futile as writing opera if you didn’t love it.

And that love would be deeply unhealthy if it did not have a good measure of irreverence, and that’s why I’m excited about this.  Ergo Phizmiz!  Flann O’Brien!  The Third Policeman!  A thrilling and quite probably dangerous combination of complete lack of respect for everything decent to bourgeois values and the commodification of culture (not to mention instrument makers, technology, religion and science).  I am in-fucking-love!

Seriously, Phizmiz makes great music by eviscerating and then rebuilding every cliché of pop that has ever existed.  His work, especially with People Like Us, is a joyful balance of sincerity and mockery, and is totally musical.

O’Brien is one of my favorite writers and one of the greats of Modern literature, stylish, incredibly smart and screamingly funny.  In a way it’s a shame that Phizmiz finds himself having to beg on the Intertubes, it’s a contrast between great artistry and meaningless notoriety.  While I’m a great lover of New York City Opera, I must temper that with my irreverence for their picking up the opera, such as it is, of Rufus Wainwright.  There’s a commercial logic to it, but I don’t see how their mission and quality is served by promoting music and drama, such as it is, that is clichéd to the point of bombast.  City Opera is about music drama, not about the stars standing around singing while the audience evaluates their costumes and those of the people sitting around them.  I’m not confident about the results – but will gladly admit if I am completely misguided.  Still, someone needs to produce The Third Policeman, and that someone appears to be us.

UPDATED: Now with more snarky links!


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.