* Notes *
Last weekend the Wagner Society of Northern California had its first meeting of the year, featuring a talk by Professor Heather Hadlock based on a paper entitled "From 'beloved hall' to Evening Star: The televisual apotheosis of the diva in István Szabó's film Meeting Venus (1991)." Dr. Hadlock presented the paper last year at Columbia University's "Technologies of the Diva" conference. The darkly comic film involves a production of Tannhäuser at the fictional Opera Europa in Paris that is to be televised in a simulcast. Szabó in fact directed Tannhäuser for Opera de Paris in 1982, apparently it did not go well.
In her talk, Hadlock differentiated the prima donna from the diva and discussed the progression of the diva in this particular film from self-absorbed egotist to self-sacrificing savior. While Hadlock clearly finds Meeting Venus fascinating, she also noted that it is an artistic failure, as there are too many story lines that become somewhat incoherent. Since the film deals with a telecast, she also spoke about the Met Opera - Live in HD simulcasts, and how the general audience seems more interested in the behind the scenes parts than the actual operas themselves.
* Tattling *
It is the first WSNC event I have attended since the Tristan und Isolde symposium in 2006, so the board members spoke to me a good deal as a welcoming gesture. I was asked if I was a singer and if I liked Wagner, it was quite charming.
Dr. Thomas Grey was to discuss the music of Tannhäuser, the differences between the Dresden and Paris versions, and Wagner’s external artistic influences. Unfortunately, he could not make it, but will speak at the symposium on Das Rheingold in June.