Legend, starring Tom Hardy … I don’t remember seeing a better gangster/mob movie since Goodfellas, and the performance by Tom Hardy solidifies him at the top of my actor list. It’s based on a true story, and I’m not sure how far off actual events they went, but I laughed out loud, cringed, rooted for, rooted against, and ultimately understood the final breakdown of the brothers Kray. They were legendary London gangsters I’d never heard about before talk of the movie first floated a few years back. Hardy plays both brothers, one a handsome, ruthless gangster; the other a paranoid-schizophrenic lunatic gangster … oh, yeah, and the paranoid-schizophrenic gangster is gay. I’m not sure how those dopey, political Academy Awards work, except like most political awards, they’re as fugazy as the people who do the nominating. Anyway, I will watch this movie several times. It was brilliant, end of story.
What I’m reading now … American Aria, by Sherrill Milnes … he’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, baritones in operatic history (certainly as regards his famous Verdi roles), and this autobiography tells the story of an incredible workhorse of a man; from childhood through his budding and later legendary career, throughout his post-stage years as a master teacher and advocate of the arts in general, Sherrill Milnes has never slowed down.
I first heard his voice after my very informal introduction to opera. My mother’s father enjoyed opera, but as a young kid, I couldn’t tolerate a language I didn’t understand. Even when it was spoken in our house, we were shielded from the all too common fear our parents had of their kids being thought of as immigrants. When gramps put his opera on, I ran outside with my baseball glove. Close to thirty years would pass before I decided to take my three kids to John Jay College for a “growing up with opera” program. I was one of about six divorced men (among a few hundred women with their kids) trying to introduce some culture to their kids, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one there seeking some culture for myself. As it turned out, the program was Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) sung in English. My daughter was about 10 or so; my sons 8 and 7, and the boys were asleep during the famous overture, but Daddy and daughter looked at one another and said, “Bugs Bunny.”
Yep, we recognized the music from the cartoons we’d both watched. A year or so later, after realizing how much my daughter and I enjoyed the music, I picked up a pair of tickets for a MET performance of the same opera (with Leo Nucci singing Figaro). Just an hour or so into the performance we were hooked as opera lovers. I bought several operas on CD and noticed the baritone voice I came to enjoy the most was that of Sherrill Milnes. It was no coincidence.
Fast forward to my more profitable street days and I was at the MET as often as once or twice a week, especially during the Verdi operas. Although I never had the chance to see Mr. Milnes perform live, the audio recordings I’d swallowed and played in my head were rarely, if ever, matched on stage by the live performances of the same operas.
Right now I’m just a few chapters into his story, but the work ethic Milnes exhibited as a kid growing up on a farm (milking cows, etc.), to his determination to succeed in various stages of his pursuit of a stage career, is both impressive and inspirational.
TK fans will recognize the last name, of course, because one of his sons writes opera articles for The Daily Beast. His last article, linked here last week, has to do with sexism not in the Clinton-Trump campaigns, but in opera. Read it here:
Want a taste of Sherrill Milnes voice? From one of my favorite operas, Rigoletto (what we named our beloved first dog) … Cortigiani vil razza dannata, from Rigoletto. I’ve NEVER seen nor heard this role played/sung better.
Get American Aria here:
And here is the Prologue from Pagliacci …
And, from the opera that hooked my daughter and myself … Sherrill Milnes singing Figaro’s, Largo al factotum … (translations below)
Make way for the handyman of the city.
Hurrying to his shop now that it is already dawn.
Ah, what a fine life, what a fine pleasure
For a barber of quality! Of quality!
Ah, well done Figaro!
Well done, very good!
Very fortunate indeed!
Ready to do everything,
Night and day
He is always on the move
A more plentiful fate for a barber,
A more noble life, no, it cannot be had.
Razors and combs
Lancets and scissors,
At my command
Everything is here.
There are the tools,
Then, of the trade
With the ladies... with the gentlemen...
Everyone asks for me, everyone wants me,
Ladies, children, elders, young girls;
Here is the wig... The beard is ready...
Here is the blood...
The ticket is ready...
Here is the wig, the beard is ready,
The ticket is ready, hey!
Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!, etc.
Alas, what a fury!
Alas, what a crowd!
One at a time, please!
Hey, Figaro! I am here.
Figaro here, Figaro there,
Figaro up, Figaro down,
Quicker and quicker I am like lightning:
I am the handyman of the city.
Ah, well done Figaro! Well done, very good;
You will never lack for luck!
Bernie or Bust … the real question now for the DNC is can they see what’s going on in their primaries? While Hillary Clinton stacks up the African-American vote and clearly dominates Bernie Sanders in the red states (states the Democrats have ZERO chance of winning in November), the democratic-socialist from Vermont (by way of God’s country, Brooklyn) is winning the popular vote in the blue states. In fact, Clinton has thus far won only a single blue state and it seems to have taken Slick Willy’s interference at a half dozen polling stations to accomplish it.
There are few people who deny the DNC’s perverse interference on their preference’s behalf in both Iowa and Nevada (where 5% of the votes went “missing” in one caucus and a lack of registration for Clinton voters was ignored in the other caucus). The result of the DNC's obvious preferential treatment for one candidate and prejudicial treatment against the other candidate has led to significant portions of Bernie supporters signing pledges to ignore (or worse) the general election come November (i.e., should the DNC’s chosen one (Hillary) take what they (we) perceive as a stolen nomination). Voter turnout in blue states is down vs. the uptick in Republican voter turnout, and the DNC may have dealt itself a dead man’s hand.
Somebody say Aces over Eights?
In the meantime, the Republican Party continues to shit its collective pants over a possible Trump nomination, and is suddenly ready to swallow a poison pill of their own – Ted Cruz. If there’s one thing that will blow it for the Republicans vs. a severely damaged DNC nominee (who may well get indicted), it’s a demagogue like Ted Cruz. What is amazing about the leadership of both major parties is their willingness to ignore their own voters.
And the only thing more amazing (and/or frightening for democracy) is the willingness of party voters to stay within the boundaries of their party lines. On the other hand, this year party loyalty is no guarantee. The stench of corruption from both the RNC and the DNC has pissed off a lot of voters. What happens come November has the potential of being both interesting and surprising, or a huge disappointment, no matter which presidential candidate gets the keys to the White House.
Read about the thousands who will reject their Democratic Party affiliation the day after they vote in the primary here.
For now, at least at Casa Stella, we’ve signed the Bernie or Bust pledge … and we’ll decide on the three options open to us come November. None of those options includes a vote for Hillary Clinton.
Sherrill with Big Lou and Raina Kabaivanska … from La Boheme …
And my favorite baritone roll (and the most erotic aria in opera) … from Tosca, the Te Deum ...