When the CD arrived, I was surprised to find that the infamous Carmen “duet” with Callas was not in fact among the tracks. The fine print in the booklet indicated that one had to follow a link to “the exclusive EMI Classics album site” to see and hear it. I felt a twinge of respect for the marketing weasels who had devised this nonsense. Ah, so they are capable of feeling shame. They realized that they need to bury this abortion of a “duet.” Good for them.
Well, I spoke too soon. The duet has been released, and you can view it, if you must, via the Guardian website. (I do not intend to post or link directly to it here, and I warn you that it is excruciating.)
Once again I ask: Why? Angela Gheorghiu is an artist of substance. Witness her performance in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (an opera, incidentally, that I loathe). I have never seen the poisoned-posy bit performed credibly, let alone with the pathos and, yes, grandeur that Gheorghiu brings to it. (The audio seems slightly out of synch, but hang in there: Gheorghiu invests every syllable she sings with meaning and beauty. Making lots of corna, I very much hope to hear her in this rôle next week.)
Why do the marketing weasels at EMI think that Gheorghiu needs this kind of tripe? (And why on earth did she and her handlers acquiesce to it?) Why can’t EMI accept that much of their Callas catalogue is now in the public domain, that they’ve had a very good ride, and that the slicing and dicing and splicing, like all things, must come to an end?
This entire caper seems, in the end, to come down to the most cynical calculation: that any publicity is good publicity. And maybe I’ve fallen into the trap. It’s a shame that weasels have power over Callas’s legacy and Gheorghiu’s presentation and (while we’re at it) major opera houses, too. Dixit Baudrillard:
Today what we are experiencing is the absorption of all virtual modes of expression into that of advertising. All original cultural forms, all determined languages are absorbed in advertising because it has no depth, it is instantaneous and instantaneously forgotten. Triumph of superficial form, of the smallest common denominator of all signification, degree zero of meaning, triumph of entropy over all possible tropes. The lowest form of energy of the sign.