This Week's Guest: James Jorden
Longtime listeners may remember way back in episode 4 of The Sewers of Paris, my guest Greg talked about picking up copies of an unofficial queer opera zine called Parterre Box in the men's room of the Metropolitan Opera. The publisher of that zine is this week's guest. James Jorden always wanted to direct, but when he first moved to New York the closest he could get to the stage was in a low-paying job sweeping up bobby pins. That's when he had a a stroke of inspiration: if his career wasn't advancing through official channels, maybe more underground measures would bring him success. There's no way he could have imagined how right he would be.
This Week's Recommendation: What's Opera Doc
Thanks again to James for joining me and for bringing so many enlightening cultural references. But somehow, we neglected to discuss my favorite opera singer: Bugs Bunny. For my recommendation this week, take a look at the masterpiece What's Opera Doc, where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs through Wagner's Ring Cycle. Of course, there is drag.
But there is also a real affection for the source material, with references to Sigfried's horn, and the horse from the actual opera, and Valhalla and the opera The Flying Dutchman. If you find opera intimidating or confusing or dry, you couldn't ask for a better way in to the actual music and characters and story.
That mismatch of tone -- tragic opera and goofy cartoon -- could have been a disaster, but What's Opera Doc (and the similarly brilliant Rabbit of Seville) create a perfect blend of high drama and campy slapstick. And I think it works so well because of a principle that Elmer Fudd never seems to learn: the more serious and imposing a force tries to be, the better it pairs with the absolutely ridiculous.