Mrs. John Claggart's Sad Life
I once read a biography of Renata Tebaldi entitled Voice of An Angel. The book was filled with beautiful pictures of the legendary soprano, along with a fairly comprehensive outline of her life that for once wasn't simply filled with tomes about how much Tebaldi loved her mother and the adoration "big Renata" engendered in the Metropolitan Opera audiences. Yet after reading the book Renata Tebaldi the person still felt strangely two-dimensional and distant. It was probably the intention of the great lady herself -- she was always a private person.
But read Mrs. John Claggart's Sad Life, the blog by Albert Innaurato, and suddenly the great soprano becomes not just "Tebaldi" but Renata, a flesh and blood woman full of warmth, humor, and wit. "Mrs. John Claggart" is the Henry James of the opera world -- sharp, dense, insightful, sometimes verbose, but always profound, and able to hint at the darkness beneath the surface. He's seen everything and everyone but his reviews and blog entries are not exercises in predictable name-dropping and fanboy shilling. Instead they are adventures that capture both the thrilling excitement and depressing banality that can exist in one evening at the opera.
Read his story of his visit to La Scala and behind the scenes look at a doomed Forza production, and you'll learn about how an opera is really produced. But more importantly, you'll understand what opera singers and conductors are really like - flawed, sad, but ultimately sympathetic people.
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