Art and Observations (2)

It's strange how things that were on my mind 4 years ago are still topical...
First published on 15 October 2006

Last thing's first 

Friday 6th was the Mid-Autumn Festival: the second most important festival in China, traditionally celebrated with lanterns, fruit and mooncakes. In my residential garden many families put lanterns in their windows: a glorious, multi-coloured spectacle.

On the Saturday I was invited to a party to appreciate the Moon, so along I went to another residential garden, the Villandry, on the outskirts of town. The opulence! The apartments here would have had the planners of Versailles scratching their heads. I sat by the pool with Mystic Meg from Hiroshima, being served champagne cocktails and watching bevies of beautiful girls with lanterns.

On the next table was the Italian consul; some high-ranking executives from Sony on the table after that; the whole place was packed with the movers and shakers of Guangzhou's diplomatic and commercial worlds. God knows why they invited me. Still, when the Chinese put on a party, you can guarantee it'll be good, and it was: a splendid buffet, Sichuan mask dancers and some good singers.


The only CD/DVD I have bought in China that isn't pirated (well, would you pay $10 for a DVD when you can buy it on the street for 30 cents?), I paid the handsome sum of 250 yuan ($31) to the Decca Company for the privilege of owning the Karajan/Tebaldi Aida (Decca, 1959), and it was worth every jiao.

Aida is of course the grandest of grand operas, and even some Verdi fans don't like it much. By the time he wrote it, Verdi was enormously successful and the music perhaps loses some of the vigour of his earlier work. As Corrie from Perth said, "It just sounds too much like "dum-dum 'I am the richest man in Italy' da-da". This is not ameliorated by Karajan's conducting, which brings too much Teutonic precision to the orchestra. Karajan conducting Beethoven, OK, but Verdi..?

But Tebaldi, Ah, Tebaldi. Toscanini said of her that she had the voice of an angel, and she lifts this recording to the level of greatness, wonderfully supported by Bergonzi as Radames and Simionato as Amneris. In the Act II Scene 1 duet the singing reaches a height of drama and technical brilliance that is simply staggering:

Pieta' ti prenda del mio dolor.
E' vero, io l'amo d'immenso amor.
Tu sei felice, tu sei possente,
Io vivo solo per questo amor! 

Trema, vil schiava! Spezza il tuo core;
Segnar tua morte puo' quest'amore;
Del tuo destino arbitra sono,
D'odio e vendetta le furie ho in cor.

Tu sei felice, tu sei possente.
Io vivo solo per questo amor!
Pieta' ti prenda del mio dolor! 

Trema, vil schiava! Spezza il tuo core.
Del tuo destino arbitra sono.
D'odio e vendetta le furie ho in cor. 

If there is anything more beautiful or more tragic in music I do not know of it.


"Verdi è morto" is the opening line of Novecento (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/France/West Germany, 1976). Well, it's not actually the opening, but how else could I have linked this with the above, and it is the chronological opening. If that sounds confusing then just wait till you see the film, which runs for over 5 hours; epic in ambition if not quite in realisation. I first saw this a dozen years ago in Italy, and was so sickened by the paedophile rape and murder scene I had to stop watching for the day. 

Novecento is not as well known as it should be, despite starring Di Niro, Lancaster, Depardieu, Sutherland and Hayden. The reason for this is partly to do with its rambling length, partly because some knowledge of Italian culture and history is needed to appreciate it, partly because the English version is, I'm informed, appallingly badly dubbed but mostly, I suspect, because it is from first to last a great piece of Red propaganda.

The story runs from 1900 to 1945, and follows the fortunes of two boys born on the same day; one (Di Niro) the son of a landowner, the other (Depardieu) the son of one of his peasant farmers. Some have sneered at the film for what they see as its gross oversimplification (peasants and Communists good, landlords and Fascists bad) and it is true that Bertolucci makes it very clear where his sympathies lie, but I applaud this: Landlordism and Fascism are symbiotic and wicked.

For me, the most moving scene, in a film full of unforgettable moments, is when the peasant grandfather (Hayden) is talking to his grandson at the dinner table:

Se è tuo, vuol dire che è anche nostro... 

The Turdoick

Speaking of peasants, I now use the word in its pejorative sense for the Turdoick, who is responsible for the 'Bun' and the 'Screws' in Britain, as well as 'Fucks News' in the States and numerous other 'media' worldwide. He has used this position to churn out relentless right-wing horror for many years now: a hounding of anyone to the left of Heydrich.

His latest victim is Tommy Sheridan, the leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, who was accused by one of the Turdoick's papers (the 'Screws') of cheating on his wife and taking part in orgies, in particular at a 'swingers' club'. Sheridan denied the accusations and won his libel case against the 'Screws', whereupon the 'Screws' appealed and claimed it had a new tape of Sheridan admitting that he went to the club. The case continues...

Why do we allow this sordid shit to own newspapers in Britain? What has the Turdoick ever given us but tits, trash, Tony and Tories? What is the point of having 360 socialist MPs if they are not prepared to do anything socialist? The day we stop allowing mad billionaires to peddle poison through our newspapers will be a happy one! Confiscate the Turdoick's assets, put a Workers' Council in control of the editorial and ˈkɪkðəəʊlgˈkʌmpbæktəˈteksəs.

© Simon M Hunter 2006 & 2011


MeltonM said…
With you on Murdoch: Sheridan, weeeell...
Simon M Hunter said…
Yes, the swinging Sheridan has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, I'm bound to agree.

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