Sing It Again, Klinghoffer: Andrew Billen Thinks Television Should Be Brave and Show More Opera. (Television)

By Billen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), June 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Sing It Again, Klinghoffer: Andrew Billen Thinks Television Should Be Brave and Show More Opera. (Television)


Billen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


I once asked the co-creator of NYPD Blue, Steven Bochco, why his series Cop Rock lasted only six episodes. "Embarrassment," he replied. "People found it too damn embarrassing to watch." The problem was that four times in each programme his policemen would break into song.

I am sure he was right, yet there is nothing intrinsically impossible about having characters singing, even in so apparently naturalistic a medium as television. After all, in real life car chases aren't orchestrated, yet we accept the convention of incidental music. In the heyday of the Hollywood musical, Judy Garland would break into song on trains. Singing worked for Dennis Potter in Pennies from Heaven. Sometimes, television is so histrionic that it seems to strain towards the condition of music, as the authors of ferry Springer: the opera noticed. And the soaps are not called operas for nothing.

Why, then, has television become so phobic about opera? One reason, I think, is that for a long time it did what it had long ceased to attempt to do with nonlyric theatre: it simply pointed the camera at the stage, which is the most boring approach of all. The answer is not to televise opera, but to make opera into television - and this is exactly what Channel 4 did by commissioning Penny Woolcock to remake John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer (Sunday 25 May). Woolcock duly filmed this controversial 1991 opera, about the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists in 1985, as if it were one of her regular docudramas, which is to say with only slightly heightened visual realism.

Potentially, this was going to make the artificiality of the sound all the more obvious. Because of the long choral introduction, it was 19 minutes before anyone actually burst into song, and, I have to admit, I was dreading it. Yet within a few minutes it seemed the most natural thing in the world for a bunch of middle-aged American tourists to be singing about their visit to the Pyramids and their hip operations. The singing was neither absurd nor pretentious, but it alerted the hearer that the chatter took place against the background of history.

Klinghoffer is one of those pieces that believe of causes, and the causes of causes, there is no end. Its opening words come from its Chorus of Exiled Palestinians: "My father's house was razed/In 1948/ When the Israelis passed/Over our street." The Chorus of Exiled Jews then comes on and sings us back to the Holocaust. The second act, prefaced by a to-camera piece on what looks like Channel 4 News, retold the story of Ishmael, outcast son of Abraham, ancestor of the Arabs and half brother of Isaac.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sing It Again, Klinghoffer: Andrew Billen Thinks Television Should Be Brave and Show More Opera. (Television)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.