Monday, October 23, 2017
IN THE 19TH CENTURY Italian arias were the pop songs of the day-- catchy tunes which had everyone singing. One of the best of them is Giuseppe Verdi's "Women Are Fickle" ("La Donna e Mobile") from the opera Rigoletto. The swaggering character "The Duke" sings it near the start of the last act, to express his joy of love and life-- the joy of singing itself.
It's why the updated version presented at the Detroit Opera House this past weekend was so apt. Set in New York's Little Italy in the 1950's, it's more relevant than the original to an audience raised on "Goodfellas," "The Sopranos," and Godfather movies. The slickly-dressed mob chorus was belting out songs of cockiness from an art deco lounge like a collection of Joe Pesci characters. Young mob boss the Duke, played by Joshua Guerrero, resembled Al Pacino in both look and gesture. Tragic Rigoletto remains a hunchback, modernized to wise-cracking bartender.
The audience loved it! The Italian language and street-smart posturing of the original suddenly fit. No dusty artifact this. On stage the opera came vibrantly alive.
The plot was always bad melodrama, and remains so, appropriate to the noirish atmosphere and shadowy staging. What matters most in opera is the music. The songs. Rigoletto has a host of them. When the Duke croons one along with his gang; or when he and Gilda-- the young woman he's trying to seduce-- sing their love duet on an iron fire escape, it becomes late 1950's street singing. Think African-American do-wop songs like "Duke of Earl," or Italian-American a cappella groups like Dion and the Belmonts and the Four Seasons. But better.
The young woman who played Gilda, So Young Park, is a protege of Placido Domingo, one of the famed Three Tenors. She came to town with a huge reputation. Her voice and acting more than lived up to it. Her vulnerability was poignant, her high notes surprising and moving. A star in the making.
Swag, song, setting-- this opera, like Carmen a year ago, is the perfect introduction for anyone to the wonders of opera. It was heartening especially to see a number of young people in the audience, many looking like first-timers. They saw live singing at its ultimate. These ARE the best voices on the planet.
The joy of song. The joy of art.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Discovered during New Pop Lit's recent excursion to northern Michigan.
There's a small town in Michigan named Aloha, near where the young Ernest Hemingway used to visit. (You can look it up.)
The story goes that Ernest stopped at a tavern in Aloha. While drinking a beer at the bar he engaged in conversation with one of the locals, who was either a lumberjack, or an American Indian.
"What do you say when you write people?" Hemingway asked. "Aloha from Aloha?"
"I'm actually from Detroit," the man told him.
"Well, then I guess it's 'Aloha from Detroit,'" Hemingway said, touching beer glasses with the fellow.
Have the smart-looking New Pop Lit "Aloha from Detroit" t-shirts been designed to celebrate that legendary Hemingway remark?
Not really. But they could have!
Purchase your "Aloha from Detroit" t-shirt now, using the BUY NOW button to the right. Help support the cause of new literature and questionable Hemingway tales.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Who has "Detroit's Best T-Shirts"*?
WE do! Hit the "Buy" button on this page and take a look!
Can you afford NOT to own one? :-)
(*Per informal poll taken at Detroit's big "Dally in the Alley" festival.)
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Detroit decision makers--especially media people-- need to get it out of their heads that Detroit can be satisfied to exist as an adjunct of the media power of New York City. A poorly-respected stepchild of New York, at that. Detroit should be putting everything into establishing itself as its own power base.
Before he died, Gore Vidal made the argument that with the rise of the global economy, the world was returning to the situation which applied in ancient times. Vidal was quite the student of history, of course, which gave him the ability to see when patterns repeated themselves. His argument was that in the 21st century it will be not nation competing with nation, but city-state competing against other city-states. The power centers of the ancient world were cities like Athens, Rome, and Carthage. This is how we need to view the situation of the present day.
To control its destiny, Detroit needs its own media. Media centered in this town and controlled by those who live here, not by a competing place. We need to write our own narrative. More than this, media is like an ongoing advertisement announcing the Detroit brand. In this postmodern age, power is determined by how much noise you make. Noise equals power.
This means that Detroit power brokers-- the giant automakers, notably-- need to push to have one of the large networks based in Detroit. Or lacking that, they should be taking steps to create their own large-scale network. This would give them-- and this area-- enormous leverage in the ongoing international game.
Far-fetched? Not really, considering the leverage the automakers have through their ad buying. They may be the biggest ad buyers in the country, maybe in the world. Are they receiving full value and clout for their dollars? Truly?
We at NEW POP LIT are interested in print media. We want print culture-- and arts culture generally-- centered here. We envision a time when we'll be publishing an intellectual magazine out of Detroit able to compete straight up with an influential magazine like The New Yorker. Not just competing with, but beating, as we'll be the new model compared to old.
At the moment we have our hands full with our new literary journal. (Which can be purchased via the Buy Now" button on this page.) We KNOW that we can and will outdo any other literary journal based anyplace else-- including the well-funded journals in New York City. We know this because we know where to find exciting and talented new writers that cronyism-clogged New York won't even look at.
We"ll not be content to be a poor stepchild to anybody.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
As Detroit remakes and reinvents itself, it needs to grab every opportunity to stand out to the world. This means grabbing every opportunity to show itself as a significant center of new art.
Plans are afoot from various parties for a new bridge to Canada-- whether near the Ambassador Bridge or further downriver.
Why not create the new bridge as an intentional work of art-- and thereby capture the imagination of the world?
This is exactly what was done in New York City 129 years ago when the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed. Its creators set out to create a bridge visually distinctive, unlike any that had ever existed. They wanted it to be as important as sculpture. An artwork. This included incorporating gothic arches in it, as a nod to Europe's gothic cathedrals.
Another classic example of engineering as art is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, erected as a symbol of the modern. The city became the center of artistic modernism.
Can Detroit become the New Paris?
Detroit's builders, politicians, financiers and artists need the imagination to be as ambitious as possible. They need to have the mission of making Detroit an arts city-- the surest way to attract attention, credibility, people, and investment-- along with the mystique and magic that accompanies art. A new bridge to Canada provides the opportunity to create a lasting foundation for future growth. The kind of architectural event that will be talked about for decades and centuries to come.
Will the city's (and state's) leaders grab this chance?
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
We have the best Detroit t-shirts going. They're not just cool and stylish, embodying unique Detroit edge. They're works of art! Click on the Buy Now button on this page. Be the first in your crowd to wear the special "Aloha from Detroit" style.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
--along with other exciting products. Simply click on the "Buy Now" button to examine our line-up. From dynamic new pop-lit writing to the best Detroit T-shirts, we have it. We define cutting edge.