OK, for a fleeting moment, my heart jumped in anticipation that the Grammy Awards show might just get it right. It ended its tribute reel to deceased artists with Luciano Pavarotti, and then Andrea Bocelli appeared on stage and began speaking of Pav.
"OK, he's the spokesman," I thought. "That's fine. Pav did like him. He's going to kick off one of those all-star tribute things, right?" Who will be there? Placido Domingo? Jose Carreras? Maybe some of Pavarotti's successors in their prime. Roberto Alagna? Marcello Giordani? Juan Diego Flores? Does it have to be tenors only? Anna Netrebko? Renee Fleming?
We could hope.
But these are the Grammys, which rarely pass up a chance to celebrate mediocrity at the expense of excellence, and this would turn out no different. We did not get real opera singers. We got Bocelli and Josh Groban singing The Prayer. We got a really lame "tribute," with Groban making a weak attempt at some high note to end it. Now, I'm not going for a snob-of-the-year award. I like pop music and singing as much as anyone. But in this case, the Grammys were misrepresenting a pop song sung by two opera-like singers as opera. The Recording Academy owed Pavarotti and the audience the real thing.
It was particularly interesting seeing this right after attending Our Lincoln, here in Lexington, and watching and hearing people who don't normally hear opera singers react to the performers who presented excerpts from Joseph Baber's forthcoming Lincoln opera River of Time and the amazing voices in the American Spiritual Ensemble.
It's always a neat thing to see, because people who aren't "trained" to like opera are still floored when they hear a truly talented and trained opera singer. They often act as if they can't believe those sounds came from a human being.
The Grammys had a chance to give the world that experience Sunday night. But no. Let's put a couple of mediocrities up on the stage so people will feel like they just had a cultural experience.
Walter Tunis was right. It would have been better if the writers' strike had killed this awards show.
~ Opera Chic summarizes the classical Grammys much better than I do.
~ Heather Gross' Resonate says it was a good year for women in classical music at the Grammys.
~ Look for some thoughts on Our Lincoln later today.