Archive for February, 2010

The city of New Crobuzon was home to human and human-like communities (half human, half insect/eagle/cactus/…). Apart from this diversity, some people were also “remade”, had some body parts added or exchanged with other species.  These groups were not blended in a melting pot, but lived in ghettos, with their culture and laws, which came from a long forgotten time and place.

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin was a human scientist who had a socially disapproved relationship with Lin, a Khepri artist (woman body and the head of an insect, with insect legs and insect wings). Isaac was commissioned to restore the wings to Yagharek, a garuda (human-eagle hybrid) who lost his wings as punishment for a crime he committed in his homeland, while Lin was engaged to create a sculpture of Mr. Motley, leader of New Crobuzon’s mafia.

Isaac started collecting winged animals for his project and, among his specimens, he got an attractive unknown larva. The larva was obtained by illicit means and had a strange behavior. When it metamorphosed, it became a slake-moth, a monstrous butterfly who fed on human souls.  The monster endangered the lives of all thinking beings of new Crobuzon, but its release had deeper repercussions, as it had obscure connections to New Crobuzon’s politics and the mafia.

Miéville once described this book as “basically a secondary world fantasy with Victorian era technology. So rather than being a feudal world, it’s an early industrial capitalist world of a fairly grubby, police statey kind!”.

Perdido Street Station is a mix of fantasy, science fiction and horror with many industrial age elements. Actually, Perdido Street Station, the central station of New Crobuzon which gave the title to the novel, reminded me of what Charing Cross Station might have been in Victorian London. The environment prevailing in the whole book could be called simply as “nightmarish”.

The first part is mainly dedicated to the description of New Crobuzon, its inhabitants and the city environment. Although it has not much action, the writing is delightful and the use of the English vocabulary is astonishing. When the story finally “kicks in” it evolves like a nightmare, taking strange turns, introducing and changing characters. These changes follow a somehow logic line, but twist in loose, random way as it usually happens in dreams/nightmares. The twists are not used as easy solutions to “save” characters or situations, and nothing is spared by them.

Perdido Street Station has the potential to become a classic, for its oneiric environment, the creative evolution of the storyline, and the magnificent use of the English Language to accomplish it.


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Diana Damrau became famous mostly by her portrayal of the Queen of the Night in Mozart´s Die Zauberflöte. Her voice joins the heaviness of a dramatic soprano and the extension/lightness of a soprano leggero. This is highly unusual and very appropriate to the classic repertoire, as Diana Damrau showed in her album Arie di Bravura. In the 2007-2008 season of the Metropolitan Opera NY Diana Damrau interpreted both the roles of Queen of the Night and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, in different nights, but showed an interest in diversify her repertoire. Since then she Diana Damrau has been singing many different roles and her new album shows her new “colors”.

In this new album are represented Italian, French, German and English (American) arias.

The album starts with Ah! Je veux vivre (Gounod) literally full of life, and gives us one of the best performances of Zerbinetta’s Monologue, from Ariadne auf Naxos (R. Strauss). The arias of Oscar, from Verdi’s Ballo, don’t sound very masculine but are interpreted in a very witty way. The Mad Scene from Thomas’ Hamlet is perfectly sung, however the conducting in this version makes it more interesting than the singing. Usually the mad scene sounds a bit like an exotic island dance, but here the slow tempi give it an Arabian ring (this tells a lot about how French composers saw English dramas).

The arias Caro nome (Verdi) and Una voce poco fa (Rossini) are perfectly sung, technically speaking, but Damrau’s voice and style may not be the most adequate for these roles: her Gilda sounds too womanly, lacks a girlish tone, and Rosina lacks the witty Italian spirit (as most Rosinas these days…).  Donizetti’s O Luce di quest’anima is thrilling, as always, but can’t stand the comparison with Gruberova’s performance, where the high-speed coloraturas sound like disk scratching.

The album finishes with an exquisite Glitter and be gay, by Leonard Bernstein.

Overall this is an excellent album, not only for the high quality of the singing but also for the exotic interpretation of Diana Damrau and the Münchner Rundfonkorchester, directed by Dan Ettinger. It really brings new colors to this repertoire, which was overly sung by so many great singers.

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