Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fluffing the Don

Before making the wholly charming Quinceañera (now playing at a theater near you), my friends Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland made an intriguing and rather less charming movie called The Fluffer. It's set in the world of gay porn, and the title character is an extra whose job is to ensure that the star is in a state of readiness before the cameras start rolling. The fluffer is gay, the star is straight (this much is evidently true to life), and in the film, the adoration that the former feels for the latter is complete and all-consuming.

Richard and Wash maintain that "the fluffer" is in fact an archetype — the one who loves with total, self-abnegating passion and with no hope of requital. Certainly the fluffer can be encountered regularly on the operatic stage. I once took Wash to the L.A. Opera to see Turandot for the first time, and he spotted Liù in a second.

This comes to mind in the wake of Festival Opera's interesting new production of Don Giovanni in Walnut Creek. It's an updated version, done mostly for laughs (Leporello's catalog, e.g., is a PDA). But Michael Morgan, who directs as well as conducts, introduces something new and telling: a gay Leporello who's in love with Don Giovanni. Instantly the relationship between them — the testiness, the interdependence — is presented in a different light. Particularly striking is Leporello's attitude toward the Don's womanizing, a weird mix of fascination and revulsion — with the latter now revealed not as moral scruples but as simple jealousy. This Leporello is not as pathetic and selfless as Liù (who could be?), but he is indeed our old friend the fluffer.


At 8/17/2006 7:16 PM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

Did you review it? I bet you did - I am out of town this whole month (dealing with my mother and her house in NJ) and not seeing the Chron. The SFCV reviewer hated the production and hated a lot of the singing,....

At 8/19/2006 11:29 AM, Anonymous Ellen said...

Until you mentioned it on Beacon/Quiz/whatever-his-name-is's blog, I didn't realize you had a blog. Looks very highbrow, fluffer references notwithstanding.

At 8/22/2006 7:57 PM, Blogger Henry Holland said...

I once took Wash to the L.A. Opera to see Turandot for the first time, and he spotted Liù in a second

Hahahahaha. I've read of productions of Don Giovanni that portray the Don as a homosexual, because why else would he bonk all those women if he wasn't repressed? So, why not Leporello? Obviously, Don Ottavio is gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, GAY because he never *really* tries to get busy with Donna Anna.

Tristan + Kurwenal 4 EVA! Don Carlo + Rodrigo, sitting in a tree, k.i.s.s.i.n.g.

Etc. etc.

At 8/29/2006 9:48 AM, Anonymous Gert said...

I'd be interested to know more about what you thought about the gay Leporello. IMHO, it's a load of rubbish as far as po-faced credibility is concerned. If someone actually thinks its the only explanation of a servile relationship in the 18th century, they haven't read any history.

However, I love that sort of idea being floated. It doesn't ruin, or even affect the story, and certainly doesn't affect the music. It's credible because it's conceivable; maybe it's possible. And sometimes these off-the-wall explanations work. I saw a Rigoletto recently where Gilda was portrayed as a wind-up doll (a bit like Olympia in Hoffman) and having seen that I hear the music entirely differently, as well as thinking it's a pretty good metaphor for Gilda

At 8/30/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Ciaviel said...

Hm. It could be an interesting take on it. Sometimes those modernized details can work really well, but sometimes they'd work better with a bit of subtlety. Other times they flop altogether. Sounds like something that doesn't get in the way of the story, but offers a slightly changed perception.


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