Faye: the Opera
A Critical Review by Angus Bifstake
Opera written and composed by Rubert Rampant
Directed by Franco Zeppelinelli
It's not so much the gaudy sets: those could be expected. Nor is it
the wrenching Country/Gospel-on-a-neo-Romantic-half-shell-with-a-Bernstein-twist
of a score that inebriates this thick sludge of on-stage excrement.
Indeed, its main offense is the way Tammy Faye: the Opera grills
contemporary post-feminist views of womyn, problematically equating
make-up with empowerment and marrying real-estate developers with career
Perhaps, in the case of the real Tammy Faye, it was, but symbolized
as operatic fodder, endowed with the highest art's cache for myth and
myth-creation, the notion is insufferable. With the scratching whine
of the score's bizarre pop-country adaptation of Copland's Rodeo
droning in the background, Tammy Faye: the Opera purports to
reveal the self behind the make-up: "Just an innocent girl,"
she tells us, "trying to do God's work in a world gone commercial."
A nice sentiment, but Exxon and AOL, this performance's main sponsors,
appear not to be listening as their computer-generated logos are projected
insidiously across the stage.
Other than that, the story is the familiar one: girl marries guy; girl
gets caught up in his TV ministry; guy gets involved with scandal; girl
marries rich developer and saves herself from loneliness and bankruptcy.
The librettist didn't even have the cajones to play fast and
loose with the facts. This is bad both fictively and mythologically:
the voicing of the marginalized must exist as counter-myth. Only in
this way can patriarchal hegemonic forces be properly de-mythologized.
Of course, Tammy Faye: the Opera doesn't even try to do the former,
so it's a bit of a moot point.
We must view this only as a desperate attempt to stay relevant. Perhaps
Rampart knew that his opera's ability to ride on the coat tails of the
documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye would be reasonably short
I will not embarrass the performers by mentioning their names here;
to their credit, they do the best they can with what they've been given.
I can only hope they're being paid well.
Ultimately, of course, what damns Tammy Faye: the Opera is that
it does not take her role seriously enough. Tammy Faye was a symbol
of the Christo-Capitalist hegemony usurping her body from her womynhood.
Most properly, she was a victim, not a heroine, and her opera should
be a tragedy, not a serio-comic farce.