Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


The New Sounds of Fall


Michael ClementsT

hey were two supposedly similar

worlds. When they collided, they

were two worlds, literally and figuratively, two worlds

apart. On one side, Diddy's entourage, decked out

head-to-toe in matching white outfits, accessorized

in enough gold jewelry to make a Pharaoh

blush, their attitudes hidden behind smoky

reflective lenses.


On the other side, Emmanuel Jal, Sudanese

child soldier turned international hip-hop

star (Blood Diamond Soundtrack and Moby

collaboration), dressed in a casual tee-shirt,

pumas and relaxed jeans; no sunglasses — it was

nighttime after all. The soft-spoken Jal had just finished a sound check for his 18th Street Films/

llL-sponsored Sept. 20th concert at Ibiza Night Club. As Diddy et al. rolled up for the Sean John

fall fashion show, they ignored Jal — with cell phones pressed coolly to their ears, they had no

idea they had just passed the future of hip-hop.


Don't get me wrong — I'm not crowning Jal "king of hip-hop." It's more about the direction

the message of the art form is taking. Much like Bob Marley, Jal's songs are conscious social

and political commentaries — minus the gangsta self-aggrandizing. It reminds me of a Chinese

proverb; take a glass jar and filled it half way with marbles, shake it, and it makes a lot of noise. Take

the same jar, fill it to the top with marbles, shake it, and it makes no sound. Get it, grasshopper?


There was a lot of noise surrounding GQ's "50 most powerful people in D.C." event at

Cafe Milano in September. Washington — the red-headed stepchild to the powerful New York

media machine — was graced by publishing demigods Conde Nast Publications, who

inform us that 24 of the 50 individuals on the GQ power list descended upon the event — it's

highly debatable. Franco, we love you, and we realize this was supposed to be a "hot event," but

please, could you turn on the air conditioning next time? I can't recall an event in Manhattan

or Beverly Hills where I ever dehydrated from sweating. Maybe it's an Italian thing; I don't know.

In retrospect, the evening should have been called GQ's "Washington's 50 most commonly

sighted media types: a night of sweat, hot air and finger food." Count me guilty as charged. If

not for The Examiner and Media Bistro's Patrick Gavin and his well-documented encounter with

a finger-waving Canadian lass, the night would have passed in a New York minute.


Polish director Mariusz Trelinsk's contemporary interpretation of Puccini's classic

opera La Boheme had enough men in drag, street walkers and Matrix-meets-Vegas costuming to

keep the Kennedy Center hot in the coldest days of winter. Placido Domingo might be

feeling some heat from traditional opera fans for the out-of-the-box interpretation. The Post's

Tom Page panned it, noting its unconventional use of a "bumpy video projection" and "slangy

supertitles" among other issues. Interestingly, on its website, WNO cites a positive comment

from Page (he had a few) — Washingtonians do love their spin. (Again, guilty as charged. )


I enjoyed the interpretation. Vittorio Grigolo's Rodolfo and Emmanuel Villaume's

orchestration were all that you would expect of an international-caliber performance at

the Kennedy Center; Korean baritone and former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Hyung

Yun (Marcello) nearly stole the show with a sensitive and steady performance; the staging

was innovative and daring; and, hey, there was a gorilla, an Elvis impersonator, bozo the clown,

and the Indian from the Village People on stage as well — what more could you ask for?


Was this opera? Perhaps for Page and a few glassy-eyed ticket holders, it wasn't. But for the

hundreds of high school and college kids who saw that "bumpy video" and read those "slangy

supertitles" via the WNO's ground-breaking simulcast of La Boheme, this is opera. The WNO

fed the Sept. 23rd performance to 32 schools across the country, as well as on the National Mall

and in select Washington movie theaters. If there was ever an production that was going to create a

new generation of opera enthusiasts, this is it.


The WNO is also working with HUD to introduce the world of opera, including

its employment opportunities, to families living in public and assisted housing across

the country. Perhaps the gorilla and Elvis impersonator are something that the late

Luciano Pavarotti — a humble baker's son — would have appreciated.

Readers wishing to get in touch with Michael can email, letters@washingtonlife.com.


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