Enchanted Organ Blog

Why a Porn Opera?

Porno Valkyrie

 

Sooo… why a *Porn* Opera? Or, if you like, why a Porn *Opera*? What is a Porn Opera anyway? 

 

Well might you ask. Our pat answer to “What is a porn opera?” is that it’s not really a porn opera at all: it’s “a burlesque opera that satirizes the porn industry.” No full-frontal nudity, no live sex on stage—well… not until we tour the European circuit, at least. Burlesque is all suggestion, simulation, and bawdy humor. It gets you all hot and bothered, then cuts you off just a fig leaf away from full release. In short, we’re just a couple of cock-and-clit teases.

 

The first question, “Why?” is a little harder to answer. Back in 2006, Gordon and I were collaborators on another opera, “The Rat Land,” which was a claustrophobic family drama very different from our current project, but full of perverse humor and grotesquery. One day we were brainstorming, and all of a sudden this light bulb just went off in my head. A light bulb less of the “Eureka!” variety than the red-tinted, naked, fly-blown variety: “We should totally write a Porn Opera!” And Gordon instantly loved it. I can’t remember anything specific triggering the idea: it just seemed so ludicrous and twisted (in a good way) that we couldn’t resist. And once we put the idea out there, it acquired a force of inevitability for us, so it became: “We have to do this before someone else does.”

 

Indeed, Culture seems to be rapidly triangulating in on the idea. In 2007 Gordon and I saw a chamber opera at the Thalia Theater called “Pumped Fiction,” which took place in the seamy world of penis enlargement and featured the god Eros as a mythological porn star. In 2008, a rock opera based on the life of “Deep Throat” star Linda Lovelace was produced; two Lovelace biopics are forthcoming. Last year, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Richard Thomas’s opera “Anna Nicole Smith” premiered at the Royal Opera House in London, where it became a surprise hit. A full-fledged porn opera is the obvious evolution of this no-longer-backdoor affair between high art and low. I am positive that even now, there is someone else out there feverishly working on one, and possibly multiple someone elses (all much less talented than we two, naturally!)

 

And let’s face it… opera is all about sex anyway. George Bernard Shaw famously said “Opera is when a tenor and a soprano want to make love, but are prevented by a baritone.” In our case, it’s more like, “A tenor and another tenor and a soprano and a few baritones and a mezzo all want to make love to each other, but are prevented by a bass who only wants to make love to himself.” 90% of the time, the action in grand opera involves a love affair—forbidden or not—or alternatively, a seducer/ seductress threatening to violate the purity of the hero or heroine.

 

And opera as an art form is just… hot. There’s something incredibly erotic about human voices sublimating passion into song, displaying their beauty and flexibility in a wanton, exhibitionist display, or weaving an illusion of intimacy between performer and the masses in a darkened theater. The sublime and the carnal interweave in the heaving bosoms, pulsating throats, vibrating tongues, quavering uvulas, and open lips of vocalists throwing themselves bodily into the production of beauty. In opera as in porn, plots are often flimsy or downright ludicrous excuses– for singing on the one hand, or screwing on the other; likewise, both types of production are burdened by clichés that invite Bugs Bunny style parody even as our primitive selves respond to them. Hey, the fat lady with the horned helmet sounds pretty thrilling—and that pizza delivery guy has what we need under all that grease and polyester. Given the best script or libretto on earth, the physical and emotional tension still inevitably builds to the point where words alone cannot express it. What is a high C but the money shot of opera?

 

Violetta, heroine of Verdi’s La Traviata, was a courtesan; Cio-Cio San, or Madame Butterfly, was treated as one on account of her race. From the garret living of La Bohême to the motley crowd of Berg’s black widow heroine Lulu, opera has frequently concerned itself with the demimonde—the underground culture at once frowned upon and patronized by “respectable” elites. Even allegorical operas have an equivalent; arguably Venusberg in Tannhäuser and the Queen of the Night’s Kingdom in the Magic Flute are mythological demimondes: parallel universes of pleasure and corruption. And what is the twenty-first century version of the demimonde?—arguably the porn industry. Being an actress, or a starving artist/student, or the mistress of a famous man, no longer raises eyebrows as it did in the nineteenth century, but being a porn star still registers as outré in so-called polite society. Ultimately, whether or not this conceit stands up, it’s still wickedly fun to write. We hope it’s wickedly fun to watch too.

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