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Eastside International

What’s Too Silly to be Spoken, Must Be Sung

June 2 — July 14, 2018

Everyone thinks it was Voltaire but it wasn’t. All the smart, sassy comments made in the 18th century get attributed to him. I don’t begrudge him his success but the man crowded out the sun! The phrase,“Comic opera writers aren’t any good nowadays, what is too silly to be spoken, is sung” actually came from Beaumarchais, writing the Barber of Seville when it was only a play and not yet an opera; Beaumarchais gave the phrase to Fiorello who was writing a love poem. Satisfied with the terrible rhymes he blurts it out. And so somehow, this fictional dis spoken by a foolish character got put in the mouth of Voltaire and magically was transformed into a witty put-down. Typical, no?

As attributed, Voltaire was mocking the overwrought, low-brow sentiment of Italianate opera. Now of course, we laugh at opera lovers for their dusty high brow pretensions. But the barb was aimed at the artists who believed that pleasure and beauty were worth heroic efforts to realize. Pageant-makers, gallants and fantasy weavers that slap the brain on the way to the heart. We know his type though; I wouldn’t be surprised if at night, in the dark, Voltaire was a mess.

Eastside International
602 Moulton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90031

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