Aug 17, 2014
In an article from the New Yorker, Richard Brody discusses music that has personally been ruined for him association with questionable films--specifically, Lars von Trier's ham-fisted use of various beloved classical pieces in Nymphomanic. I certainly can empathise: to me, Prokofiev's otherwise delightful Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet is forever bound up with the luridly torturous experience of watching Tinto Brass' Caligula. Listening to music, as Mr. Brody rightfully points out, is a highly personal experience and there comes a point when it is impossible to dissociate a piece of music from a personal experience--whether that be a film, a specific person, a figure skating performance.
So, what pieces of music have been ruined for me via association with thoroughly unpleasant figure skating programs?
I may prefer my operas German as opposed to Italian, but I will readily admit that the music of Tosca has its moments if one likes their operas fevered and frenzied.* Tosca's uber-dramatic nature and famously angsty storyline (love! lust! murder!) have made the opera's music easy prey for figure skaters who wish to do a 'dramatic program.' The warhorses figure skaters turn to for use in 'dramatic programs' are legion (e.g. Requiem for a Dream, Phantom of the Opera, Carmen, among many, many others), but Tosca particularly stands out as the number one choice of music for skaters to really, really angst their hearts out for those IN marks via face stroking, head-grabbing, faux diva swoons, and O-faces. For example:
What's worse, the arm choreography or the horrendous music cuts at the end?
Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto
This free dance really was the nadir of Belbin/Agosto's career along with their ill-fated That's Entertainment free dance. People were vociferously criticizing Natalia Linichuk for Domnina/Shabalin's Spartacus free dance in 2009, but Belbin/Agosto's Tosca was arguably even worse--the stagey, posey lifts that were in no way integrated into the choreography and music, the utter lack of connection between music and (stilted) choreography...note how the American audience at 2009 Worlds had such a muted reaction to Belbin/Agosto's performance while Davis/White received thunderous applause. Even if Belbin/Agosto finished in second place to Davis/White's fourth at 2009 Worlds, one could already see the tides turning at this point.
It would be amusing if Evan Lysacek's final step sequence was meant to be a parody of all the overly angsty and melodramatic Tosca choreography of yore, but knowing Mr. Lysacek,** parody was definitely not what he was aiming for.
Full disclosure here: this short program is the ultimate reason why Tosca is ruined for me forever. I laugh when I watch the program (especially during the step sequences), then cry on the inside when I remember the Program Components Scores Evgeni Plushenko received for the performance.
Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor
Quod erat demonstrandum.
*or, to borrow the words of Joseph Kerman, if one likes their operas to be be "shabby little shockers"!
**that is to say, the fact that Mr. Lysacek does the same step sequence (with minute variations) in every single program since his Carmen long program